The National Parks will be here for a long, long time, not so disappearing rural Alberta

landscape, Alberta, Edmonton, frost, winter, snow, landscape, Dan Jurak, rural, farm, barbed wire, fence, sunrise,

I spend a fair amount of my time browsing web pages on the internet looking at landscape photos. I love to see different parts of the world through the eyes of strangers.

The same goes for photos of the province of Alberta where I live. I can almost guarantee that for every ten photos that I see of Banff or Jasper National Parks there might be one of rural Alberta and that is a shame.

Alberta is a huge province and has a diverse set of ecosystems and geographies but if you were to poll people they would probably tell you about Banff and Jasper. That too is a shame.

When I first started getting serious about landscape photography back in the early 1970’s I would make the four hour drive to Jasper almost every weekend of the year when the road allowed it. Why did I drive four hours there and four hours back so often? The scenery was drop dead gorgeous. That was a mistake. It is easy to be in awe of Albertas mountain landscapes and just as easy to photograph them. That too was a mistake.

It took me many years before I realized that my photography was improving only incrementally because I was depending on the drop dead looks of the rockies to get pretty pictures.

Let me make an analogy to put some perspective on this. I photographed editorial fashion for our local newspaper for many years. During that time I had the pleasure of working with models for whom some them were having their first professional photo shoot to others who fresh from living in Europe or Asia were photographed by the best fashion shooters of the day.

I learned a valuable lesson during that time. If I had a very talented and polished model literally all that was needed by me was to maintain focus and keep film in the camera but if I was photographing a new model a lot more effort was required to get a keeper. It was up to me to direct, figure out the best angles, etc.

Taking pictures in the mountains is very much like that. Go to the less photographed areas of the province and you actually have to think about what you are doing at least more so than in the national parks.

For many years I took pictures only around Edmonton where I live. It is there that I really learned how to “look” at the landscape with a different eye and to choose angles or light that added to the scene.

Looking back on my archives I find it hard to believe that I went out so often while keeping a full time day job at the local newspaper.

Looking back on those archives it occurred to me that  so many of my favourite places no longer exist. The photo at the top of this post was taken along a one lane gravel road at -30 Celsius with an ice fog hanging in the air. That was over ten years ago.

Today there is a brand new housing development where the snow covered pasture is and a giant freeway to picture left with a non-picturesque concrete overpass over the freeway.

So many of my favourite places are now being devoured by urban sprawl. My favourite rustic farm buildings will be history in a few years but Maligne Lake and Athabasca Falls will still look the same one hundred years from now.

We will have millions of photos of the mountains and very few of our disappearing heritage. Sad.

Happy shooting,



~ by Dan Jurak on January 2, 2018.

7 Responses to “The National Parks will be here for a long, long time, not so disappearing rural Alberta”

  1. Well said. I think can be “easier” to take images of iconic places, than in your own back yard, the roads you travel every day, the field in the next county, your neighbor’s creek. There we have to really open our eyes, search, study and react. But it certainly is rewarding when you find something new and capture a cool shot. Especially when you can think, I bet no one has every shot this before. Good article.

  2. Thank you Frank. Having said that I still am interested in photographing those iconic places but loathe the crowds.
    How many aurora or sunrise photos I have seen from the shores of Vermillion Lake in Banff with Mount Rundle in the background. It makes for great pictures but ANYONE can stand on the shoreline and take the same picture as me without using their imagination. Photography is about creativity.

  3. I try my best to capture outdoor spaces and keep them varied. Thanks for your post, It was good

  4. Hi Kelly, thank you for the kind words.

  5. so true. There used to be peach orchards as far as the eye could see where I grew up, sadly, not it is cookie cutter condos and obnoxious strip malls. Thank you for your post

  6. Noel, I think that in one hundred years places like Yosemite or Banff will look the same as they do today but places like your peach orchards will be distant memories. Those photos will be even more valuable then than they are today. Urban sprawl is changing the world.

  7. very true words

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