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Edition #9, July 1, 2005

Where Else But the Prairies...

Photographer: Mark Perry

                                                                                 Photo 2004 by Mark Perry

Where Else But the Prairies...

I've lived my whole life on the prairies. I've worked my whole railroad career on the prairies. I do about 99% of my shooting on the prairies. I live and breathe the prairies. I try to portray the pristine qualities and all the magic of the prairies in my photography. Railfanning out on the prairies can be a lonely tour of duty. The total number of serious railfan photographers in my home province can probably be numbered on two hands, but every once in a while an outsider will accompany me on a photo safari.

In July 2004, I welcomed the pleasant company of eastern Canadian and noted author and photographer Greg McDonnell out on a trip to the neighboring province of Saskatchewan. For six days we traveled throughout the province wandering in search of photographic quarry. While we had made grand travel plans to go here and see that, we always ended up traveling short distances at best; being sidetracked shooting numerous small towns, grain elevators and other prairie locations throughout the day.

On the 26th of July, on our first day our, we hadn't made it too far according to our well-laid plans. After shooting up a storm and driving for 14 hours we had only made it about 200 miles west of our initial starting point. At 20:38 Greg and I found ourselves about a mile east of Doonside, Saskatchewan. Always on the lookout for old grain elevators to shoot, the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool elevator at Doonside had eluded us both on our many journeys across the prairies. Doonside is located on the CN's Cromer Subdivision that sees only one train a week on the branchline running between Brandon, Manitoba and Kipling, Saskatchewan.

While the sun sank lower and lower towards the horizon, the clouds were moving and it was not looking too promising for a decent shoot of the abandoned elevator from the west side. We stopped on a rural dirt road crossing and I decided to have a look. Neat clouds, I thought, and convinced Greg to sit put here for a minute or two. Grabbing the camera bag out of the back seat of the van, I snapped the Nikkor 18mm f3.5 wide angle onto my black FM-2, loaded with Fujichrome Provia 100F.

Always looking for a unique angle to expose some images, I proceeded to lie down on the weathered ties between the rusty 1928 rolled 85lb. steel rails. With a million bloodthirsty mosquitoes buzzing around my nose, ears and mouth I shot a short blast of five images with the MD-12 motor drive. I don't think Greg took the same shot and instead went to work with a long telephoto mounted on his F5. A shot that just reeked of the prairies, I thought.

The cloud gods were on our side that night and we later drove down to the town proper. The clouds seemed to separate on our command and we got some absolutely fabulous glinty shots of that silver-sided grain elevator in the very last light of the day. Later we found a hotel not too far away in Regina and proceeded to end the day, "downloading the day's shoot" in a local bar!

Where else but the prairies...

Mark Perry


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