May started off hot and dry. It was the firs month where the weather started to feel like spring, every week.
I started driving with the window down.
So one day when I spotted a huge plume of smoke coming from the other end of town I assumed a field was on fire.
As I pulled up to the scene, I realized I was right, sort of.
There was a field on fire but it was a controlled burn. The hot dry conditions had prompted local fire firefighters, with some help from Provincial wildfire fighters, to start burning large swaths of land around town.
The problem was the wild grass grows right up to a subdivision, so if a wildfire had started, it could very quickly spread to the homes and engulf them. By burning it in a controlled manner, they reduced the risk dramatically.
That same day while driving, I spotted Danny. Danny is – an interesting character. He is a philosopher of sorts, a musician, and somewhat homeless. I know he lives in a trailer on the edge of someone’s land and that he hangs out downtown collecting bottles and I see him working through my buildings trash once a week.
We’ve chatted before, on occasion he gives our staff gifts. Most recently he gave me a fuse from an electrical pole along the Alaska Highway, or so he said. He also gave our 19-year-old female receptionist a roll of saran wrap and told her it was for her to wear at Peacefest, a concert that happens here in July.
Regardless – as I drove past him on the bridge, guitar slung over his shoulder, big black duster jacket, I knew it would make a pretty sweet picture. So I pulled over, took the photo then went up and chatted with him. I realized I didn’t actually know his last name.
Spring obviously means football… right?
Well it does for the Grande Prairie area Pee Wee league.
I have to admit, I was REALLY excited to photograph football. I haven’t had the opportunity to do it yet and it’s one of those sports that produces really intense peak action photos. This was Pee Wee, but the kids were pretty motivated and I considered it a training and education in preparation for the fall when the Bantam and/or Midget/high school teams start.
This photo is not peak action but it is from the first game I shot.
May was a season of wrap-ups for winter extracurricular activities. Recitals, final performances, playoffs etc. I found it a little stressful only because EVERYONE pulls at you because it’s do or die for all the groups. I did my best to manage it and cover all the groups as they came up.
When I was in Grade 11 we took a field trip to Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto, Ont. During that day we toured the ICU, the physical rehabilitation centre, spoke with police, paramedics and firefighters. The goal was to scare kids into not drinking and driving.
What I didn’t know was that the P.A.R.T.Y (Preventing Alcohol and Risk-related Trauma in Youth) program, had gone nation-wide.
So 10 years after taking part in the program myself, I found myself in a field in St. Isidore photographing a mock car accident.
The looks on the students faces reminded me of the looks on our faces during our trip. Some were, literally traumatized by the experience, others were sick. Myself, I remember feeling sad for days. BUT statistics show that since the program has come into practice, alcohol related deaths in youth have dropped. So what does that mean?
Is a day of coordinated and controlled trauma excusable if it helps to prevent a much worse one later?
I kinda lean towards agreeing that in the case of booze and driving, yeah, it’s not a bad idea to show kids EXACTLY what the consequences are. Better they see an upsetting play, a theatrical performance, than live it themselves later.
And as an example of the diversity of my job, two days later I was in a church photographing the Peace River community choir’s final performance of the season.
This next photo was all kinds of fun for me.
I was sitting in my office when a call came in from ATCO Electric, the utility company up here. To be honest I thought I was about get some kind of bad news about my account or something. Turns out they had constructed an Osprey nest and they wanted me to come take a picture of it.
They had built a pole near some power lines with the idea of enticing the Osprey to build a nest there instead of on top of the power poles. Last year an Osprey had done that and it started a fire and caused a power outage in the area.
Turns out the company’s plan had worked and the Osprey had built a nest on the platform. So they invited me, and the reporter from the newspaper in Grimshaw, to come out and take pics. Best part was they put us in a bucket truck and raised it up.
Unfortunately all the activity spooked the birds and they left the nest, so it became about trying to take a picture as the bird flew past the nest.
And once again back to football. I was learning by now that the Pee Wees didn’t hit that hard, they’re just too young and light.
I’m not a big football fan, so this gave me a chance to learn the rules, how the game worked and frankly gain an appreciation for the sport I didn’t have before.
The final two pics were really fun to be a part of.
In 2013 I photographed Ottawa Fashion Week. It was fine, I’m not really into fashion. I just wanted to do it to check it off my list and I had a free pass because I was volunteering my time.
While there though there was a collection by the wife of a certain diplomat from a certain country that has a certain bloody colonial history regarding Canada’s First Nations. However, she had a whole collection that was ‘Native inspired.’
I felt sick.
I actually turned my cameras off during that show. The mutterings backstage were all the same, people seemed to think it was in poor taste but no one would say it to the designer herself.
So when the Peace River Metis and Aboriginal interagency committee put on a fashion show it was an opportunity to photograph native inspired fashion, made by First Nations and Metis designers and worn and modeled by First Nations and Metis people.
The difference between the two shows couldn’t be more blatant.
I will say this though – my experience at Ottawa Fashion Week taught me HOW to shoot an event like a fashion show. So I remain glad I went just over a year ago as a student.
That’ a look at May through the pages of the Record-Gazette. Below is a look at the random crap that happened through some Instagrams.
I’m not Catholic but covering the mass that preceded the graduation of the Catholic high school kids was pretty cool. I appreciated being allowed to take pics unfettered too.
There was a big conference in early May called the Peace Oil Sands conference, which was about oil. It featured a tradeshow that was mostly boring (to me as a non-oil business type) with the exception of a massive crane that was giving rides.
Naturally as a member of the press it was my responsibility to take a ride to document it for the future…
During the conference I had a chance to meet political pundit, and I guess you could technically call us co-workers, Ezra Levant. For those who don’t know Ezra he works for Sun News and hosts a TV show that has been somewhat – contentious. Regardless sitting with him and picking his brain on a variety of subjects in private was VERY interesting. This is a pic of our office’s manager talking to him in a back room of the conference centre.
He was there as the keynote speaker.
During May I had a visit from a buddy of mine. James Wood(s) and I went to Loyalist together. We were in different sections but the same year. He got a job at the Lloydminster Meridian-Booster, also owned by QMI, in Lloydminster.
He came up to Peace River and we wandered around, it was fun.
During the fire I drove up to the 12-Foot Davis gravesite, which overlooks the town. I wanted to see what the plume of smoke looked like from a distance.
Another day same lookout this time though epic car porn photo.
This next picture was from the P.A.R.T.Y program – after the mock car crash I spotted some very able-bodied firefighters playing around with some wheelchairs. The wheelchairs were there as an obstacle course for the kids to do. The idea being – do you see how hard this is? Don’t drink, don’t drive and you won’t suffer a spinal injury in a car crash.
The kids were on lunch and the firefighters were racing the chairs… Big kids.
While out exploring the roads I found this hill, popular with dirt bikers, I saw a guy sitting there, taking in the view before descending – so I snapped some pics.
Later that week we said goodbye to one of the town’s other reporters. They exist they just work at the radio station. Megan was moving onto a job as a videojournalist at City TV Edmonton. So obviously that meant a pub night to celebrate.
Midway through the mayor popped by. He was there with some councilors for wings so he came over to say bye.
As the weather got nicer and my car functioned more frequently, I started taking regular trips up to various lookouts around town. In a few cases I went there with my laptop to write stories or editing pictures.
It was a nice office view.
Here’s a better picture of the view.
As May closed, Peace River’s very short spring was over. Summer, although still three weeks away, felt like it was here.
And the days started getting much, much longer.