July 10, 2014
I was provided the opportunity at work recently to head out for a day of photography in the wetland and waterfowl mecca that is the southwestern corner of Manitoba. That in itself would be engaging enough – I can count the chances I've had to do such a thing over several years on one hand – but it was made all the more sweeter by a chance to hop in a plane and experience a gander from the air, snapping all the way. Those close to me know that, along with riding shotgun in a big rig, hitching a ride in a hot air balloon and a helicopter, getting a lift in a small plane has always been a bucket-list item. (Truth be told, the bucket-list item would really be in a floatplane, somewhere over the Canadian Shield, but who's complaining – and I still have years to go.)
It made for a long day. An 8:30 takeoff from the Brandon municipal airport meant leaving home before six for the 214-kilometre trip west. The flight was roughly three hours, flying over Pelican Lake, Killarney, Boissevain, Melita, Virden and back. Unprecedented high-summer flooding in the region was an unfortunate bonus; being able to witness swollen rivers, lakes and sodden fields from the air drove home what has been national headline news this week. And while I was scoping for very specific, bordering on technical, images, it was hard not to look out over the land and view the agricultural patterns as high art. (Note: the aerial pics I haven't included here, as they're for work purposes.)
The afternoon was spent on a solo mission, exploring the array of pothole wetlands near Minnedosa and gathering new images for our photo archives. Here, I got to hunker down at eye level and see the details. Sound swallowed up by roaring creeks. A great blue heron flushed from a patch of cattails. Wary canvasback broods skittering from my presence across the small ponds. An abandoned grain elevator, where I entered into a pigeon-infested darkness lit by a single window, startled by a galloping feral cat.
In the evening – on my eventual way home – I stopped along the TransCanada Highway at the Halfway Tree, marking the unofficial midway point between Brandon and Winnipeg. The tree has existed for eons, and can be spotted many kilometres away. I'd forever been meaning to get a shot of it, and I waited a few minutes for a brief storm to clear out to capture it under an active prairie sky.
Note: Click on any of the images to view them larger on Flickr.