July 19, 1999

Victoria, the Alberta Portfolio XXI (East Coulee, Alberta)

It was on my last day in Alberta that Annie, Victoria and I finally made our way more than half way across the width of the province, to the Badlands, near Drumheller. Like the mountains, the Badlands had been what I had envisioned working with in Alberta, multi-coloured strata of mud and sandstone being worn away by wind and rain; perfect for moulding the figure to.
35mm infrared film
Like our other drives around the province, much of the landscape we saw traveling to the Badlands was flat, endless prairie. At times we would sweep down into a green, tree-filled coulee, but on the whole, for hours on end, the driving was along straight, flat roads between seemingly endless fields. Then we turned off the main highway, and wound our way down into east coulee.

To try to describe the experience (in photos or words) is futile. What the plains are, in all their flatness and expanse, the Badlands are not. Driving down from the plains towards the Red Deer River, the sides of the gully, normally green and delicate, became multi-ridged and colourful. The sides of the valley gradually became a continuous erosion-scape, with the chaotic trails of hundreds of rivulets shaping the landscape.
35mm infrared film
Just before the East Coulee opened up and spread to either side of the river, we stopped so Victoria and I could make some images. What I had thought was sandstone, turned out to be mud; when dry and hard, it is as solid as sandstone, but we arrived the days after a rain, and it was quite soft, and it was only with care that Victoria and I managed to get up to the areas where the flow lines in the rocks were most pronounced.
35mm infrared film
Because of the tight time-frame, I only worked with 35mm infra-red at East Coulee; the climb up was treacherous, and I doubt we could have hiked the view camera and tripod up without taking considerably longer. The afternoon was the hottest since I'd arrived in Alberta, and combined with the near-desert conditions, it made for a scorcher of a day. As we were working, I mentioned to Victoria how great it would be if the film recorded the sand darker than it was - which was just the case. The direct sun, combined with the dark sand and contrasty rivulets made for a series of very dramatic images. Because of the slope of the coulee side, and the slippery nature of the ground we were on, only a limited number of poses and camera positions were achievable. After finishing a roll of film, we scrambled down to the truck and drove on, hoping to find even more drama further up the river.

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