July 19, 1999

Victoria, the Alberta Portfolio XXII (The Badlands, Alberta)

As we drove from East Coulee further into the Badlands, the landscape only got wilder; the multicoloured layers in the slopes became even more pronounced. Like Writing-on-Stone, the biggest impediment to working in the Badlands was tourists. Though we selected a spot to work off the beaten track, we'd only been photographing for perhaps an hour when a truck drove up with a family bent on exploring. Victoria had just begun to hit her stride when they arrived, and unsure how long they were going to stay, Victoria and I decided to wait them out. An hour later, they drove off, and rather than risk a similar incident, Annie parked her truck across the only access road to where we were working, thereby guaranteeing our privacy for the remaining hour or so.
4"x5" film
The sand here was far more stable than at East Coulee, though whether this was because the area had less rain, or simply because it had baked in the hot sun for longer, I am not sure. Regardless, in the final space we worked in, the sand was like rock, and far easier to move about on. The only down side of this was that it was very hard on Victoria; adjusting poses was not dissimilar to slide about on pieces of very harsh sandpaper!
4"x5" film
Like the formations at Writing-on-Stone, everywhere I looked in the Badlands, I saw potential images; the fluid lines and repeating patterns suggested so much, and the last three hours of working in Alberta were spent selecting which possibility to explore. With a definite time limit in mind (we had to be back in Calgary in time to make our flights back to Halifax), I tried to work as efficiently and swiftly as possible, not taking the time to work with "might-be's", and concentrating on what was clearest to me. As has happened before when provoked to work fast, the work in the Badlands seems very true to my intent, with little divergence from my goal. With time and patience, I might very well have produce much stronger work, but I suspect the images I left behind were only subtler variations of those I came back with.
4"x5" film
Two new problem reared their heads in the Badlands: heat and bugs. Most of the time I was in Alberta, it was cool and overcast; in the Badlands however, the temperature soared, passing well into the 30's. We'd seen cacti at Writing on Stone and the Red Rock Coulee, but this day was the first time we'd experienced the temperatures that came with the flora. And then there were the bugs. Elsewhere in Alberta, we hadn't encountered a single mosquito, but as soon as the sun was behind the hills, Victoria and I were swarmed by them. Foolishly, after seven days of bug-free environments, I'd left the bug-spray behind, and in the end, it was the bites, not our departure schedule which ended our last session in Alberta.

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