May 162013
 
Sharpeshots house and barn

On this adventure I was accompanied by professional photographer John Sharpe. We share similar interests, old farms and the like for example, and we’ve been planning a trip for some time now. That day finally arrived and this would be a great chance to get out and have fun, but also to learn some tips from an old hand and I watched all that he did with great interest. Most of the shots in this report are mine, but a few of them and the best ones of course, have been supplied by John.

Normally I like to plan my trips and research my subject beforehand but in this case we did none of that and we simply pointed ourselves in a direction and went, hoping to find something interesting along the way. We ended up southeast of Calgary, near the town of Vulcan, and this area did not disappoint us. We discovered so many abandoned farms and interesting bits to photograph that there would be way too much for one article. Expect more to follow.

It would be near impossible to find any history on the old farms we see. Rather than try, we approach things diffidently, our only goal to capture that lonely abandoned feeling one gets when visiting these places.

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In total we saw and photograph perhaps ten farm yards. Some had houses, barns and even windmills while others had only a single building still standing, often just the house or a lonely barn. They shared on thing, all were interesting. Some houses were boarded up and looked overall solid, others were on their last legs and near collapse. Next season’s snow or even a strong wind was sure to do them in. At almost every site, old farm machinery could be seen, much of it abandoned and forgotten like the structures they kept company.

Most old houses we find lack windows – perhaps they get broken by vandals or who knows and at almost every site there is at least one collapsed building, a testament to challenging conditions. When exploring these places, one guarantee, expect to find pigeons…and where you find them, you find poop. Yuck!

While walking about I found myself asking who lived at these places – what were their dreams and hopes and why did they leave? The answer to the latter is likely a sad one, as farming is a difficult and unforgiving mistress and many just walked away broken and dejected after years of toil. Call me strange but I love that feeling of despair and sadness.

I have a fondness for barns and one in particular caught my eye. Solid and well built, it is known as a Gothic Arch barn, so named for its roof profile. Rather than the typical Gambrel style roof with its two part sloped construction that we are all familiar with, this one uses a peaked arch. This form is more challenging to construct but it offers some advantages – it’s stronger, sheds snow easier (important here) and offers additional interior space. I look at the constriction details and who ever made this was clearly a craftsman. The work is superb and while the nearby house was close to falling down, I expect this building to last a long time.

At this same location we found a windmill, blades still attached and quietly spinning in the breeze.

Were it not for the occasional tree or hedge row, most of these farm yards would be on the bare prairie. It takes a strong person to live in a place like this. At a site where the house was missing or gone, it was easy to establish where it could have been based upon the placement of trees.

Travelling between sites we cross an old rail line. This was the CPR’s Lomond Subdivision and unlike most abandoned lines, this section still has it’s tracks. It’s been a while since a train passed here, but it’s easy to imagine the past, with heavy freights laden with locally grown grain passing by. This rail line duplicates a theme that keeps repeating here, that most everything we see has a sense of decay or abandonment about it.

In one barn we find an interesting discovery, an early 1970s (1970 or 71 to be exact) Alouette XL14 snowmobile. One can picture the fun they used to have on this machine but now it’s relegated to a crumbling barn and is covered with bird poop, a sad retirement. This maker was one of perhaps a hundred or so that existed during the great snowmobile boom of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Alouette was one of the larger of the small companies (does that make sense?) and they lasted until 1976. They were manufactured in Quebec, as all good snowmobiles should. Today there is only a few companies still making these machines.

In that same barn I found a device, a coal furnace, with a sticker on it that said “Kirk’s Self Cleaning Stoker”. I chuckle, as we in are Vulcan County.

The last thing we see in this report (don’t worry there will be more to follow) is the Pioneer Elevator in Vulcan. This grain terminal is interesting as it is has old wooden elevator, highly modified, as part of the complex (the original was built in the 1950s). Other grain terminals are typically located outside of town due to their space requirements. They need large chunks of land to hold all the rail cars needed – they often load a complete train at one time. This differs as its in town, hinting at we are dealing with an older recycled elevator rebuilt, modernized and expanded with annexes and grain bins.

You’ll notice the similarities between my and John’s pictures and this was a deliberate attempt on my part to duplicate the angle and composition of his shots. To learn and compare. Of course, John’s are amazing and mine, while good at any other time, seem to suck in comparison when placed next to his.

John has equipment to reflects his professional status and I pretty sure his gear bag alone is worth many times what our camera cost. None the less, I think ours does well for what it is. While he shoots fully manual and uses a tripod, I stick with good ol’ “Auto” and shoot hand held. Who am I kidding, I (we, Connie and I) shoot for fun.

I learned a lot by watching this pro and have already incorporated some of the tips I gleaned from him, when we shoot now. Thanks John. BTW, we have known this fellow for many years, ten or more, and back when we ran Cameo Intimates we used his services in shooting our products.

John’s website is called Sharpeshots.com and we used his images with permission.

To read part two of this article, click the link below…
Abandoned and Old Part 2 – with Sharpeshots.com.

We also shot here….
Deanz Garage – with Sharpeshots.com.

To see another farm I found nearby, that I visited earlier and on my own, click the link below…
The lonely old farm.

If you wish more information on these places, by all means contact us!

Date: May, 2013.
Location: Southeast of Calgary, near Vulcan, AB.

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CPR Lomond Subdivision

Looking down the disused CPR Lomond Subdivision branch near Herronton Alberta.

Old farm house window

Most windows in old farm houses, it seems, rarely have glass.

Photographer John Sharpe

Spying on pro photographer John Sharpe working his magic.

Barn and collapsed building

Harsh winters and wind have taken their toll on this collapsed building.

Farm building window

On the outside looking in.

Chimney bricks

Bricks from a collapsed chimney.

Farm house and tree

A single tree keeps this old farm house company.

Tilted house

This house was tilted in many directions and was near collapse.

Farm with barn

The archetypal farm yard.

Inside old farm house

This house will be lucky to last another winter.

Old farm house

It’s not long for this world.

Farm and grass

Deep grass and a lonely old house.

Farm house and windmill

This windmill still had its blades and they turned quietly in the wind.

Gothic arch barn

This is a Gothic Arch barn, so named for it’s rounded roof profile.

Church barn

Very well constructed, the inside was almost church like.

Barn, windmill and house

The three main components of every farm – the barn, the windmill and the house.

Barn and farm equipment

Old farm equipment and a barn make for a fantastic picture.

Kirk's self cleaning stoker

We were shooting in Vulcan County at the time so you can understand why this sticker made me chuckle.

Alouette XL14 snowmobile

This Alouette XL14 snowmobile dates from the early 1970s.

Collapsing old barn

One heavy snow pack and this section of the barn will be gone.

Pioneer elevator pigeons

Pigeons return to roost.

Pioneer elevator Vulcan AB

They incorporated an old wooden elevator into this grain terminal in Vulcan Alberta.

The following professionally shot images, taken on this same trip, are compliments of and copyright John Sharpe of Sharpeshots.com and are used with permission.

Sharpeshots railway crossing

An old crossbuck

Sharpeshots old farm house

A magical picture.

Sharpeshots tree line

Stunning!

Sharpeshots house and barn

I copied John’s technique and shot a similar picture further above.

Sharpeshots windmill

Looking way up…

Sharpeshots barn door

Come in!

Sharpeshots brown barn

A weathered old barn.

Sharpeshots barn siding

Blue and brown.

Sharpeshots Alouette XL14

John’s take on the Alouette snowmobile.

Sharpeshots Pioneer elevator

The Pioneer elevator in Vulcan.

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17 Comments on "Abandoned and old part 1 – with Sharpeshots.com"

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Cody Kapcsos
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Cody Kapcsos

Love the round top barns the most!! This one is in pristine condition too!

Jolly Jack
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Jolly Jack

Chris and Connie, you always come up with such wonderful pictures, but those from John are simply amazing!

Coal Man
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Coal Man

Most of these photos are a work of art!

sonofapreacherman
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sonofapreacherman

Love houses like seen here, nice shots.

A.K.
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A.K.

Where is this Alouette located? I would buy it if I knew.

Shilo
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Shilo

The Gothic Arch barn is gorgeous!

Christina
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Christina

These are amazing. We are doing a day trip to the vulcan area next weekend as I have NEVER been but I WOULD absolutely love to check some of these places out… I am new in the photography world and just got a new camera can you give me pointers of areas/roads to check out around Vulcan?

Thanks in advance I love your guys’ page!

Riley
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Riley

Looking to find that archetypal farmyard, could you please tell me where it is? Also do you have a contact that I could get permission from? I was hoping to get some astrophotography shots and I think it would make interesting foreground, thanks! Great images by the way

Kiwi
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Kiwi

Your Facebook post brought me here. Great blog!

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