The second instalment in this series, pro photographer John Sharpe and I continue our quest to document old farms, buildings and abandoned things southeast of Calgary. It’s been a productive trip and we contently snap away, discovering lots of gems to shoot as we go. Driving about with no particular destinations in mind, on nearly every road we travel we find something interesting to photograph.
The first part of this trip we were north of Vulcan Alberta and after having lunch we head south of it, continuing our fun adventure.
Passing though the near ghost town of Kirkcaldy (which we’ll return to later), both John and I spot what looks to be a very photogenic old farm off in the distance. It seems to sit alone in the middle of a field with no visible roads leading to it. At least from this angle anyway and so we retrace our steps a bit, backtracking and taking the first gravel road we see that travels roughly in that direction.
We have no luck though and while we can see the farm the whole time, we get no closer to it. Normally if I encounter a problem like this, I’d simply hoof it in. No go this time since John had recent heart surgery and I am not sure traipsing across a field is in his best interests.
We continue to travel roads in the area, heading left each time hoping that perchance we’ll somehow spiral into the site, but as we drive our target gets no closer. Along here, we do find a nice barn to shoot and this keeps us occupied for a bit. It’s one of those barns with a steep angled roof, not having the traditional multi-stepped profile we often associate with these structures. Inside a maze of cables anchors wall to wall, reenforcing the building against what must be ferocious winds that blow in the area. We’ve seen these cables in other barns and outbuildings in the area.
Back on the road we’re pretty close to giving up on that elusive farm even though we can still see it a kilometre or so away. That is until we both spot a very faint track heading across a field roughly in that direction. It’s a rough road, and if we had my car, we’d be unable to make it. Fortunately John’s van has both the clearance needed and all wheel drive should we get into trouble (the mud here when wet is super slippery). Fortunately we won’t need the latter.
Jackpot, this turns out to be the route in! And are we happy as not only is there a very nice farmhouse, but also an old abandoned car as well in the deep grass – what looks to be an almost complete old abandoned car. This will make for some great photos! It’s so far in the field that nothing else could be seen, no other farms, no highways, just these lonely buildings and the fields that surround them. This was the real gem of the trip, an almost perfect subject.
John gets into the zone and starts snapping away while I wander around peering in places and playing with angles to see what works. The whole yard (as old abandoned farmyards are) was a literal mine field of gopher holes, old boards with nails and metal bits hidden in the tall grass. In fact the mats of grass were so thick that John’s tripod never actually touched solid ground.
I shoot inside the building, but from the doorway since its near collapse and is ankle deep in bird poop. Old faded green and blue paint on the walls adds a wonderful dimension to the shots. On the outside the south side of the building is a nice deep brown. The north side, exposed to the sun all the time, is in contrast a dull grey and less interesting to photograph.
Not far away and probably at one time the farmer’s pride and joy, sits a 1935 Plymouth. Missing only the engine and hood, and with a rotten roof (at that time, they were still made of wood and cloth), it’s otherwise mostly intact. Fantastic! We shoot away without talking, as we’re drawn into our subject. It’s almost perfect and it’s clear these old vehicles really inspire John.
In the front of the house sits an odd (to me) bit of machinery. It has two metal wheels, narrowly spaced with an axle that has offset throws or cranks that must move up and down as he wheels turn, along with a tow bar. Can anyone chime in on what it is? See pictures below for a shot of them. We saw some more of these at other farms in the area too.
Reluctantly leaving we head north again, visiting the small town (an almost ghost town) of Kirkcaldy. There are a number of houses here, some modern, but what draws us is the old grocery store and gas station. The names “Mallory and Carnegie, General Merchants” is proudly displayed on the false front. An old gas pump, still displaying gallons, hints at how long ago it was last used – Canada switched over to litres sometime around 1980. A sign on the side warns of lead in the gas – I know that was eliminated from fuels some time ago (like 25 years).
I peer inside and am surprised to see old coolers still in place and many of the shelves are still stocked with various bits of hardware, auto parts and such. Almost like the owners closed up shop one day and simply left. I’d LOVE to get inside to shoot (time for some research).
Not far from here is the Vulcan Aerodrome, a place we’ve visited before, a former World War 2 air training base.
Leaving this place behind we take an alternate highway back towards Calgary and come across yet another forgotten farm. This one looks promising until we realize it’s so heavily overgrown as to be near impossible to shoot. Too bad as it looks to be a nice little farm house. John doesn’t even bother stepping out of the car, although I bushwhack in (a skill I often use hiking).
Back on the road, we both spot a lonely tree off in a field and we each take a stab at photographing it. Oddly, trees are very rarely interesting subjects in themselves, unless they happen to be alone in open country like this.
Near the end of our journey we take a couple shots of the Mossleigh Elevators in (where else), Mossleigh. There are three standing here and that many in a row is pretty rare these days. Click the link to read about their history.
And so ends our road trip. It’s been a hoot and I’ve learnt so much watching John at work. This was many months in the planning and we hope to do similar road trips soon.
John Shape’s website is called Sharpeshots.com and his images are used with permission.
To see part one of this article, click below…
Abandoned and Old Part 1 – with Sharpeshots.com.
We also shot this…
Deanz Garage – with Sharpeshots.com.
We often collaborate with others…
Bow City townsite – with ForgottenAlberta.com.
If you wish more information on these places, by all means contact us!
Date: May, 2013.
Location: Southeast of Calgary, near Vulcan, AB.
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.