Learning about photography for #3SkillsYEG

I’ve had a digital camera (many, actually) for as long as I can remember. You know those really old Casio digital cameras that produced super grainy, low resolution photos? Yep, had one. Today my primary camera is a Canon 6D, which is a full-frame DSLR. It produces incredible photos, technically speaking. But as any “intro to photography” book or course will tell you, it’s not the gear that produces great photos, it’s the photographer. The hardware has changed an incredible amount since the advent of digital photography, but the principles of taking better photos have changed much less. Like most people, I never really learned those principles. I picked some stuff up by watching other photographers of course, like my Dad whose work I really admire. But mostly my strategy has been “spray and pray”. Take lots of photos and hope for the best. I decided to change that for the “Creativity & Expression” theme during #3SkillsYEG.

Cloverdale Footbridge
Me taking a photo on the Cloverdale Bridge last summer

Obviously there are dozens and dozens of resources for learning more about photography through EPL. I decided to narrow it down to digital resources, and it wasn’t long before I stumbled across the amazing content available through Lynda.com. It’s truly amazing that Edmontonians have free access to this incredible resource with a free library card. I still can’t get over it, to be honest!

Photography is one of the top-level categories at Lynda.com so there’s definitely a lot of content to choose from. There are 643 courses and 28,488 video tutorials related to photography, to be exact.

“Whether you want to be a photographer or just love taking pictures, learn what you need with our in-depth courses in photography: how to shoot photos that tell a story, choose the right gear, create a photo book, and more. Get tips on photo editing, studio photography, and lighting, too.”

Here are the courses I completed:

I also skimmed through parts of a course on Lightroom, which I am using to edit and organize photos. Even with just those five courses, I learned a ton. I now have a good idea of how much I don’t know! I especially enjoyed the videos with Ben Long and was very happy to see that he has a weekly show on Lynda.com called The Practicing Photographer. I found his style very approachable and well-paced. At one point he shares that he used to get asked a lot what type of photos he likes to take – landscape, portraits, etc. He reflected on it and decided that he likes to photograph light. That really stuck with me.

Here are some of my favorite photos that I took while working through the videos:

Spring Snow
One of the first photos I took with my new 50mm prime lense

Peace Bridge
Always love the Peace Bridge in Calgary

Sunset Reflected Downtown
Experimented with stitching photos together here, using ICE

Morning Sunlight
I had Ben Long’s comment about shooting light in my head for this one

Victoria Promenade
An example of crouching down to get a better shot

Flying over the old Molson Brewery
Good timing, but also I like the color contrast

High Level Bridge
Another example of changing my perspective to get a different shot

I have started on my next course already, Foundations of Photograpy: Composition. After that, I’ll move on to the other videos in the Foundations of Photography series, including Black and White, Night and Low Light, and Flash.

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time you’ll know that I am a sucker for gadgets. So it was a little dangerous to dive further into a topic like photography where you can spend thousands of dollars on gear! I did pretty well though, and ended up only making a few purchases. The biggest was the Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM, my first prime lens and a great deal at just $170 or so. I also picked up a lens cleaning kit, and a few accessories from Peak Design to go with my messenger bag.

I have really enjoyed learning more about photography and working to improve my skills and I look forward to continuing it with the resources available through EPL! The #3SkillsYEG campaign is over for 2016 (I’m way behind on posting this) but that shouldn’t stop you from learning about something that interests you! If you need an excuse, remember that we’re a City of Learners!

Chasing the Northern Lights in Edmonton

I feel very fortunate to have grown up in Inuvik, NT where the northern lights are relatively easy to see. I remember heading to the east channel of the Mackenzie River (a short ten minute walk from where we lived) and venturing out onto the frozen ice to gaze up at the incredible dancing aurora above. Even in Yellowknife where my parents now live, you can see the northern lights relatively frequently. Here’s an incredible shot my Dad took back in September:

Aurora Borealis at km 13 of the Ingraham Trail, Yellowknife, NT, by Martin Male

Take a few minutes and check out some of the other aurora he has captured. The lights just don’t look real!

Here in Edmonton the northern lights aren’t exactly uncommon, but you do need to work a little harder to see them than they do up north. Or at least I thought you did, until I discovered the AuroraWatch service a couple years ago!

Auroral forecast from AuroraWatch.ca

The award-winning AuroraWatch service was created and is operated by a team at the University of Alberta. The service monitors geomagnetic activity in the Edmonton area and can email you for free if the northern lights might be visible. At any given time, you can visit the website to see the estimated probability of witnessing the aurora borealis in the evening (their live widget is embedded to the right). There are two alert levels – yellow when the probability is above 50%, and red when the probability is above 70%.

Since it launched back in October 2007, AuroraWatch has had more than 1.2 million visitors and currently has more than 26,000 email subscribers. Since 2009, they have issued more than 175 alerts.

So how can you ensure you get a good view? Well once you’ve received your red alert, get to a better viewing location:

The best advice for viewing aurora is to look north, after dark. Just around or before midnight is an especially good time, but the northern lights can be seen in Edmonton from early evening onwards on some very active days. Inside the city, the light pollution makes dimmer auroras harder to see – so you will get a much better view if you go to a location with darker skies outside the city.

That makes sense, right? Head outside the city and you just might get an amazing photo like this one taken by local photographer Mike Isaak back in November:

Northern Lights over Elk Island
Elk Island Aurora by Mike Isaak (purchase prints here)

He posted the photo on Twitter and received more than 330 retweets and more than 280 favorites. You can see why! Mike is also a finalist in the 2014 VISTEK Emerging Photographer competition – go vote for him!

Of course, if you know when to look and how to capture it, you don’t have to go very far at all. On the same weekend in November, photographer Kevin Tuong captured this incredible shot of the northern lights over downtown:

Northern Lights over Downtown
Northern Lights over Downtown by Kevin Tuong

I didn’t think you could see them like that within the city limits, but you can! Kevin’s photo was also popular on social media, with lots of upvotes on Reddit.

The AuroraWatch site often hosts images that photographers have sent in. It sure looks like that Remembrance Day long weekend in November was a sure-thing for aurora-viewing.

AuroraWatch won the ASTech 2013 Public Awareness Award for the unique service it provides:

“We are delighted and honoured that the impact of AuroraWatch.ca in promoting space science and technology was recognized with this ASTech Award to the Aurora Watch team,” said principal researcher Ian Mann, noting that space weather can also have more damaging consequences on the satellite, GPS and power grid infrastructure we increasingly rely on in the 21st century.

According to Environment Canada, there’s an average of about 90 nights per year when the northern lights are visible in Edmonton, and the best month is probably September. The good thing about AuroraWatch is that you no longer need to guess which nights those are!

If you love gazing up at the aurora borealis as much as I do, go sign up for the AuroraWatch Alerts. You won’t be disappointed. Also check out @aurorawatch on Twitter.

Many thanks to Mike Isaak, Kevin Tuong, and Martin Male for letting me use their excellent work to help illustrate this story.

You never know where your Creative Commons-licensed photos might end up

I’ve been a Flickr member since January 2005 and I have more than 19,000 photos hosted there. Nearly all of them are Creative Commons licensed, a decision I made a long time ago. I don’t post my photos to make money, I post them to share with others. Keeping them protected doesn’t benefit anyone, but by choosing a more permissive license, others can use my photos in their own work.

If you want to give people the right to share, use, and even build upon a work you’ve created, you should consider publishing it under a Creative Commons license. CC gives you flexibility (for example, you can choose to allow only non-commercial uses) and protects the people who use your work, so they don’t have to worry about copyright infringement, as long as they abide by the conditions you have specified.

My photos are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license (CC-BY-SA). That means that anyone can copy, redistribute, remix, transform, and build upon any of my photos, even for commercial purposes. All that is required is that I receive appropriate credit for the photo and that any new work that incorporates the photo is also licensed under the CC-BY-SA license.

Over the years, I have been so happy to see my photos in use by others. As you might expect, most of my photos are Edmonton-related, and they’ve appeared in annual reports for local companies, in many publications by the City of Edmonton, in local media, and even in local products and services. They’ve been used by many travel companies all over the world to help illustrate Edmonton and other places I have travelled to. It makes me feel good to see others use one of my photos to help make their thing better, whatever it is. Often people ask me for permission anyway, but they don’t need to.

In some cases though, my photos have been used in unexpected places. One such place was Gawker, which used this photo in a story titled ‘Whites Win Control of Nation’s Capital‘:

Mack at Ben's Chili Bowl

The photo was taken in May 2009 when I was on vacation in Washington, D.C. with Sharon. The photo is at Ben’s Chili Bowl, and I took the photo because that’s where newly-elected President Obama sat when he visited. You can read Sharon’s review of our experience here. Here’s the relevant section:

Near the end of our meal, a fellow patron approached our table, and pointed out to Mack that President Obama had sat in his chair not too long ago, just across from Mayor Adrian Fenty. Though we had noticed that the Seal of the President had been placed on the wall just above the chair, it hadn’t occurred to us that the reason for it was to act as a marker. Just above the seal was a blown-up photo of Obama and Fenty, as well as a smaller picture of the President posing with diner staff.

The man then asked Mack if his choice of seat thus pointed out his destiny to become the next President. Mack replied, “I can’t – I’m Canadian.”

For whatever reason, the Gawker story was circulating on Twitter in Edmonton today. No I’m not pleased that my face appears in Gawker’s race-baiting post, but whatever, the photo is free for use. I could request that they take it down I suppose, but the post was from 2011. Only in Edmonton does anyone still care!

I wasn’t going to write anything, but then I thought it would be interesting to highlight some of the other strange places my photos have been used. Enjoy!

Let’s start with another one from D.C., of Watergate. I have a few of the complex, and they have been used often to illustrate articles related to the famous scandal, like this one.


This photo of a Petro-Canada refinery was taken back in 2008 on the east end of Edmonton. It was used in an article in The Times of Israel titled ‘Turkey busts Iranian oil smugglers‘:

Petro-Canada Refinery

While visiting San Francisco in September 2010, we of course made a stop at Trader Joe’s, where I took this photo that was used last year when they increased the price of Two Buck Chuck to $2.49:

Tow Buck Chuck

This delicious-looking grilled cheese sandwich was used in an article titled ‘“Pregnancy brain” – what did you forget?‘:

Grilled Cheese Olympics

Don’t ask me why, but in 2007 I took a picture of some clean dishes in the dishwasher. It was used by the Natural Resources Defense Council in ‘The Great Dishwasher Debate‘.

Clean Dishes

Who doesn’t love the Edmonton Corn Maze! I took this photo in September 2010. It was used a little over a year later in an article titled ‘Family lost in a corn maze calls 911‘.

Edmonton Corn Maze

This photo, taken in Seattle in 2005, actually looks a lot better in the article where it was touched up, titled ‘Inuit demands spark angler concerns over Scottish salmon stocks‘:


While visiting Calgary in July 2010, I took this photo in the Marda Loop neighbourhood. It was later used in a satirical article titled ‘Marda Loop residents seek to ban ugly people from moving into the neighbourhood‘:

Marda Loop

Back in 2008, Doctors Without Borders had an exhibit called Refugee Camp in the Heart of the City, which is where I took this photo of plumpy nut. It has been used in a number of articles about malnutrition, like this one.

plumpy nut

I took this photo of Little Caesars Hot-n-Ready pizza in 2008. It was used in this article about a 12-year-old boy who stole money, went joyriding, and ate pizza.

Hot-n-Ready from Little Caesars

This photo was used in an article about having a date at a driving range, highly appropriate as that’s when it was taken! Yes, that is Sharon.

Sharon at the driving range

Let’s finish with another popular food photo, taken in September 2010 in San Francisco. Sharon wrote about our meal at Sam Wo here. Unfortunately, the restaurant closed down in 2012 though their website was updated in July 2013 to say they are in search of a new location.

Sam Wo

There are lots of other somewhat-less-interesting examples too, with photos of technology, the Stanley Cup, Starbucks Iced Coffee, and much more being used in articles all over the world. It’s neat to see all of the places my photos have ended up!

You can check out all of my photos at Flickr.

Incredible visuals of a stormy day in Edmonton

Early this afternoon, after a very soggy morning, Environment Canada issued a tornado warning for Edmonton and area! The storm was all people were talking about, and of course many posted photos and videos. Here are some of the best ones I saw:


Have you got other photos or videos worth seeing? Leave a comment!

You can always see the latest weather warnings for Edmonton here.

It’s the season of detours downtown!

Summer means lots of construction here in Edmonton, so we shouldn’t be surprised by detours and road closures. More than $122.9 million is being invested in special projects, road paving, and other growth infrastructure projects this year! While walking around downtown today, I took some photos of a number of the projects underway.

On the east side of the 105 Street hill there’s a new sidewalk! It’s much wider, which is great for pedestrians. Looks like they are still doing some work on the west side.

New sidewalk on 105 Street

Between Jasper Avenue and 102 Avenue there is pavement renewal work being done on 106 Street:

Construction on 106 Street

There’s a lot of activity near the Legislature grounds, as the Federal Building and Centennial Plaza construction continues.

Centennial Plaza Construction

Work also continues on Capital Boulevard (108 Street). If you look closely here, you can see the street widen near the construction signs.

Capital Boulevard Construction

There’s also rehabilitation work happening on the north end of Capital Boulevard:

Capital Boulevard Construction

The most visible construction downtown is definitely the Central Station LRT Rehabilitation and Jasper Avenue Streetscaping. Basically avoid Jasper Avenue from 100 Street to 102 Street if at all possible.

Jasper Avenue Construction

They have now started removing the surface near 102 Street:

Jasper Avenue Construction

This section near 100 Street looks like it’ll be next. It has been pretty interesting to see how they do this work over the last couple weeks. It looks like the use a giant saw to slice the road (the thin straight lines in the photo below) then they’ll use the larger machinery to dig it up.

Jasper Avenue Construction

I didn’t make it up there today, but there is of course the North LRT to NAIT construction taking place along 105 Avenue and 105 Street (among other places). Here’s a great panorama from Hugh Lee:

LRT Expansion Expanded

One of the projects you’ll encounter as you enter downtown is the Grierson Hill Bridge & MacDonald Drive Pedestrian Underpass Rehabilitation. The City has been updating that page with photos.

For an overview of all current major road projects in the city, click here. Or, check out the more detailed construction schedule at Construction On Your Streets.

Some awesome recent photos of Edmonton

I love sharing photos of Edmonton on Edmonton Etcetera. There are so many great photographers in our city who regularly share their work online – check out their pages, you won’t be disappointed. Here are some of my favorites (including a few of my own) from the last few weeks!

228/365 by Ian McKenzie

Pyramids in the City
Pyramids in the City by RandallTT

July 18 - Sunrise
July 18 – Sunrise by Nelson Webb

Cariwest Parade 2011
Cariwest Parade 2011 at 4th St Promenade by mastermaq

Folk Fest Evening
Folk Fest Evening by Sean Gordon

After the Rain
After the Rain by RandallTT

MacEwan Planet
MacEwan Planet by KBauschardt

Everything but the Kitchen Sink...
Everything but the Kitchen Sink… by EdRoland

Old & New
Old & New by mastermaq

I can’t embed this one, but it is pretty awesome too.

Check out the Edmonton group on Flickr for more great photos!

Photo Tour: ETS Centennial Garage

About two months ago at the Youth Summit on Sustainable Transportation I had the opportunity to tour Edmonton Transit’s Centennial Garage, located at Ellerslie Road and 156 Street. The name commemorates Edmonton Transit’s 100th anniversary of service. The facility, which officially opened on April 10, 2010, primarily serves neighbourhoods in the west and southwest parts of Edmonton.

ETS Centennial Garage

The garage has space to store and maintain at least 250 buses, but is also home to administration offices as well as dispatch and support. More than 250 fleet services and bus operations staff work at the facility (that includes 200 operators).

ETS Centennial Garage ETS Centennial Garage

The building is massive, encompassing 7.1 acres (or 313,000 square feet, approximately five football fields). The budget for the garage was $99 million, $89.3 million of which came from the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI). It was designed and built to LEED Silver standards, with features such as a solar wall for heating. Croy D. Yee Architect Ltd, Morrison Hershfield Limited, Earthscape Consultants, and Clark Builders were involved in the design and construction of the building.

ETS Centennial Garage

Some of the building materials used include 31 miles of electrical conduit, 1325 imperial tons of steel (structural steel was made up of 90% recycled content), 11,800 cubic metres of concrete (27.5% was reycled content), 3300 sprinkler heads, and 81 miles of in slab heating pipe.

ETS Centennial Garage

The Centennial Garage is the first garage in Edmonton designed to handle ETS’ 13 articulated buses, with a special hoist that can lift the 20-metre, three-axled vehicles.

ETS Centennial Garage

The storage part of the garage was fairly empty when we visted, as most buses were out on the road. It as neat to see the buses that were present parked nose to tail in long lines.

ETS Centennial Garage

ETS Centennial Garage

The high pressure wash system is what gets the buses nice and clean on the way into the garage. Apparently they had to turn the pressure down from the original setting, because it was causing the decals and advertising on the buses to come right off! In addition to being powerful, the system was specifically designed to cut down on water use by more than half.

ETS Centennial Garage

There are state-of-the-art systems in the building for monitoring carbon monoxide levels and maintaining comfortable heat and humidity. Energy modeling results indicate that the Centennial Garage is 33% more energy efficient than a typical building of its size and type.

ETS Centennial Garage

The ride out to the garage seemed to take forever (it’s really far south west) but it was definitely worth it to get a closer look at one of the facilities that keeps ETS running smoothly!

ETS Centennial Garage

You can see more photos from the tour here.

Edmonton’s Blue Hour Man: Darren Kirby

Edmonton’s Flickr community isn’t as large or active as other online communities in the city, but with over 1000 members and 40,000 photos in the Edmonton group alone, it’s certainly nothing to sneeze at. I have been trying to highlight some of the most interesting photos at Edmonton Etcetera, and after a while I realized that there are a few photographers I consistently enjoy. The one that stood out most to me was Darren Kirby – he’s definitely got an eye for the shot, as they say! I am consistently drawn to his style, his subject matter (mostly buildings and infrastructure around the city), and the fact that he licenses his photos under Creative Commons. I had to meet him!

Thankfully, he agreed to meet me for coffee recently. To start, I had to ask Darren about his extremely popular AGA-Cattle photo. If you have spent any amount of time online in the last six months, chances are you have seen it:

Cattle and AGA

Darren told me that he had reviewed the route in advance, but didn’t exactly plan for the shot. “It just sort of worked out,” he told me. That photo was one of his most popular ones, and I think it’s easy to see why. It currently has nearly 800 views, 22 comments, and 11 favorites on Flickr.

Born in BC, Darren moved to Edmonton when he was quite young, and he’s gone back and forth ever since. “I love the outdoor ruggedness in BC,” he said, though he mostly grew up in Edmonton. At an early age Darren was interested in construction, in skyscrapers and other buildings, and it’s that interest that got him into photography. Darren was an active member of SkyscraperPage, a website that proclaims itself “the world’s finest resource for skyscraper and urbanism enthusiasts.” Indeed there’s a fairly active Edmonton community on the site. A couple of years ago someone posted an old construction photo of a building downtown, and it caught Darren’s eye. “I started thinking how neat it would be thirty years down the road to whip out some photos of the construction that is happening now.” That was the catalyst he needed to start taking photos around the city.


I was amazed to learn that Darren has only been wearing the photographer hat for a couple of years. “I jumped in head first, and found a passion.” His first proper camera was a Nikon D40, and today he mainly uses a Nikon D90. “I had always had a point-and-shoot but SkyscraperPage was the catalyst for me to purchase a DSLR and to start learning how to use it.” There were three main ways he learned: trial and error, self-learning using books and online resources, and shooting with other photographers. Darren told me he tries to get out for a good five hour walk at least once a week, and is a regular participant in local FlickrMeets (meetups for local photographers). He estimates he spends 10-20 hours a week at least, shooting and editing. “People probably think I do more processing than I actually do,” he told me. He adjusts levels and increases the contrast, but that’s it for most photos. As a fan of open source and an avid Linux user, Darren uses digiKam, Raw Therapee, and occasionally GIMP.

90² - Happy New Year

Though he has posted just over 4000 photos on Flickr (on his main account) Darren estimates he has close to 50,000 photos stored at home. “I only delete the really blurry ones,” he said. I mentioned my “shotgun” approach and Darren said he was like that too, but now is “a better judge of my own work.” His approach today is twofold: artistic and documentarian. Darren created the bulliver too account for constructions photos, and is the main way he documents the many construction projects happening around Edmonton.

Epcor 2010-11-03

One of the most interesting construction projects Darren has been photographing recently is the EPCOR Tower. Thanks to SkyscraperPage, Darren got connected with Qualico’s Ken Cantor, who invited him and few other photographers on a tour back in January. I asked Ken why he reached out to Darren. “Taking a Saturday morning to do the tour was a small investment that I was happy to make,” he told me, “besides, it gave me an opportunity to show off something I’ve been working on for a long time to someone who showed an interest in it.” Darren had already been photographing the building of course, just without the same level of access that the tour provided him. “Darren chose to share his work with others asking nothing back and I offered the tour on the same basis,” Ken told me. Darren was worried the tour was going to be cancelled because it was the same weekend as our record snowfall, but they went ahead anyway, and spent more than three hours taking photos. The only condition imposed on the photographers was that Qualico be allowed to use their photos internally as appropriate and externally with credit to the photographer. “At the end of the day, it is simply part of wanting to leave a city that has treated me well in a better condition than when I arrived here and it’s the personal, small things that are as important as the concrete big ones in making that happen,” Ken said.

Epcor Tour 2011-01-08

Some of Darren’s favorite local projects include the Edmonton Clinic, the Alberta Hotel, and the Walterdale Bridge. As for photographers, Darren is a fan of many, including Hugh, Chris, and Nelson. He credits learning from other photographers as one of the most important ways he has tried to become a better photographer, though he admitted it hasn’t always been easy. Darren is naturally somewhat shy. “Join a community, whether it is Flickr online or something else, to learn from likeminded individuals.”

Edmonton Clinic North 2011-03-06

Though Darren enjoys shooting buildings and urban settings, he has started dabbling in model shots as well. “It’s a whole other world, tough but very rewarding.” Without a doubt however, his favorite kind of shot is the blue hour. “A nice looking building, well lit, during blue hour – there’s nothing better than that,” he told me. I think his love for the shot shows:


365::288 - New Grub Street

Gibson Mural

365::338 - I Never Promised You a Rose Garden

The blue hour is of course that wonderful time after the sun has gone down but before the sky has turned black.

It struck me that Darren is doing Edmonton a huge service through his photography, capturing the way the city is transforming physically. “I think it’ll be a very useful, important thing down the road,” he agreed. I think it’s especially important that Darren licenses his photos using Creative Commons, something that was a very conscious decision. “I didn’t even think twice,” he said of his choice to use Creative Commons. I mentioned perhaps connecting with the City of Edmonton Archives to store the photos, and noting that it might be too soon, Darren said “my photos are there for the taking!” I think it’s great.

For Darren, photography is a hobby but “a very enjoyable one that has been really rewarding.” He counts himself lucky to be a photographer in the digital age. “It’s great to get instant feedback from so many sources.” I asked Darren to offer some advice to other up-and-coming photographers, and he said “just shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot!” Practice really does make perfect. He also said that it takes time, so don’t expect brilliant results right away.

Tops in Edmonton
Photo by Hugh Lee

I’m in awe of Darren’s work, and I’m so thankful that he is making it available for free online. Darren is certainly humble about it though. “I’m just a meat and potatoes kind of guy who loves taking pictures.”

You can check out Darren’s photos here and here, and you can follow him on Twitter.

Photo Tour: Arctic Shores is coming to life at the Edmonton Valley Zoo

The Edmonton Valley Zoo is in the midst of a major transformation. One of the most talked about new features is known as Arctic Shores, set to open sometime in 2012. This week (before it snowed) I had the opportunity to tour the construction site, and was impressed by the progress!

Arctic Shores will improve the quality of life for the zoo’s seals and sea lion with a new indoor/outdoor pool. You really have to see the before and after to get a sense of how dramatic that change will be, however. Here’s what the facility currently looks like:

Valley Zoo
There are three sea lion/seal pools on the left.

Valley Zoo
The zoo’s South American Sea Lion.

Valley Zoo
The zoo’s two Harbour seals.

Valley Zoo
A new home is on the way!

The animals are well cared for, they just don’t have the most attractive or exciting space to live in. It looks and feels somewhat utilitarian, and doesn’t really allow visitors to get very close to the animals. But that’s all about to change!

Here’s a rendering that illustrates what the new facility will look like:

Polar Extremes Rendering

This is a model that was on display last May, courtesy of Sharon.

Seal habitat

And here’s another view, displayed on the fence around the construction area at the zoo.

Valley Zoo Arctic Shores Construction

And here’s what the construction status looked like as of this week. This is the road leading up to the Arctic Shores facility, inside the fenced off construction site. The zoo has around 75 acres of land, only 40% of which has been developed. The land that Arctic Shores is now on used to be home to camels and West Caucasian turs. They have been moved to a new home, which highlights one of the challenges of major construction at the zoo. It sounds like the construction team had some interesting encounters with the turs early on!

Valley Zoo Arctic Shores Construction 

The new facility is being built with sustainability in mind. It will have a green roof to minimize storm water runoff, and will also feature dark-sky-compliant exterior lighting.

Valley Zoo Arctic Shores Construction 

A big focus is water conservation. The building shown below is where filtration will happen, with the goal of achieving net zero water usage. There’s a mechanical filtration system that uses perlite (commonly seen in potting soil). That’s significant because it is safer for staff, and can simply be composted when it needs to be replaced. There’s also a biological filtration system, in the form of a saltwater marsh just behind the building.

Valley Zoo Arctic Shores Construction 

That filtration all happens via the 29 pipes buried underground. The pipes range in diameter from 4 inches to 16 inches, and altogether will ensure that all 870,000 litres of water goes through the cycle every 90 minutes. If all goes according to plan, the filtration system will mean that the pools are filled just once. In the current habitat, the water is refilled every week.

Valley Zoo Arctic Shores Construction 

This is the view from atop the back edge of the new outdoor pool. It’s pretty incredible to see the pathways and everything brought to life! The concrete you see here will be sealed and covered with a 2 inch layer of finishing concrete that looks like rock. Hopefully there are no leaks – the only way to tell is to fill it all up with water and then watch closely!

Valley Zoo Arctic Shores Construction 

The outdoor pool is connected to the indoor pool via the pathway you can see on the right below.

Valley Zoo Arctic Shores Construction 

Below you can see the viewing platform, where visitors will have a chance to get a closer look at the animals. There’s a big, curved piece of acrylic that will be added to the platform. And if you look closely, you’ll note the middle of the platform has a bunch of plywood on it. That will be turned into a viewing window as well!

Valley Zoo Arctic Shores Construction 

In the background here you can see one of the large piles of earth. In all, the construction team estimates they removed roughly 1900 end dumps (the large, 30-40 foot long dump truck trailers). The good news is that all of that earth stayed at the zoo, and will be used for refilling around the construction and other landscaping projects.

Valley Zoo Arctic Shores Construction 

In addition to the new sea lion/seal home, Arctic Shores will feature a pingo and a whale bone play structure. An arctic fox and ground squirrels will also call Arctic Shores home.

Valley Zoo Arctic Shores Construction 

The shot below is the space that will become the kitchen, where staff prepare food for the sea lion and seals. Everything will be stainless steel, with lots of work space and a viewing window into the indoor pool.

Valley Zoo Arctic Shores Construction 

In the background below, you can see the curved structure covered in black, green, and yellow tarps. That’s the acrylic piece that will encircle the viewing platform. It turns out that there are just two companies in the world that could make that component of the project, one in the United States and one in Japan. Due in part to scheduling requirements, the contract went to the company in Japan. The acrylic arrived in Edmonton late Monday night, lucky to have survived the earthquake and tsunami. You can read more about it here.

Valley Zoo Arctic Shores Construction

The final photo here is where the new zoo entrance will be. It will also serve as the entrance to The Wander, a new central trail system that will be built after Arctic Shores. Construction won’t begin on that for a while, but the zoo did get a head start this week. A total of 85 trees and shrubs will have been removed by today, in order to comply with the Migratory Birds Convention Act. All of them will be replaced.

Valley Zoo Arctic Shores Construction

As you can see, the construction of Arctic Shores has come a long way since last June. I’m really excited about the changes taking place the Valley Zoo, and will be writing more about the zoo’s ongoing transformation over the next few weeks. Thanks to Denise and Mary Lou for the tour!

You can see more photos here.

Edmonton’s Hot to Huddle 2010 Grey Cup Festival Parade!

Downtown Edmonton has been full of energy this week for the Grey Cup Festival, but today’s parade took it to another level! Here are some of the highlights.

I’d say green was definitely the dominant color in the crowds – they even brought chairs!

2010 Grey Cup Parade

The Snowbirds criss-crossed the sky a few times!

2010 Grey Cup Parade

2010 Grey Cup Parade

Bryan Hall was the Grand Marshall for the parade.

2010 Grey Cup Parade

Each of the teams had a Nissan Cube.

2010 Grey Cup Parade

They also had cheer teams. The Eskimos cheer team even did some stunts!

2010 Grey Cup Parade

A favorite from the Capital Ex parade returned – the West Jet plane!

2010 Grey Cup Parade

I thought the Coast Hotels float was creative.

2010 Grey Cup Parade

The CN float was really well done too.

2010 Grey Cup Parade

These poor kids had the worst job, following the horses.

2010 Grey Cup Parade

The Riders’ cheer team received a warm welcome!

2010 Grey Cup Parade

As did the rest of the Roughrider supporters.

2010 Grey Cup Parade

They even had pyrotechnics. How can you go wrong with that?!

2010 Grey Cup Parade

It really was a sea of green for a while.

2010 Grey Cup Parade

This one was my favorite of the parade:

2010 Grey Cup Parade

This guy remarked “buying fans one Candy Cane at a time!” as he passed by.

2010 Grey Cup Parade

I love that this guy is a Calgary fan.

2010 Grey Cup Parade

There was loud applause as our Armed Forces passed by.

2010 Grey Cup Parade

Attendance wasn’t as large as the Capital EX parade, but given the temperature, I’d say it was still a very strong turnout!

You can see the rest of my parade photos here (over 140 in all).