A modern building echoing the tipi form, a fold in the bald prairie with a stream winding through poplars. We have arrived at a Native Heritage Center just north of Saskatoon and will spend some time walking the trails and have a picnic lunch. The clear blue sky, the sun`s noontime glare and the blustery cool wind tells me that photography might be a little sketchy today. We choose a simple walk on an archeological trail, suitable for the grandchildren, which details the long history of use by native peoples, - a winter shelter down among the poplars out of that cold winter wind. As soon as we too walk downslope we can feel the shelter and begin to take a more detailed interest. Some tipis nestle among the trees beside the stream and I step inside one to find a different light, filtered by the white canvas. A great place to photograph the family! I catch Sarah standing at the entrance in a pool of light.
Those tipis, if I find the right angle and avoid anything in the background that speaks of the present era, have the potential to be ‘historic photos’ with a sepia or B&W version. Fortunately my camera will do this for me right away and this guides me to take several more. I have Curtis`s images from 150 years ago as a creative guide.
We discover some wild flowers on the slopes and I smile to see my photographer daughter following her Dad`s example by placing her camera down on the ground and shooting these prairie flowers up against the blue sky. The results are so effective! I am shooting images today that catch the subtle textures and forms of this early Spring day, so much are still sticks and buds or dry plants from the last summer season. How much more powerful this transition would have felt for those peoples who overwintered here.
The question I am holding in my mind as we walk and take photos is whether my regular habit of careful observation as I take photos is what is making this little fold in the prairie so vivid for me on this day or if there is something about this place, used for thousands of years by First Nations peoples, that is influencing what I see and how I photograph it. I have studied the history and cultures of the plains peoples sometime in the past and that is a real help in understanding the significance of this place. Whatever the mix, this brilliant noon light is working just fine for me today.