Chasing Vators | Rural Alberta Photography

by on February 25, 2015

I came across a box of gift cards I purchased close to a decade ago of hand painted wooden grain elevators as the picture. I’ve never used them and remember purchasing them not only to help the local artist out, but also thinking my dad might like one … you see where this is going. The box remains wrapped up, but looking at them again I decided it’s time to send a few cards out, mat/frame one of them for my office and as my old Flickr mate used to say, go chase some ‘vators! Though I live minutes away from the Spruce Grove grain elevator, it’s in a cluttered area and the light never seems quite right – now that I write this, it’s a pretty bad excuse. It’s not the elevator I really want to shoot … I have a long list of them and I have only photographed a handful of them over the years.

Killearn Farms Ltd. elevator in Shonts, Rural Alberta. Alberta agriculture landscape.

There’s something very cool about looking way up — I feel like the Friendly Giant when I say that — at one of these wooden grain elevators. The history alone can be overwhelming and besides being in awe of what stands in front of me, there’s also a feeling of desperation. It’s no secret to most Canadians these prairie icons are fading fast. If they are not being deliberately torn down, the handful of remaining structures probably don’t have a lot of time left. They’ve become weather beaten, an unwilling victim to the elements. I know even in the past twenty years, the number of wooden grain elevators has greatly diminished and it’s frustrating to see the Alberta landscape change in such a manner. I personally find it depressing as I strongly feel, like many folks, these structures belong on our land. Can you imagine driving through the Alberta prairies with not a wooden elevator to be seen? It would be awful.

Alberta prairies buffs might enjoy this old 1981 short documentary by Charles Konowal on grain elevators, presented by the National Film Board of Canada. I’ve been trying to find the film Death of a Skyline by Bryan Smith with no luck. Hopefully the NFBC can help me out!

I’m glad I came across those gift cards … time to start plotting my route, soon with a camera or two in hand. First stop? That grain elevator in Spruce Grove.

See you in the field!


Update: found out the film is available to purchase only. Renting or streaming online isn’t possible.





Photographer. Podcaster on hiatus. Edmonton Oilers lovah. Cinematic Star Wars fan. Fond of wildlife conservation, animal rescue orgs, and all things Johnny Cash. Gen X. 

Let’s connect via Twitter or Instagram.