Communing With Nature
Photographing the incredible wildlife in Prince Albert National Park has given amateur photographer Duane Larson of Prince Albert, Sask., a new lease on life
After heart surgery, amateur photographer Duane Larson of Prince Albert, Sask., gained a new appreciation for the world around him, including the incredible wildlife in Prince Albert National Park.
Ienjoy exploring all areas of Saskatchewan, but the area I love best is Prince Albert National Park. Located in north central Saskatchewan and less than an hour away from my hometown of Prince Albert, Prince Albert National Park has become my weekend getaway.
They say that everything in life happens for a reason, and I tend to agree with that. During the early months of 2012, I underwent major heart surgery and it changed my life forever. I spent the next several months walking and hiking trails in and around the Prince Albert area to rebuild my inner strength, and it was during this time that I discovered
my love for nature and the outdoors. I saw things differently than I once did. It was like I was seeing the world for the first time.
As the year went on, I craved new places to explore and wanted to see more of the beautiful boreal forest, so I branched out and started travelling to Prince Albert National Park a couple of times a week. During these visits, I have had several incredible wildlife encounters including: a friendly grey jay landing on my hand; a curious fox following me as I hiked; and running into several elk on one of the trails. The only problem was that I never had a camera with me to capture those amazing moments.
Later that year, I picked up my first camera along with some great photography advice from my brother and some close friends.
The camera purchase was the beginning of the next chapter in my life. I instantly fell in love with taking photos and I could hardly bear to put my camera down. As soon as the weekend came around, I packed up and was ready to head back out and explore new areas of the park. I thought after awhile this feeling would wear off, but instead it has become my passion.
In the years since my surgery, I have spent almost every weekend out at the park hiking and taking photos along the way. Spending time in the park in solitude is energizing for me, but there is also something special about discovering a new plant or animal with my family.
At first I photographed everything from sunrises and sunsets to beautiful landscape views, but my favourite thing to photograph is the wildlife that calls Prince Albert National Park home.
Have you ever seen a pine marten spying on you from the branches of a nearby tree? An elusive and elegant Canada lynx watching you from the surrounding forest? Or perhaps a curious northern river otter peeking out from under the docks? These are just a few of the amazing animals that live in the national park that I love to photograph.
Hiking and exploring is a great experience at any time of the day, but the early morning hours are my favourite. During the summer months if you spot someone hiking or driving around at 4 a.m., it’s probably me. During these quieter times, I see the most wildlife around the park. I could sit for hours watching the otters play.
One of the most memorable experiences I’ve had in the park began in 2013, when I was out shooting photos and met a curious fox with a scar on his right ear. I encountered this same fox again in 2014, while he was walking down the road, and then again in 2015, while he was
sitting under a tree. Seeing him three years in a row was a pretty unique experience. I searched those areas in 2016, hoping to find him again, but Prince Albert National Park is a big area and I haven’t seen him again—not yet anyway. I am hoping we will have another chance encounter.
The time I’ve spent on the trails has provided so much more than great photographs and wildlife encounters. It has allowed me to heal, learn a new hobby and reconnect with nature. For these experiences, I am incredibly grateful and celebrated more than Canada’s 150th anniversary last summer. If you’re in need of a wonderful family getaway, then make Prince Albert National Park your destination this year.
in Ottawa. Since my husband is a retired RCMP member, his career and our family life was focused around the two provinces he was stationed in: my home province of Manitoba, and his home province of Ontario. Both are represented on the quilt with blocks containing the Hudson’s Bay blanket colours, the iconic grain elevator, a lighthouse representing the Great Lakes, the provincial flags and the Canadian Coat of Arms. Across the top of the quilt are the provincial flowers (prairie crocus and white trillium), an inukshuk, a Mountie and, of course, a maple leaf. I am pleased to say that the quilt has been in a couple of quilt shows, most recently in Seaforth, Ont., where it received a first-place ribbon.”
Still more critters (clockwise from top left): pine marten, pileated woodpecker, coyote, white-tailed WOLF deer and 1 A a grey jay.