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

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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.

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