Unusual photography fieldtrip near Virden

National Geographic and Manitoba Historical Society guides

Dr. Gordon Goldsborough, the Head Researcher for the Manitoba Historical Society (MHS) guided photographers to abandoned locations near Virden on Saturday, May 4.

Pete Ryan, a professional photographer with the National Geographic Society taught techniques to best capture the interest and mystery in the historical sites they visited.  

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Sites at Lenore were on the to-visit list for this “Abandoned Manitoba” Photography Field Class, and the group was spotted at an old farmyard along PR 257.

Pete Ryan is an editorial and documentary photographer best-known for his pictorial essays on vanishing cultures. Visit www.facebook.com/pg/peteryanphoto/posts/ or Instagram accounts @peteryanphoto.

Goldsborough is an environmental scientist, educator, historian, and the webmaster for MHS. Along with many other hats he wears, he is a member of City of Winnipeg’s Historical Buildings and Resources Committee.

Among four books authored by Goldsborough, Abandoned Manitoba was described as “a runaway success in 2016, becoming the top-selling, non-fiction book of the year in Manitoba.” (mhs.mb.ca)

Here’s what he had to say about their Saturday excursion near Virden:

Q: What was your mission?

A: The purpose of the workshop led by National Geographic photographer Pete Ryan was to give photographers an opportunity to learn how to use their cameras more effectively while photographing abandoned sites in the vicinity of Virden.

My objective in participating was to share what I knew about the history of these sites and, frankly, to improve my own photography skills.

Q: What is your interest in abandoned relics?

A: I am fascinated by abandoned sites and what they reveal about how Manitoba has changed through the years.

Q: Who was the National Geographic photographer?

A: Pete Ryan, a resident of Victoria, BC, has been a photographer for National Geographic for over 15 years, where he has gained a reputation for his photographs of abandoned sites across the Canadian prairies.

Q: What was his interest here?

A: He has mostly concentrated his efforts in Saskatchewan and Alberta; this was his first foray into Manitoba.

Q: You are a seasoned photographer, what grabbed you?

A: I had visited all of the sites to be photographed before, with the exception of a pair of abandoned houses near Lenore, so nothing was especially surprising. However, I was impressed with a couple of photographic techniques that I learned during the workshop that I will definitely use in my own work. One, relating to High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography, allows you to get clear photos of exteriors taken from the window of a dark, abandoned building.

Q: The Hamiota Mansion (since burned down) was still standing that day. Did you visit it?

A: We had originally planned to visit the Atkinson House (Mansion) during the first day of the workshop. However, Mr. Ryan had an unexpected medical issue that necessitated his return to Virden, so in his absence I took the workshop to see a different house, the magnificent Nickel House north of Solsgirth. In some ways, it is even more impressive than the Atkinson House.

Q: Did you make any other Virden area stops?

A: We looked at the concrete arch bridge on the south approach into Virden (PR 257 - now closed to vehicle traffic), the Scallion farmhouse and granary northwest of Virden, and the grain elevator at Harmsworth….”

More “Abandoned Manitoba” Field Trips are planned for Morden, Winnipeg and Dauphin this spring (eventbrite.ca).


ABOUT Abandoned Manitoba

In an ongoing series called Abandoned Manitoba, on CBC’s Weekend Morning Show, you can hear Dr. Gordon Goldsborough in conversation the show’s hosts. The link is on the Manitoba Historical Society’s website: www.mhs.mb.ca/docs/sites/abandoned.shtml

There you can listen to a first-hand account of Goldsborough’s recent Virden trip. Get a peek into the making of world-class photographer Pete Ryan through an interview in a Virden hotel room, just weeks ago, May, 2019.

There are also dozens of short clips of Goldsborough’s ramble through Manitoba’s history over the last four years, including a story of the Quadra Pool grain elevator in the Arrow River/Crandall area. It was a product of the 1970s, a leader in cement structures.

Did you know that Virden’s Scallion House was the home of a political mover and shaker, James Scallion? He stood up for the farm trade and is linked to the origins of The Country Guide publication and to the election of Manitoba’s longest serving premier – John Bracken.

This and more is free for the listening through the Manitoba Historical Society’s link.






© Virden Empire-Advance