Serious amateur photographers can’t help but to have noticed the sea-change that’s taken place in their art over the last decade and its legion consequences, from tiresomely hilarious face-swaps to the diabolical scourge of the text-meme but above all the dubious contention that, as of the introduction of digital cameras and photoshop and its attendant filters, anyone can take a good picture.
Setting aside the arguability of that patently untrue position, it remains true that no matter how many megapixels or gaussian blurs or canvas effects you throw at it, you are absolutely not going to be able to record your personal perspective of a 75 million year old fossil of a Styracosaurus albertensis embedded in the foot of a hoodoo without going to Dinosaur Provincial Park in the badlands of Alberta, Canada.
And at the moment Alberta Tourism and Dinosaur Provincial Park, possibly the world’s largest and broadest repository of dinosaur fossils and certainly the most spectacular, are teaming up to address the challenge with a series of unique and ambitious guided tours to some of the most compelling and eccentric fusings of geological and paleontological history on earth, and you can bring your camera.
The Centrosaurus Quarry Hike runs from May 18 to August 25 2013 and it’s the fundamental tour aimed at introducing visitors to the sheer enormity of the fossil concentrations in the park. The three hour walking tour treks through steam beds and the illusion of liquid stone that are the sandstone ridges. The tour stops at a former dig site still rich with fossils and artifacts and visitors are invited to examine the clues and speculate about what may have wiped out the dinosaurs.
The Explorer’s Bus Tour sounds like the easy way of seeing the greatest amount of park, but that’s only because it is. Departing up to three times on weekends between May 18 and September 29, 2013, it’s probably the ideal cop out for those with kids or blisters but the bus occasionally stops so you’ll still get your pictures of fossils and absolutely no shortage of alien landscape carved over millions and millions of years.
The Fossil Safari and Fossil Prospecting tours are only slightly more ambitious. They also employ the latest in bus technology to avoid unnecessary ultra-violet rays and walking but concentrate more on the science of archeology and paleontology. The Fossil Safari departs at various times from the morning to early afternoon between May 18 and August 25, 2013 and Fossil Prospecting from June 15 to September 15, 2013.
The Sunset Tour is specifically designed for photography. It departs at 7 pm, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays between May 18 and August 31, 2013 and endeavours to catch a sunset from some of the park’s more exotically beautiful locations that the other tours don’t normally visit. Note that the right angle and the right moment and weather conditions aren’t guaranteed but the sunset and even the photography are just two excellent excuses to see another of the infinite angles of this extraordinary landscape.
In fact the tours themselves are a fraction of the draw of Dinosaur Provincial Park and you should probably just make them a centerpiece of a visit of at least a week but at a minimum two days. You can visit the park and you’ll be glad you did all year round but the tours run during the summer and you should check the website for precise times and dates. You’ll also need to book ahead on the site or by phone.
The park is only about a half hour’s drive from Calgary, the nearest major city, or two hours from Medicine Hat, the nearest city with an awesome name. Most of the hikes are child-friendly, particularly those that aren’t hikes at all but are actually bus tours, and those that aren’t range in difficulty from easy to only slightly less easy but you’ll want to remember the standard comfortable shoes and a hat and, of course, your camera.
Of course, you don’t even have to bring your camera or care about the challenge that Photoshop filters pose to the hobby. A little curiosity and an appreciation of a prehistoric landscape that, unless you live on the badlands or in a very rich fantasy world, is nothing like anything you’ve seen.