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HALIFAX BY NIGHT

Almost everywhere looks so much different in the dark. The effects of artificial lighting can bring out whole new features in what would otherwise be a banal collection of monotonous structures and might produce some stunning photographs. Halifax is no exception.

Each time that I have previously been to Halifax, I was ill and as well as that, it was always in the late evening and I was always in a hurry. I was also armed with nothing but a compact digital camera. Consequently there were never too many photographs, and those that I took were not really of a very acceptable quality.

This year, though, things are different. I have the Nikon D5000 as well as an excellent 18-105mm zoom lens, and I've deliberately set aside one evening and a whole day - a Sunday too - in my itinerary so that I can have a really decent prowl around the city and see whatever is going on.

Flash photography never works in these kinds of settings as the flash ruins the whole effect of what you are trying to achieve and so the answer is a high ISO and a slow shutter speed. One or two of the following night photographs are therefore grainy and over-exposed, and with not having a tripod with me (there is a limit to what you can carry about your person when travelling by plane although I've done something about that now) there's a hint or two of camera shake. But nevertheless, I hope that you will enjoy the following little tour.

I'm intrigued to see exactly what I can produce with the set-up that I have today although what I really need, and what is my ambition to own, is a really high-quality 50mm f1.2 lens. Wouldn't that be something for these kinds of condition? Ahh well.


Chebucto landing Halifax by night nova scotia canada october octobre 2010

This place here on the waterfront at Halifax has some kind of special significance for me. If you remember my adventures of 2001 when I had all kinds of ferry issues going over to Maine and I ended up here in Halifax instead, this was the first place that I saw where I could buy a really decent coffee to sustain me on my way round the head of the Bay of Fundy.

I always seem to gravitate back to this spot, seeing as it's quite central to the waterfront and parking is fairly easy to find late at night. You can see Casey - he's the fourth car from the left.


This year, something different happened to me outside this bar. On stepping out of the car, I put my foot onto something in the street. Closer examination revealed that it was someone's mobile phone. Thinking that it was likely that the person who had dropped it had come from the bar, I took the phone inside and handed it to the bar manager.

Had my brain been in gear at the time, I would have done something different. I would have kept the phone about my person and waited for the owner of the phone to call up. Had the owner done so, I would have gladly made arrangements to reunite the phone with its owner. Had the owner not done so (you never know how these things pan out), I would have won myself a phone.


I made a little note on my dictaphone about how I could talk and talk and talk "that's nothing new" ...ed about the changes that are taking place in the modern world, about how all kinds of historic artefacts that have existed for centuries are being consigned to the dustbin of history and being replaced by concrete-and-glass monstrosities that probably won't last 50 years, if Brussels is anything to go by. The last time I was in Brussels (Spring 2011) they were demolishing an office block that had been built after my arrival (Winter 1992) and I can see this happening elsewhere as well.

abandoned building awaiting demolition Halifax by night nova scotia canada october octobre 2010

Halifax is no exception to these kinds of happenings, and its place as Canada's major ice-free port on the eastern seaboard means that the process of change is very much accelerated here compared with many other places in the country.

I seem to recall from 2003 that this little corner here was something of a little thriving hub of some kind of commerce but you can see that today it's already all boarded up and likely in the near future to follow everything else around here into the dustbin of history if it isn't careful.


Halifax historic properties by night nova scotia canada october octobre 2010

Mind you, I did have it in the back of my mind that over the road from here were some semi-derelict cottages and I was half-expecting to see them already consigned into the aforementioned ... well, expecting NOT to see them, if you know what I mean.

But no - they were still here, and transformed into some kind of trendy shopping mall kind of area. They are known as the Halifax Historic Properties and sell the typical tourist trap kind of goods. And so the fact that they were still here - that cheered me up not a little.


Halifax historic properties by night nova scotia canada october octobre 2010

I went for a wander down to the other end of the street - by the waterfront, that is, and took a photo looking back up the way that I had walked. You can see what a nice job they have made of whatever it is that they have been trying to do, and also what I mean by photography at night by the light of the street lamps.

You can also see exactly what kind of city Halifax was, back in the 19th Century.

While I was walking around the waterfront just here, I fell in with a local woman and we had a chat about the area and its transformation. She reckons that although this particular street and its neighbours may well have been once derelict and run-down and threatened with demolition, that was 30 years ago - certainly not 7 years ago, and not 10 years ago either.

A quick perusal of my photos from 2003 showed that the aforementioned lady was correct as well. So am I having some kind of deja-vu about all of this? Perhaps I came here on a out-of-body experience all those years ago? Should I go back on the tablets?


At this end of this street over my shoulder and behind me is the waterfront and so I made my way over there to see what I could see. Here on the waterfront there was no sign of Marlon Brando but there was a signpost that listed all of the waterfront attractions for the month of October. I was disappointed to see that I wasn't listed on it for tonight, shameless self-publicist that I am.

And why not? People would pay a fortune to come round to see me and were I to lose my footing and fall into the water they would have their money's worth as well.


Dartmouth Halifax by night nova scotia canada october octobre 2010

I've mentioned earlier that Halifax has a twin town across the harbour - the dormitory suburb (but don't let anyone over there hear you say that) of Dartmouth. That is Dartmouth just across there, all lit up for the evening.

It's quite impressive when your night photos turn out like this, that's for sure. I'm not sure whether the use of a tripod would have given much of an improvement over this.


Dartmouth Irving ship repair yard Halifax by night nova scotia canada october octobre 2010

A little further downstream on the Dartmouth side of the river is some kind of huge industrial complex and there seems to be quite a bit of work going on over there, even though it is Saturday night. Just imagine that - people in the UK working on a Saturday night when the pubs are open.

Of course, with me being in Halifax and with plenty of time on my hands I'll be back here to take a photo of that in the daylight because I really can't remember now exactly what there is over there. It's almost 7 years since I was last here, as I keep on reminding you.


Halifax harbour ferry by night nova scotia canada october octobre 2010

There are three ways to cross the harbour between Halifax and Dartmouth. There's the MacDonald Bridge of 1955, there's the newer bridge the name of which escapes me "it's the Murray MacKay Bridge" ...ed that takes the expressway over and behind Dartmouth, and there's also the ferry.

I was snapped out of my reverie by the gentle putt-putt of a small diesel engine, and a quick glance in the direction of the noise revealed the ferry gliding past behind me. By the look of things it's a pushme-pullyou kind of arrangement.

I'll have to have a go on that tomorrow, although it's never a good idea. You see, every time I see a ferry it makes me cross.


angus macdonald bridge murray mackay bridge Halifax harbour by night nova scotia canada october octobre 2010

And so as I followed the ferry across the harbour my gaze happened to fix upon the NacDonald Bridge away in the distance. Bridges always have an attraction for me and at one time a German Civil Engineering website used to publish the photos that I had taken of exciting bridges.

Built in 1955, the MacDonald Bridge, and I'll be going for a wander across it in a little while, providing the old Mi'kmaq curse doesn't come true. This evening seems to be an excellent one as far as photography is concerned and I reckon that there will be some good shots from up there.

Mind you, there would be some good shots from down here if the curse does happen to come true. The Mi'kmaq, the First Nation Canadians around here, vowed that any permanent structure across the harbour would come to grief, and it's just like fate to wait until I'm standing upon it.


I went for a little wander further along the waterfront from my spec near the ferry terminal. From my casual inspection there is very little left of what once made Halifax the most famous ice-free port in the whole of British North America.

Halifax waterfront by night nova scotia canada october octobre 2010

The average size of ships has increased phenomenally over the last 60 years with the decline in sea warfare, and so most of the smaller wharves and docks are quite redundant.

Here in Halifax, though, they haven't quite lost the attachment that they had with the power of small-scale maritime trade. Whilst the smaller docks and wharves have been built over, just the same as in almost every other seaport in the world, if you look very carefully at the new, modern building on the right you will notice that it is built on piles sunk into the bottom of the wharf. They havent filled in the wharf at all.


Halifax casino waterfront by night nova scotia canada october octobre 2010

The night-time is clearly the best time of day to take photographs as the effects of lighting and shadow can bring out some kind of beauty in otherwise-banal subjects, as I mentioned above. This building is the Halifax Casino, and I bet it won't look anything like as spectacular as this in the daylight tomorrow.

As an aside, the Casino is listed by the Halifax Municipal Authorities as an attraction along the Halifax Historic Downtown Walk. If anyone would like to explain that one to me, I would be extremely grateful. Furthermore, the Municipal Authorities, in their tourist information publications, encourage visitors to go along and
"try your luck"

Even more strangely, out of all the "attractions" listed in the official Greater Halifax Visitor Guide, the Casino is the only one that the Authorities positively encourage tourists to visit. I wonder why that might be. E- me with your suggestions and I'll publish the best ones.


And so having dealt with the issues of the city waterfront in the darkness, it was time to adjourn to the Macdonald Bridge to see what the photos would be like from up there. Thanks to the Lady Who Lives In The SatNav, finding the bridge was quite easy. I simply asked her to find me a route to Dartmouth and she brought me straight to the bridge without any of my usual messing around in side streets.

Mind you, this is going to have a negative side, and I can see this happening without a shadow of a doubt. Most of my more-exciting adventures during my various voyages have occurred due to my missing my turning somewhere along the road. I can see the SatNav taking the fun out of much of my driving.

But no matter - here I am at the bridge. And the first thing that I notice is a sign informing me that
"if you need assistance or see anyone else who needs assistance please use one of the emergency phones along the bridge"
It immediately conjured up a picture in my mind of all these people rushing to the telephone - "help - Eric Hall is here!". Well, my reputation has already spread as far as North America, and a long time ago too.


angus macdonald bridge Halifax navy yard by night nova scotia canada october octobre 2010

I was right about the view from up here in the cool clear air of this wonderful evening. In fact, I could go as far as to say that the view was quite spectacular. I was glad that I came up here, even if there was a howling gale blowing from up the Atlantic.

The city itself looks absolutely stunning from here as you can see. It has much more of an air of mystique in the night with the illumination from the street lamps than it does in the daytime with the natural light. In the daytime of course you see what you see, and that may not be anything particularly beautiful. In the night-time your imagination can run riot.


angus l macdonald bridge Halifax naval yard by night nova scotia canada october octobre 2010

The key to Halifax has always been the sea. There was a great rivarly between the British and the French for the control of the coastal waters around here in the mid 18th Century and once the French had contructed their massive fortress at Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island, the British retaliated by constructing one of their own.

The naval dockyard, just down there, was the central focus of the settlement and still has a major influence on the city today even though the Royal Canadian Navy, which occupies the base these days, has fewer global ambitions than the British Royal Navy.


angus l macdonald Halifax harbour by night nova scotia canada october octobre 2010

The advantage is that here is a long and narrow channel that leads into a deep (and I mean deep) large and sheltered ice-free inlet. Out there on the left of the photo is Dartmouth, and on the right of course is Halifax, and this will give you an idea of just how long and narrow it is.

To the right of our image, behind the modern-day city is a hill upon which was built the Citadel, the fortress of Halifax. You will see in the daylight tomorrow how its guns command the harbour. Furthermore, the Citadel is several hundred metres from the waterfront. Any French raiding party brought here by boat would need to cover this distance before the soldiers could storm the Citadel. This would give an opportunity for the alarm to be raised, and for a party of defending troops to filter in behind the attackers and cut them off from their naval support.

With all of these advantages, British naval vessels could anchor here in safety, protected from all eventualities. This led to the success and subsequent growth of the settlement here into what the city has become today.


And as for the rest of Halifax, there is only so much that you can see in the dark. Everything else will have to wait until tomorrow and the daylight. I'm starving and I have a meal cooking back at the motel.



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