Photography by Royce Howland

School's Out for the Summer

A quick and violent summer storm blew through town, bringing with it a sudden blast of thunder, lighting, wind gusts, heavy rain and large hail. The storm moved rapidly to the east while the sun was going down, and golden light poured in the windows of my office. I grabbed the nearest camera, ran outside and captured an amazing display of mammatus clouds over the neighborhood school. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

That Halloween Mood

A couple of nights before halloween one year in Calgary, some interesting conditions were in place around sunset. Warm chinook winds blow through town, creating a cloud pattern called a chinook arch. When weather to the west lines up, a fantastic sunset display is in the offing. This was the view at the Glenmore Reservoir, just after the sun dropped below the horizon. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Under the Overpass

Highways 11 and 93 (a.k.a. the Icefields Parkway) meet at a place called Saskatchewan River Crossing. Along with these manmade passages, a couple of natural ones also join nearby – the North Saskatchewan River (pictured here in the form of ice) and the Mistaya River. There’s a lot to explore on the valley floor here. This day, I liked the play of direct & reflected light on the lines of the concrete overpass spanning the river, with only tiny bits of majestic Mt. Wilson visible in behind. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Old Hospital Steps

Old makes way for new, but sometimes it takes the “new” awhile to arrive. In the town of Peace River, the old hospital was torn down and a new one built elsewhere. A large, fenced-off pit remains on the vacant lot where the hospital foundation used to be. To one side, a small park-like area is covered in trees, shrubs and tall grass, no longer cared for by any groundskeeping staff. A short flight of cracked steps, leading to a path under a spreading canopy of branches, once took hospital visitors into the space. Judging from tracks in the snow, the main visitors now are deer and neighborhood dogs. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

I Wonder If the Rates Are Reasonable

The town of Cardston has a number of historic buildings, few more prominent than the old Cahoon Hotel. A brick construction dating to 1905, it’s named for area pioneer & carpenter J.C. Cahoon, and took the place of a previous hotel destroyed by fire. Besides travelers, many town businesses occupied rooms here at one time or another. Outside, the place could use a lick of paint and the brick walls are cracked, while inside I'm told it's not in the best shape. I wonder at those who visited or worked at the Cahoon, and what stories they could tell. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Check Your Visions

Calgary’s downtown core has a vibrant Chinatown, an area in which I’ve been meaning to spend more time. Awhile back, I spent an hour or two scouting around the streets. I only had my trusty pocket camera with me, but I knew the light could be interesting as it cut between buildings. Appropriately enough, this sign jumped right out at me, thanks to some strong lighting, shadows and lines. It’s always important to check your visions. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Hovering Raindrops

Walking around part of downtown Calgary with a photowalk group, one of the most interesting things I saw on a drizzly spring afternoon was this overhead glass plate at the entrance of an office tower. The covering of raindrops combined with the light on a gleaming building column in behind, made for a simple, pleasing abstract design. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Boats and Notes

Putting out to harbor on a whale-watching tour from Reykjavik, we cruised past a number of sailboats moored at the yacht club. The building in behind is the splendid Harpa concert hall and conference center, just recently opened to the public. The patterned shapes of blue glass panels, and the reflections caught in them, caught my eye as a back-drop for the sailboats. The bright blue and purple panels brought to mind notes on some exotic musical score. As I later learned, the natural pattern of basalt columns, which are found in many volcanic areas of Iceland and often show an hexagonal cross-section, is a recurring influence on Icelandic architecture. That includes the lattice-work of glass panels here. I spent quite a bit of time in and around Harpa, enjoying the space; but I couldn’t have gotten this view without being on the water. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Gleaming Honeycomb

Reykjavik has a beautiful new public building, the Harpa concert hall and conference center, just recently opened to the public. Positively glowing in the light, the lattice-work of clear, colored and mirrored glass panels that makes up the walls and ceiling forms a dizzying array of shapes and lines. But it does so in a very good way, like a classic Escher illustration in 3 dimensions. It looks a lot like a honeycomb structure, or the basalt column formations found all over Iceland. I passed several enjoyable hours at Harpa, and will go back again… perhaps even to hear a concert! Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Golden Light On the Matrix

Reykjavik has a beautiful new public building, the Harpa concert hall and conference center, just recently opened to the public. The grid of clear, colored and mirrored glass panels that makes up the walls and ceiling forms a dizzying array of shapes and lines. The golden light of evening and polarized blue of the sky, mixed together with the structure & glass, forms an unusual matrix through which to look out over the city. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Meeting Room 6

The gorgeous Harpa concert hall and conference center in Reykjavik is a spectacle of light and form… and not just when looking from the inside out. Bare concrete walls contrast with glass surfaces on the interior. The glass gleams mirror-like in the evening light, throwing back multi-faceted reflections of the hexagonal grid of the hall’s outer wall, and of the city beyond. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Sunbow Over The Bow

After a lunch break in downtown Calgary, I was returning to the office when I saw a sunbow form in the sky amongst some early summer storm clouds. The sun was almost directly overhead and created dramatic reflections in the glass panels of Calgary's current preeminent skyscraper, The Bow. I have some kind of camera with me almost all the time, exactly for moments like this. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Flooded Calgary Golf & Country Club

On June 20, 2013, Calgary and many surrounding towns declared states of emergency. Heavy rainfall earlier in the week (over 200mm in some areas) created flash flood conditions. Many rivers flooded to an extent not seen in many decades, or perhaps ever before in the province in modern times. The extensive damage will take many weeks to be assessed. Homes, businesses, city buildings, utilities, parks and recreation facilities, roads, railways, bridges, the Calgary Stampede grounds, much of the downtown core -- everything along flooded rivers has been impacted. Here, water pouring over the spillways of the Glenmore Reservoir dam has burst the banks of the Elbow River, sending flooding into the low lying facilities of the Calgary Golf & Country Club. The day after the emergency came down, when I briefly approached the dam between on-going showers, the level of the silt-laden water had peaked a few hours before. The image looks deceptively under-stated compared to the immense damage that had already been done, and continued to escalate over the coming days.Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Treading Lightly Upstairs

What do you do in Reykjavik on a summer day, when the rain is pouring down outside? Many things... but on this occasion, I grabbed the camera and used the soft exterior lighting to photograph the graceful curves of the stairwell in my guesthouse. This was just one of many very appealing architectural details around the city, and made for an appealing compositional study in lines and light. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Casting a Long Shadow In the Low Sun

The rain ended towards the close of a long summer day in Reykjavik, and the sun dropped down below a layer of low clouds. With features resembling volcanic basalt columns, the iconic Hallgrímskirkja Lutheran church is the second tallest building in Iceland. Its main face and doorway are oriented towards the setting sun, which paints the structure in red-gold light. Standing apart in the front square of the church, a statue of the even more iconic Icelandic explorer Leif Eriksson keeps watch towards the harbour. Eriksson was an early convert to Christianity, and an historical figure of mythic proportion. To this day he and his achievements cast a long shadow. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Spray of Light

Château Ramezay is a museum, formerly a residence over 300 years old, in the old part of Montréal. First designated as a museum in 1895, the Château has a history as a public-access heritage facility that dates back longer than virtually any building of any kind in my home town of Calgary. It was a great place to visit and see a number of exhibits on the history of Montréal, as well as enjoy the building itself and its garden. In the basement, I was fascinated by these light fixtures casting a spray of light on various walls, and so made a photo of the detail. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

How the Light Gets In

The new National Music Centre in Calgary is a visually stunning building. In the main, one goes there for the wealth of Canadian musical culture on display, but I go there as well for the architecture. With ceramic tile-covered walls both inside and outside that reflect light like the facets of a massive gemstone, plus a series of sweeping curved walls with raking angles, the entire structure is a mesmerizing study in line and light. This scene reminded me of the Leonard Cohen lyric, "There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in." Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Staircase To the First Floor

The new National Music Centre in Calgary offers swirling, kaleidoscopic views of its inner space. Replete with gracefully flowing lines punctuated by the occasional sharply-angled slashing line, the space is a visual feast. Staircases on either side play an important role in appreciating the architecture. Aside from their use as a means of moving between floors and looking out into the main space, the staircases also create openings. The surrounding walls fold over and around these openings, and light from adjacent windows cuts through them, illuminating the interior. When you visit, my advice is to avoid the elevators, and take the stairs. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Light Is a Highway

The new National Music Centre in Calgary is an impressive structure. Built to house and present a wealth of Canadian musical heritage, it is also a quite dazzling showcase of architecture. Flowing lines and shapes intertwine amongst themselves, rising and falling as they are cut through by angular light throughout the day. Numerous vantage points offer good views, but I find in many ways that it is in concentrating on small sections, guided by a highway of light, that the visual impact of the space is at its strongest. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Some Bridges Are Leaps of Faith

Before it was the National Music Centre in Calgary, most people who knew of it at all would have known it as the Cantos Music Museum, a smaller operation based in one of Calgary's remaining early-19th-century buildings. Starting from the earliest genesis of the foundation in the late 1980's, the key people involved undoubtedly possessed bold visions and the ability to see them through. Possibly even the wildest ideas of that original group would not have envisioned the beautiful, world-class music heritage facility of today and the scope of what the NMC may still become. Bridging from that past starting point to the reality of the present and the potential of the future likely has meant making a number of key leaps of faith, and I hope they keep at it. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Like a Knife

The interior of the new National Music Centre in Calgary is dominated by a number of walls shaped by sweeping curves. This creates an overall impression of gracefully flowing forms. However in places these forms are allowed to come to abrupt straight edges, resulting in hard, angular negative spaces... like a sharp knife blade cutting through, revealing another layer behind. Fortunately these knife cuts also allow the light to pour through and bounce around the surfaces, creating a luminous glow on the glazed ceramic tiles of the walls. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Standing At the Bars

One of the things about the new National Music Centre in Calgary is that there's something interesting in virtually any direction. On each floor there are several points at which views open up into the layers of interior space. Standing at the railing bars, look across but also don't forget to look up and look down. Anywhere that light could be coming through, there's probably something cool to see. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Heart of Gold

The core of the National Music Centre in Calgary is a large chamber formed by the intersecting curves of broad, tall, sweeping walls covered in glazed ceramic tiles. On opposite sides, openings for the staircases allow light and visitors to flow around the chamber. It's like a heart comprised of glowing bronzes and golds depending on the time of day and exterior light. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.


The National Music Centre in Calgary has a lot to offer. One of the key features is a large collection of musical instruments ranging from vintage to modern. A number of instruments are set up so they can be played by visitors, while a few are intended to be used only by museum staff. Others are part of static displays. These can be interesting to musicians and music lovers... or photographers searching for light, lines and forms. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.