True North Visual: The “Iqaluity” of Life – Eleanor McCain Music

True North Visual: The “Iqaluity” of Life

April 12, 2016 – Iqaluit, Nunavut

What a magnificent vista! 

You may be thinking I’m talking about either the West shores of Vancouver or the East shores of Halifax, but actually I’m referring to the latest stop on the True North: The Canadian Songbook project: Iqaluit, Nunavut! 

This time spent the weekend of April 8th in the Great White North, however, was non-musical: it’s part of the coffee table book that will accompany the 32-song album that will be out in 2017 in time for Canada’s sesquicentennial. 

We’re visiting six locations across Canada for photo shoots, and Iqaluit was stop #2 (after an initial stop in Cathedral Grove on Vancouver Island back in December.) And was it ever beautiful and tranquil! 

The concept behind the photos is to feature Canadian designers within our beautiful landscape. I’ve been working with stylist Wendy Natale for many years. She is researching all the designers and planning the outfits for these photo shoots. 

V. Tony Hauser, who is curating and editing the book as well as finding the landscape photographers, took the photographs in Iqaluit. Tony is a well-known portrait photographer in Canada and the photos he captured in BC and Iqaluit are incredible. Rounding out Team Iqaluit is a hair and makeup artist that I’ve been working with for a long time now, Vanessa Jarman. 

I’m happy to report that the Weather gods looked kindly upon us, because Iqaluit is a place where the weather changes constantly.  We were so lucky: it was a sunny and beautiful the day we arrived (although it was quite cold: -17C with the wind chill) and a stunningly gorgeous day for the photo shoot (-7C) that will forever be etched in my mind. But the sights warmed us up – it was breathtaking. 

We were very fortunate to have the guidance of adventure tour company Arctic Kingdom that helped us scout different locations, since they knew the area. They also provided us a heated tent for my dressing room, because we had originally anticipated that there was going to be a snowstorm during the shoot. 

But, snow good, snow far: It was clear and sunny, and we only ran into trouble with the weather on the final day…but more on that later. 

First, we scouted locations and different spots in Iqaluit, and didn’t drive too far outside the city to find them. One thing I didn’t realize until I’d arrived is that Iqaluit is above the Canadian tree line – there is no timber anywhere to be found. Had I brought them, the Retriever Records CEO and CFO would have been terribly disappointed in the absence of tree branches to chew, although I don’t think even Audrey’s Canada Pooch jacket would have kept her warm! 

Anyhow, some may think that because it doesn’t have any trees, that Iqaluit may look desolate, but the beauty and sheer magnitude and vastness of its surroundings was overwhelming. If it had been cloudy or snowy, we wouldn’t have been able to appreciate or fully grasp its extraordinary setting. As isolated as it may be, it is also very peaceful and calming. 

We were just so lucky to have sunny days – sunny Friday, sunny Saturday, when it warmed up to -7C – just so we could fully grasp the landscape. It’s just spectacular, breathtaking scenery. 

Some of what I saw fit the stereotype of how Canadians are identified around the world with the Arctic and miles and miles of snow. But so few have actually witnessed it with their own eyes – and it’s a shame because it’s one of the most beautiful habitats of our country.

For example, Frobisher Bay, which ended up being part our backdrop, has some of the greatest tidal variance in Canada. That means that the water level changes 20 to 30 feet a couple times a day. As a result, the frozen Bay has a jagged landscape because the thick ice is broken several times per day by the changing water levels. We did, however, get to see off in the distance where the ice was smoother, two dog teams in the distance crossing the Bay. 

Then there are these sort of large, round hills that rise from the coastline covered in snow that seem to go on forever. You sit there and it’s so peaceful: the sun beating down on this white landscape with all of this untouched snow and nothing around for miles. The vastness of the landscape in Nunavut gives one a sense of how enormous our country really is.

There was a hint of danger during the shoot: Shawna Balanko, who was giving us some guidance in Iqaluit, told Tony after the shoot that she noticed some polar bear tracks along the shoreline where we were taking photos. Even though I’m happy we weren’t a polar bear’s main course, I would have loved to have seen one.    

Anyhow, choosing Iqaluit was one of the best decisions made for this project. As much as it may seem ridiculous to go all that way to take some pictures, this distinct landscape and unique part of our country is so breathtaking that it was really important to capture it. Visiting there has changed me and I can still feel the emotions I experienced from being there. 

Our whirlwind weekend literally became one on Sunday with whirling winds and blinding snow that kept us leaving for Ottawa. We received 16 cm of snow, and we experienced the high winds and low visibility firsthand as we went for a walk. We got 10 feet outside the door and literally could barely see in front of us. 

We went to a local coffee shop named Caribrew, which was very “endeering” – sorry, I had to throw that one in there as the very thought of reindeer makes me feel “santamental” – but at least that forced me to catch up on my sleep and slow down and relax a little. Besides, the amazing landscape, I had the opportunity to bond even more with Tony, Wendy and Vanessa. We shared many stories and laughed until our sides hurt.

All in all, it was a great experience, and I’m going to be so excited when the visual fruits of our labour are finally shared in 2017. 

Because that’s what True North: The Canadian Songbook is all about: an audio, visual and immersive experience paying tribute to an amazing country we’re lucky enough to call home.


Eleanor McCain

Wendy Natale  V. Tony Hauser  Eleanor McCain  Dolina (from Arctic Kingdom)
   Vanessa Jarman


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