Nova Scotia

Ian Murray's Wallace Photography snaps up awards for the slow life

For Ian Murray, retirement meant dropping the perspective of a long and fruitful career in the automobile sector and picking up a camera.

Nova Scotia's rivers and fields are busy with wildlife — if you're prepared to sit down and wait

Retirement offers people a chance to take a different perspective on life.

For Ian Murray, that meant dropping the perspective of a long and fruitful career in the automobile sector and picking up a camera.

It also meant trading in the dreadful commute from Aurora, Ont., to Toronto (and later in Halifax) for the more pleasant stroll from his home in Wallace, N.S., down to the Wallace River.

There, he sits on an old lawn chair and vanishes under camouflage.

Ian Murray takes his seat for another day at the office. (Robert Short/CBC)

"Yeah this is my office. Isn't it nice? No dividers, no cubicles, no telephones. That's the best part. I'm out here seven days a week in good weather," he says on a glorious early winter day.

Growing up in Toronto, his father tried to open the shutters of photography to him when he was a nine-year-old boy, but his plea fell on blind eyes.

The lesson slowly seeped into his soul, long after boyhood faded. Murray says as he drove to and from work, he thought about photography and the Wallace River every day.

He stored the dream until retirement. When that day came, he knew what to do. His family has deep roots in the northern Nova Scotia community of Wallace and he summered there as a child.

After retirement, he built a house perched over the Wallace River and moved in, installing a photo studio in the basement. 

He opened Wallace River Photography in 2009, focusing on nature, but also venturing into the wilds of pets, portraits and parties. 

A bird feeder outside his kitchen window brings nature to him, but for a bigger challenge he heads into the great outdoors.

Can you spot Ian Murray? He sure hopes the birds can't when he sits in this spot by the Wallace River. (Robert Short/CBC)

"If there's a day I don't spend out here with my camera, it's a day wasted. I enjoy it a lot, I look forward to it. It's productive, it feels good, it's good for the soul, and you get good pictures to boot," he says.

"That's what the photographer's after, right? This is something I'm always searching for — the elusive good next shot. And often, this is where I'm going to find it — right in my own backyard."

He's won several major awards.

He spent much of the summer hanging out around a family of foxes so they'd be comfortable with him. When the moment was right, he captured a sweet moment between a mother fox and her cub. It won the American National Wildlife Federation Photo Contest.

Ian Murray spent weeks outside with these Wallace River foxes before they ignored him enough so he could capture moments like this. (Robert Short/CBC)

"Friends of mine who have known me for many years have not known me to be a patient person. But they are amazed now at how patient I can be. I'll come down here and I'll sit or I'll stand with my camera and I'll try to out-wait the eagle that's sitting in the tree across the river," he says.

Usually, the eagle wins. Friends will deliver beer or coffee to him as he tries to capture the predator in flight.

But in those magic moments that thrill a photographer's heart, everything comes together perfectly.

"He danced among the Gaspereau in the river and he got what he wanted — four fish at one time — and I got what I wanted — a good photo of him doing that."

Count 'em: one eagle grabs four fish while a photographer snaps one photograph. (Courtesy Ian Murray)

The award-winning image came in a flurry of 10 shots per second for that perfect instant.

And Murray's still tracking down one more dream

"Ah, the elusive Nova Scotia cougar. That's every wildlife photographer in Nova Scotia's dream — to be the guy that gets a good shot of the Nova Scotia cougar. And it's going to happen. I'll get him."

Tracks of the elusive Nova Scotia cougar? No. But one day Ian Murray hopes to photograph the animal. (CBC)


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?