Photo capturing iconic Canadian image featured on commemorative bill

A picture in this case may be only worth ten bucks, but the honour is something special for this photographer with P.E.I. roots.

Photographer with Island roots has image chosen for special Canada 150 $10 bill

John MacKinnon's photo from Wood Buffalo National Park caught the attention of the Bank of Canada. (John MacKinnon)

P.E.I. already has lots to brag about during Canada 150, as the place where it all started.

In addition to being the cradle of Confederation, there's an Island connection to the new commemorative Canada 150 $10 bill.

A man with P.E.I. roots took a photo featured on it in Wood Buffalo National Park.

John McKinnon was working in the park, which covers parts of Alberta and the Northwest Territories, as an ecosystems geomatics technician.

'The beautiful dancing lights'

"One of the things living up north that you often have happen at nighttime when you do have these clear, dark nights is the aurora borealis," he told Island Morning's Matt Rainnie.

"And that's what happened on Jan. 22, it was a bit of an aurora storm, we call 'em, where the sky was very active with northern lights. So I put down my sky meter and I grabbed my camera, and I started taking pictures of the beautiful dancing lights."

McKinnon is a hobby photographer, and always carries his camera with him. 

A representation of Canada

The picture was used on the park website as part of a photo gallery, and the Bank of Canada took notice.

Focus groups had told the bank that Canadians wanted to see national parks and northern lights as representative of the country.

MacKinnon's northern lights photo is included in a series of five iconic Canadian landscapes. (

It's been in the works for a couple of years, and was finally announced last month.

McKinnon is still amazed at what has happened with his humble photo.

'Deeply moving'

"Extreme honour, very deeply moving, to have that photo of mine represent the north of Canada," he said. "It's something I never expected when I took the picture, and the fact that it's on money of any form and such a special commemorative bill for Canada just makes it even more special."

The photo joins four other iconic Canadian landscapes on the bill.

They include the coastal mountains overlooking Vancouver, wheat ripening on the prairie, the Canadian Shield, and the Atlantic's rocky coast.

'A landlocked Maritimer'

McKinnon said growing up, he spent summer vacations on the Island.

"I've always considered myself a landlocked Maritimer," he said. "My father was born and raised in McKinnon's Point, Little Harbour, just outside of Souris, P.E.I. Our roots go deep, I was just reviewing the lineage here, and I think I'm the sixth generation."

The front side of the commemorative bill features a gallery of prominent Canadians. (

It's only the fourth commemorative bill the Bank of Canada has produced in its history.

They won't be hard to get. Some 40 million of the $10 bills will go into circulation on June 1.

From the Island Morning interview by Matt Rainnie