A 'filthy quality': How Island photographers find beauty at a deathly time of year

While many head indoors as the temperatures drop, some Island photographers are finding beauty among the frail, frigid environment, exploring the province's landscapes before the freeze.

Despite the weather, P.E.I. has an 'abundance of locations to get your creative juices flowing'

Amber Manuel is a sea-glass hunter and beach wanderer, one of a number of Island photographers finding dramatic shots before the first snowfall. (Submitted by Amber Manuel)

Leaves have faded, trees have withered and P.E.I. holds calm before the snow.

While many head indoors as temperatures fall, some Island photographers are finding beauty among the frail, frigid environment — exploring the province's landscapes before the freeze.

"The snotty, cold, wet weather we get before the snow hits gives everything a lurid, filthy quality," says William Beckett. 

"This is the death of the year, and you'll find it most dramatically along P.E.I.'s hiking trails."

The photographer and filmmaker captured a colourful shot around this time in 2014, stumbling into a violet sea of discarded mussel shells while travelling the Gairloch Road trail in eastern P.E.I.

"I don't know how long they'd been sitting out there, but time had turned them frail, purple and glistening in the rain. For me, it really said something about wastefulness and decay," he said.

William Beckett captured this shot in November 2014 at the Gairloch Road trail. (Submitted by William Beckett)

Patricia Bourque travels across the province walking the trails, using natural light to draw attention to life and colour among the trees. 

"Some people, they walk down the same trails everyday but it's a matter of opening up your eyes and really looking at your surroundings," she said. 

Patricia Bourque says lighting is key for a photographer, especially when the sun peers through the trees in the early morning and early evening. She took this shot at the Stanhope cemetery. (Patricia Bourque/Facebook)

"I guarantee you, there's something to photograph there, but it's just a different perspective."

​She said this time of year, before the first snowfall, the weather can create "dramatic skies" working with the sun as it illuminates the forest floor.

"When that sun is rising every minute the light changes and it creates a whole new look ... it has a beautiful haze, it has a beautiful tint, the warmth, coolness — it can change an image, it can change the mood of a location completely," she said.

"There's still colour and sometimes it is just that one colour in all the grey, like those red berries."

Bourque posts many of her shots on her Twitter page @TrishaBourque.

There's still some colour to find in the woods, Bourque says, you just have to go looking for it. (Patricia Bourque/Facebook)

Amber Manuel doesn't call herself a photographer, but her work, done with just her "trusty" iPhone, often speaks for itself.

She's a beach wanderer, collecting and taking pictures of sea glass and treasures she finds along P.E.I.'s shoreline.

"The search for the sea glass is therapeutic for me," she said.

"The idea that something discarded, once broken and sharp has been smoothed and made beautiful over time by the pounding surf will never get old for me."

Manuel said she grabs shots like this with just her iPhone. (Submitted by Amber Manuel)

She said the beach is her go-to place in any kind of weather. The lighthouses at West Point and Point Prim, for example, are also some of her favourite spots to shoot and search.

People can follow Manuel's sea-glass adventures on her Instagram page @ambermanuel5.

Rocky shores worth a look

Charlottetown-based photographer Alana Sprague doesn't buy in to the idea about beauty retreating before winter hits. If anything, she said, "once the trees lose all their leaves it just makes them more interesting to look at."

Seeing the Island from this vantage point really makes you appreciate what the land is made of.—Alana Sprague

She lives a block from the waterfront and admits she's privy to the sunrise and the shapes and shadows dancing across the trees this time of year.

"Once all the beautiful leaves fall and we wait for the first snow of winter, it can be hard to find inspiration as a photographer," Sprague said.

"But we are so lucky to live in such a beautiful place with an abundance of locations to get your creative juices flowing."

Alana Sprague recently visited this beach at the end of Cow River Road near Naufrage in eastern P.E.I. (Submitted by Alana Sprague)

Like Manuel, Sprague also flocks to the beach to find more Island beauty this time of year. One of the spots she's visited recently is Rocky Point — a place suitable named, she said.

"After scaling down the cliff the beautiful coastline made itself known and it didn't disappoint," she said. 

"Seeing the Island from this vantage point really makes you appreciate what the land is made of. Huge sandstone cliffs tower above and make for glorious photos."

Sprague shares many of her shots on her Instagram page @lansphotography.

The red shore of Rocky Point, across from the Charlottetown waterfront, is a worthwhile trek for shots this time of year, Sprague says. (Submitted by Alana Sprague)

About the Author

Cody MacKay

Web Writer

Cody hails from Summerside, Prince Edward Island, and is a UPEI History and Carleton Masters of Journalism alum. He joined CBC P.E.I. in July, 2017. Reach him at