On the money

photo courtesy of Adam Hill Hay River photographer Adam Hill will have one of his images featured on a Canadian coin.

photo courtesy of Adam Hill
Hay River photographer Adam Hill will have one of his images featured on a Canadian coin.

A Hay River artist’s work will soon be featured in coin collections across the country.

Nature photographer Adam Hill recently received word that one of his images would be featured on a $10 coin celebrating Canada’s 150th anniversary.

The image was taken in Fort Simpson on the Mackenzie River with Simpson Air float planes under an aurora-lit sky.

“I didn’t really have anything else that screamed NWT,” said Hill. “But this one has the Mackenzie River, the float planes, the aurora. It’s as iconic as it gets.”

Hill said he was contacted by Canadian Geographic Magazine in November alerting him that there was an upcoming project, and asking him to submit some of his photos for consideration. It was later on that he found out it was for a project with the Royal Canadian Mint.

“Once they told me what the project was for, I was shocked,” he said.

The image came to Hill like many of his others do – through his travel as a literacy co-ordinator.

Hill travels around the NWT developing library programs in different communities which has given him exposure to different areas of the territory.

Image courtesy of Adam Hill This collector's coin will feature a photo by Adam Hill of Hay River.

Image courtesy of Adam Hill
This collector’s coin will feature a photo by Adam Hill of Hay River.

“I knew it would be a good night for aurora, and there were planes right across the street so I went down the hill and waited for about two hours for the lights to get in just the right spot,” he recalled. “I usually have to try many locations and angles in one night but I knew I had something really good there so I just waited for the right moment.”

Hill has had his images used in Outdoor Photographer Magazine, the Globe and Mail, Landscape Photography Magazine, Elle Magazine, Canon Canada and various promotional pieces from the GNWT and non-profit organizations.

Hill started his photography career in Nova Scotia as a hobby that turned into a small business. When he moved to Hay River in 2009, his lens started pointing upward at the aurora, incorporating the Northern skies into his work.

“When I came to the NWT, I had to start all over again in terms of making a name for myself,” he said.

Hill attributes his unique location to part of his success as a photographer.

“Being where I am is a big part of it,” he said. “It’s a really big pond in terms of land, and a really small pond in terms of who is out there capturing it. People may come here to photograph but they leave within a week. Being here, this is my playground. It’s a very wild and amazing place that still has this mystery appeal to people in the south.”

“I’m a collector and a hunter without the traditional sense of hunting,” he said. “My next goal is muskox. I love them. I think they’re an iconic symbol of the polar Arctic region. The polar bear is overdone. Muskox, that’s where it is. If I can get a muskox, and maybe a snowy owl, then I’m good.”

Although Hill still brings his camera along when he travels for work, he said he does about one third as much photographing in his spare time as he used to do.

“It’s an era I call ‘B.C.’ – before Charlie,” he laughed, explaining the birth of his daughter over a year ago brought his hobby to a slower pace.

“I’m at a creative standstill for the South Slave,” he said. “I’m trying to think of new ideas, new angles to shoot from. There isn’t an angle of the Alexandra Falls I have not yet photographed.”

Hill is now looking forward to a high point in his career. Next year, the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre in Yellowknife will be featuring an exhibition of his work.

“That’s as cool as it gets,” he said. “That will be the pinnacle of my career. Having my work on a coin is an odd highlight for me. I never pictured my work on a coin. But having an exhibition in the capital, in a museum, that’s very big.”

A coin collection to commemorate Canada’s 150th anniversary will be released in December. The collection will feature a coin representing each province and territory. The coin will be a $10 piece, meant to be collected rather than spent.

Hill said the coin will likely be sold locally at Canada Post.

He hopes to get two of them once they are released.

“There will be 25,000 of them but I just need two,” he said. “One for me, and one for (Simpson Air owner) Ted Grant. I’ll send one to him as a thank-you token.”

Diana Yeager