After almost eight years here, well-known photographer Adam Hill is returning to his home on the East Coast.
However, he is not leaving without acknowledging the role Hay River and the North played in establishing him as a photographer of note, especially for his work in capturing spectacular images of the aurora borealis.
Hill was a photographer before he came North, “but didn’t really cut my teeth and make my name until I came here,” he said.
“And it couldn’t have happened any other place besides Hay River, I believe,” he added. “If I went to Yellowknife, I would just be another name in a big pond. There are some very prominent photographers up there.”
One of his photos of aurora borealis in Fort Simpson is featured on a coin celebrating this year’s 150th anniversary of Confederation.
Hill said having that image on a coin is one of his biggest accomplishments, along with a current exhibition of his work at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre in Yellowknife.
“Both of those things are incredible for me,” he said.
Hill remembers the first time he saw the aurora borealis in the North.
“I was like, ‘Oh, this is going to be good,'” he said, recalling he had a steep learning curve to figure out how to photograph the aurora borealis.
Hill is going to miss photographing the aurora.
“Oh God, yeah,” he said. “That’s one of the main things I’ll miss about this place.”
His last night out with the aurora was April 2 at Alexandra Falls.
Hill describes himself as an outdoor photographer of nature, wildlife, landscapes and the sky.
“I like to think that I have a strong eye for composition, and I think that comes into play when you’re taking photographs of the aurora because when I go out and look for a photograph I’m looking for a complete landscape photograph,” he explained. “I’m not just looking for a photograph of a tree line and aurora. I want a full photograph. I want a background, I want a foreground, I want a subject and I want the aurora to be in there, as well. I want the aurora to complement the photo, not just to be the focus.”
Hill is moving to the Cape Breton Island town of Sydney Mines, where his parents are 10 minutes away and his wife’s parents are also 10 minutes away.
The 36 year old said he always intended to eventually move back to his home province, explaining there is a pull to return home that is tough to resist for everyone from the East Coast.
Still, he said Hay River has been great for him and his family.
“We always knew we weren’t staying forever. As opposed to everyone saying, ‘Once you’re here past five years, you’re here forever,'” he said. “We’ve been happy here. It’s a great place to live.”
In Hay River, Hill first worked as a substitute teacher, and then was a program librarian at NWT Centennial Library before working as the community library literacy co-ordinator with the GNWT.
It was in that job that he travelled all over the NWT and took photographs when he could.
“I tried to squeeze in as many photographing hours as possible,” he said.
Now, he is looking forward to photographing the Maritimes, which he described as a beautiful place.
“As a photographer, I’m just looking forward to the variety of the Maritimes,” he said. “I can drive an hour in different directions and get completely different landscapes.”
And he said he can’t wait for the colours of the fall.
Hill plans to depart July 3.