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AMONG FRIENDS: Chris MacFarlane says time away gave fresh perspective of province

With the eyes of an artist and the heart of one who is glad to be home, Chris MacFarlane has produced a film about Nova Scotia. Photo by Allan Zilkowsky
With the eyes of an artist and the heart of one who is glad to be home, Chris MacFarlane has produced a film about Nova Scotia. Photo by Allan Zilkowsky - Contributed

By Rosalie MacEachern

It is Nova Scotia but perhaps as you have never seen it before.

Titled Nova Scotia in 4K, it is a captivating almost two-minute film, which photographer and videographer Chris MacFarlane spent the last two years making, partly as his own welcome-home gift and partly to showcase the province that was never far from his heart while he spent 14 years working away.

“I would guess it represents about 40-50 hours of filming and countless hours planning and arranging shots,” said MacFarlane, whose film has been shared a few thousand times, including by Tourism Nova Scotia, since it was posted on Facebook a week ago.

From time lapse shots of the Macdonald bridge lights spanning Halifax harbour on a clear winter’s night, to sleek horses galloping on a wet sand beach, to drone footage of the majestic Margaree Valley decked in its autumn colours, the film is a panorama of varied picturesque scenes. 

Raised in Dartmouth, MacFarlane left Nova Scotia to study in New Brunswick before taking a job with the federal government in Ottawa. 

“Like so many others, I left Nova Scotia to find work.”

From working for a government-funded not-for-profit company, he moved on to the IT department of an engineering firm.

“With the firm I worked across Canada, from Vancouver to Newfoundland, and then on to the Dominican Republic and Peru.”

He considers himself lucky to have had the opportunity to travel.

“I’ve always been a bit of an explorer and in Latin America I travelled extensively. I saw everything from the jungle to high up in the Andes and everything in between.”

He also met his wife, Genesis, who comes from the Dominican Republic.

“I had great times away from Nova Scotia but there was an increasing pull to come home.”

It was there when he talked to family, most of whom were in Nova Scotia, and scattered friends, many of whom shared his longing for home, but he also felt it any time he got a glimpse of a Nova Scotia scene, whether it was a deserted beach, a woodland waterfall or a shot of the busy Halifax waterfront. 

“I moved back in the summer of 2014 and I realized there was a lot I didn’t know about this province that had pulled me back.”

With a longtime interest in photography, he started snapping photos.

“I was basically adventuring in my own backyard, taking photos around Lawrencetown, where I live, and in Halifax and Dartmouth.”

Family and the memories of long car trips to Cape Breton also drew him back to the island. 

“My mother is from Cape Breton so I have lots of memories of going there and being there as a young child but I’m much more appreciative now. I also found myself making a lot of stops along the way, investigating things I had not noticed previously.”

With a day job in the IT business in Halifax, MacFarlane’s adventure time was limited but as he continued shooting, the idea of a film was born. Originally, he thought he could do it in six months. 

“I have a small side business and it is a competitive world so I wanted to create my own masterpiece but the more film I shot, the more I was in awe of what this province offers.
The more I shot, the more I needed to shoot and I felt driven to share what I was seeing.”

Many of his locations were visited a number of times before he was ready or the conditions were right.

“The bridge shots were done in March from a rooftop of a property management building so that involved getting permission to be there, calculating the right time to be there and about four hours of shooting. And yes, it got very, very cold up there in the night.”

A few other shots required him to camp out under the stars so he could catch the first rays of morning light. 

Between 50 and 60 pe rcent of the film is highly skilled drone photography and MacFarlane had to seek certification from Transport Canada. 

“Under Transport Canada regulations you also need permission for take off and landing and I couldn’t always get that so some shots became different from what I originally intended.”

For some of his drone work, he first studied Google Earth shots of the locations he wanted to work in. 

“Professional level drone equipment is very expensive so working with it is a big undertaking. I spent a lot of time figuring out how to take the shots ahead of time and getting permissions but there are still factors, like weather and wind, that can throw you off or ruin your day. 

His time lapse sequence of the Margaree Valley is taken from Cape Clear, an elevation of 1,500 feet in the Cape Breton highlands. 

“It is definitely a back roads drive to get there and then the last bit is a hike in but the view of the hills and the river is incredible so I had a lot of footage to work with.”

The odd summer shot came with uninvited mosquitoes.

“I wasn’t as prepared for that as I should have been but when everything else was right, I just had to put up with the mosquitoes and keep my focus.”

With the exception of the Cape Breton shots, most of his filming took place within a 90-minute radius of Halifax. 

“It is the Nova Scotia I am most familiar but it is also work I was able to do on a day excursion.  There is just so much beauty in this province, the possibilities for shooting go on and on. I’d love to film in Pictou and Antigonish, along the Pictou waterfront and up the shore to Amherst. Louisbourg is another area I haven’t touched yet.”

MacFarlane believes his film tells the story of Nova Scotia – not the whole story, mind you, but enough to make people sit up and notice.

“I’m really happy with the urban shots showing the harbour and the city buildings but we also have beautiful parks and beaches, amazing river valleys, historic lighthouses, working fishing villages, so many unspoiled areas, some of them protected.”

Through making the film, his appreciation of his home province has grown.   

“It was always there in my heart but there was so much of it I wasn’t familiar with. I hope people who were like me will go out and explore beyond what they know and see the rest of the province. For others, it is an invitation to come visit, come as a recreational tourist or maybe bring your business here because it is a beautiful place to work and live.”

MacFarlane’s film can be seen on Instagram, Youtube or his Facebook page, Chris MacFarlane Visuals.

Rosalie MacEachern is a Stellarton resident and freelance writer. She seeks out people who work behind the scenes on hobbies or jobs that they love the most. If you know someone you think she should profile in an upcoming article, she can be reached at rosaliemaceachern4@gmail.com.

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