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Photographer shares Cariboo’s soul in new book

Gone Cariboo is the debut novel for Eagan Lake resident Neil Jolly

Photographer Neil Jolly has spent three years capturing the soul of the Cariboo.

Now he plans to share that work in his debut book Gone Cariboo.

“It’s very picturesque. There are old log cabins, old farm equipment all over the place so it makes for a very picturesque foreground,” said Jolly, 65, who retired to the NT Ranch on Eagan Lake and has taken thousands of photos of his new home.

“The rolling foothill terrain is just fantastic. The weather conditions here are great for landscape photography. There are lots of foggy mornings and incredible sunsets and sunrises.”

Jolly, who moved here from Cochrane, Alta., said he never intended to make the Cariboo his home. He came here in the summer of 2020 while he hunted for a place to live, preferably in Bella Coola.

With the pandemic making travel difficult, he chose to rent an old cabin on the ranch from his friend Lyle Wilson. Jolly soon fell in love with the peace and beauty of the ranch’s 1,000 acres. He decided to move here permanently with his dog Frodo and horse Jackson.

“I have always immersed myself in nature and now that I’m retired and can get away with living in a really remote area like this it was too good an opportunity to pass up,” Jolly said. “Some people might not do well in total isolation like this but I love it.”

Jolly has dabbled in photography since he was eight. He used to develop his own photos in his parents’ darkroom and was inspired by the works of celebrated landscape photographer Ansel Adams. Adams still remains a role model for Jolly.

“I’ve dabbled in a few other things but for the most part, it’s 98 per cent landscape photography and occasionally a bit of wildlife, if they really insist,” Jolly said.

Jolly immediately started taking pictures of the land, the lake and the night sky. The isolation of the ranch means there’s minimal light pollution so he can take breathtaking shots, up to 200 in a night. Thanks to COVID, Jolly said he photographed the landscape “a lot more intimately” because he had more time.

“As I got to know the ranch, the photographs improved. I got to know the land and get a feel for the soul of the place.”

His mother has always wanted him to publish a book so he decided to put one together. In addition to his photos, Jolly has included several stories from life on the ranch to go with them. His favourite is a story and photo of his dog Frodo, who recently died but still holds a special place in his heart.

He had initially planned to release the book around Christmas last year through a well-known publisher. But that didn’t work out for various reasons and Jolly decided to design and lay out the book himself. He ended up partnering with Ontario’s Copywell Inc. which he said did a “magnificent job” printing the book.

The book is popular online and around Eagan Lake, he said. It is also on sale at Nuthatch Books in 100 Mile House.

“Part of my philosophy is I don’t believe people are really designed to live in these intense urban centres the way that we do. I think a lot of the problems society faces today is due to the fact we’re so separated from nature,” Jolly said. “Hopefully people will read this book and want to go out and get closer to nature. That’s my goal.”

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Patrick Davies

About the Author: Patrick Davies

An avid lover of theatre, media, and the arts in all its forms, I've enjoyed building my professional reputation in 100 Mile House.
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