Portraits Page 2 Great Canadian Television
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The Making of a Master Cinematographer - John Goldi csc

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Great Canadian Heritage Treasure An amazing feat for a television series, never equalled by anyone - 79 "international" awards for 17 entirely "Canada-specific" programs (including 29 Gold and Silver Medals for 12 shows) in only 18 months, at leading American film and television festivals. (Goldi Productions actually won 88 international awards in all, in the 1997-99 period.)

Documentary Innovator - This landmark television series, produced by Joan Goldi, introduced a new style of documentary shooting and editing, pioneered, in 1995, by Canadian cinematographer/director/editor, John Goldi csc.

"Dead Man Talking" - At a time all television documentaries were narrated by an off-screen "voice of God" - still the norm; note the dull, deadly, dreary, dronings of David Susuki in 2013 - and then filled in with library footage or stuff shot randomly in the field by a "video guy," John Goldi completely dispensed with the narrator, to achieve a completely different feel for a new, low-budget cable television series.

He replaced the "dead man talking," by creatively intercutting the enthusiastic voices of live people he had painstakingly pumped up to perform for the camera on location, knowing exactly what he needed from them, to tell the story when he returned to assemble their audio voice clips in the studio.

In the Avid editing suite he covered up the on-camera faces for all but 5 second clips, with great illustrative footage, never using a shot twice, and using more shots in a 22 minute program than there are in a John & Janet Foster 1 hour CBC doc.

This brisk, and enormously engaging, "the editor is shooting the camera," style of doc, was amazingly popular with viewers, and was widely copied later in the US - less so in Canada - but is not used much nowadays because it takes far too much skill in the field to gather the footage needed by the editors who are always different people than the cameramen.

The producers end up with far too much linking footage, or vital voices, missing in the editing room, that they can't re-shoot. But with the old "dead man talking," narrator voice style, they can just write a new line, and instantly, problem solved...

The "Goldidocs" technique needs an extremely skilled cameraman/editor - the brains go on location, not just "the video guy with the camera" - so it's very expensive to do, in an age when TV execs opt for cheaper and cheaper reality programs - you know, "Say and do something silly and frivolous, and I'll take your picture and make a TV series with it."

"Outdoor Adventure Canada" was the winning proposal for a new television series to debut the founding of a new Canadian cable channel by Atlantis Broadcasting in 1995.

It was selected in a national competition from 251 submissions from the best film and television producers in Canada.

This ground-breaking television show, proposed by Joan Goldi and John Goldi csc, which showcased a new television documentary editing style, won enormous public acclaim, unprecedented international awards, and outstanding ratings.

Go to Our Program Innovations 1 & 2

Atlantis would brag for years, to advertisers, about how it was getting better ratings than the Discovery Channel, and History Television, etc., all based on OAC ratings which regularly beat National Geographic and Martha Stewart in Canada.

Trina McQueen of Discovery would say publicly that she was pleased that "Great Canadian Parks" was "averaging" 100,000 viewers.

Astonishingly, during the week that the Olympics were on, which siphoned away all the viewers, our program
"A Whale of a Tail" - in its encore presentation - got 237,000 viewers.

Go to All the Award -Winning Programs

79 International Film & Television Awards, for Outdoor Adventure Canada - 1997-99

Orig. awards
Found - Chicago, New York, Houston, Columbus

The cable TV series shows took on, and vanquished, specialty programs, in competitive categories that included: documentary, history, science, archaeology, oceanography, sports, wildlife, environment, nature, conservation, safety, recreation, and lifestyle.

Joan Goldi was the top festival award winner at 8 leading US film & TV festivals, and the top Canadian award winner at 6 others.

In three US international competitions, Joan Goldi won "Double Gold," with three of her Silver Medals being beaten by three of her own Golds, when two of her programs were competing against each other and a host of other productions from around the world.

We know of no Canadian television documentary series of Canada-specific programs, which has won so many top international awards in such a short period of time.

A most phenomenal achievement, considering that every award was for various episodes from a low-budget cable TV series, and for completely Canada-specific productions, competing against the top, high budget, "one-of" programs, shot by the best international producers in the most exotic locales around the world.

Go to "What the Viewers Said"

" ..... warmest congratulations on the success of your Canadian television series. The episodes won the hearts of Canadians from coast-to-coast, and the numerous prestigious awards that you received were deserving of two such innovative and talented Canadians. Your dedication to ensuring that the people of Canada have access to their stories and talent is to be commended, and the Department of Canadian Heritage is proud to have participated in funding an initiative that will continue to be accessible to Canadians through schools, libraries, and public institutions.

You are a source of pride to your country and your accomplishments will serve as inspiration to your peers and all Canadians."

- Hon. Sheila Copps - Minister of Canadian Heritage

"So many shows which sound good on paper disappoint when they are finally produced.

"But your show, which thrilled us so much in your proposal, turned out even better than we could have imagined."

- Jan Platt, Academy Award Winner, Vice-President, and Founding Partner, Atlantis Broadcasting Inc.

She had TWO...

Suzuki had One, CBC Witness had One, Discovery had One: At the world's largest science documentary festival, hosted by the French Service of the CBC, in Montreal, PQ, Joan Goldi was the only English-language producer (out of 27 from around the world) to have TWO programs "Selected for Show," both from her cable television series "Outdoor Adventure Canada."

"A terrific documentary!
Just a terrific documentary! Absolutely fascinating!"

- on "The Saskatchewan Will Never Die"

by Ron Santora, Program Director, PBS Buffalo, WNED.


Go to Our Production Partners

Go to Another Winning Pilot We Crafted, for Discovery's "Great Canadian Parks"

Goldi Productions Ltd "Keeping Canadians in Touch With Canada"

Where some of our educational films and television programs can be found, in schools, universities, public libraries, public service organizations, corporate and government offices, and countless private homes in every Canadian province and territory, and every US state, except Hawaii.


Ron Santora,
Program Director
WNED Buffalo PBS said:

"We want to acquire and broadcast your outstanding series "Outdoor Adventure Canada," on WNED Buffalo, and to represent you and your series in a submission to PBS HQ to propose having the entire PBS Network air it across the US..."

We declined his astonishing offer
for a totally Canada-specific series saying
"We believe it's only fair to give Canadian broadcasters a chance to air it first, since it is an entirely Canadian heritage series and was made with some assistance from the Canadian taxpayer."

No thanks...

"We don't want it. We have enough very talented people of our own at the CBC that we don't need to broadcast programs like yours..."

- Harold Redekopp, CBC Executive Vice-President

No thanks...

"Look, I know they're good, but I can't possibly acquire your 'Outdoor Adventure Canada' programs for broadcast.

"For one thing we don't pay for any programming we air. So I couldn't pay you anything for them...

"And besides they would make all our other programming look bad and we just can't have that..."

- Executive Director, Outdoor Life Network (Canada)

No thanks...

"I don't want it."

- Ruddy Buttignol, Creative Head, Network Programming TV Ontario

No thanks...

"I'm cancelling your show "Outdoor Adventure Canada," and not renewing it."


- Barbara Williams - Successor to Jan Platt (Academy Award Winner, who commissioned the series) as Director of Alliance Atlantis' Life Network

Barbara, on taking over Life Network, was determined to wipe the slate clean - it's common among television executives, a chronically insecure lot - of the handiwork, creations, and successes, of her predecessor, Jan Platt. (She also did a personal make-over, left, as a blonde, apparently to improve her appearance.)

It's understandable, Jan was hugely accomplished - the only Canadian to win an American Academy Award for theatrical film or television - and was enormously beloved by the huge staff at Atlantis. Many genuine tears were shed at her retirement party, when she quit, still young and at the peak of her creative power - we're told, just to get away from the sleazy world that Canadian television was becoming.

Barbara set out to excoriate the ghost of Jan Platt in Atlantis programming - she cancelled all Jan's top shows - clearly determined to give the channel her own imprint with Lifestyle shows she created. At a time the Discovery Channel was airing "Great Canadian Parks."*****

Great Canadian Sluts - We watched one of her own new prime time shows, which featured a lengthy "educational" segment with young Canadian men and women discussing techniques on how women could learn to accommodate men with huge cocks - yes, we mean penises - during intercourse... Another time she had another group of her young women discussing, at great graphic length, on how to give "good head" without gagging. Clearly she had had complaints and was determined to address this urgent problem.

We gagged, and never watched again, totally befuddled at what could possibly be in the mind of a mother with three pre-school age children. And wondering what kind of message, and value system, she was seeking to imprint on a new generation of young Canadian women with programming she created, directed, and commissioned.

Clearly, we are not alone. After decades on the job, she has not even received a single Academy Award nomination...

And we have no way of knowing if - thanks to her - young Canadian women are giving better head and gagging less...

Hey, we all have to leave a legacy... for our children, at least, if no one else...

*****In fact I had created, shot, and edited one of the five pilots Discovery commissioned to pick the winning producer for the proposed series. Discovery boldly and brashly used my pilot as the model and template which they eventually used to shoot "Great Canadian Parks," though without attribution to the Goldis whose intellectual property head honchos Trina McQueen and John Pannikar boldy and brashly just appropriated without credit or paying royalties.

John "Jack" Goldi csc - A Jack of All Trades

Canadian director/cinematographer John Goldi csc, packing two cameras, an analog on a solid tripod, and a shoulder-slung digital, to be ready for any fast breaking action, while crossing Queen Charlotte Sound, on Canada's Pacific coast, aboard the ill-fated Queen of the North, on one of her last voyages before this giant BC ferry sank at night with tragic loss of life.

Go to Lost - better make that LUST - at Sea

136 International Awards - Film, television, and video documentary programs he shot, directed, edited, and co-wrote with his wife, Producer, and Special Effects Editor, Joan Goldi, have won 136 international awards - including 41 Platinum, Gold, and Silver Medals - at major American film and television festivals, in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Flagstaff, and Columbus, in competition with the best producers and productions from around the world.

Since you asked... No, none of our "international" award winning productions - though all have been completely Canada-specific - have ever been nominated, even as a Finalist, for the Gemini Awards. These restricted to locals, "Canadians Only Allowed," awards are said to honour and foster, the "Best in Canadian Television," by forbidding all non-Canadian producers or productions from competing for an award. Go figure...

Inexplicably, the Canadian Society of Cinema & Television, which keeps and publishes the "Canada's Awards Database," doesn't list a single award for John Goldi csc... or Joan Goldi...


As one of Canada's top director/cinematographers, John Goldi csc, was honoured with a rare "CSC" designation after his name, the top award bestowed by the Canadian Society of Cinematographers, the professional association of Canadian motion picture cameramen and directors of photography, for "outstanding achievements in the art of cinematography."

Awards for cinematography don't help get work, for a cinematographer who gets his jobs from his wife, so he never sends shows to compete as a cameraman. She knows he's good...

The one time he did submit, at the Chicago International Television Competition, he won the Silver Plaque for "Special Achievement in Cinematography."
Fellow Cinematography Medal Winners in this prestigious category, were "The Dragons of Galapagos" by ABC Television's vaunted Natural History Unit (of "America's Edens" fame) and "A Footprint on Everest."

John Goldi shot his images at Kortright, Ontario, and Verdun, Quebec... He won Silver for his work in "Go Fly A Kite" (winner of 3 international Golds & 1 Silver in all), showcasing people of all ages as they explore the world of kiting in Canada.

(For which he also received an unsolicited "Special Jury Award of Merit for Videography", at the North American Outdoor Writers of America Film & Television Festival, in State College, PA. where programs he had shot, directed, and edited, also won both the Gold (4-Star) and the Silver (3-Star) Awards - the "Double Gold" reportedly a first for a competitor in the festival's 40 year history.)

Sticking your neck out... To become a "csc" - the top honour for a Canadian cinematographer - you have to supply samples of your best camera work to a jury - it ignores awards - made up of the top cinematographers in Canada.

To increase his chances for accreditation - in the 1980s - John Goldi submitted two separate work portfolios, one made up entirely of "people" cinematography, and another only of "wildlife" 16mm film footage, hoping that if one "failed" the other might "win" with the jury.

The chairman of the CSC committee said he was thrilled to report that the jurors were unanimous - they would have awarded him the "CSC" - "for outstanding achievement in the art of cinematography" for either of the submissions.

Documentary Director/Cinematographer

Unlike other members of his profession, John Goldi has become expert at two totally different types of specialty photography that are rarely performed by the same cinematographer: quality candid people documentary & production cinematography, and top flight nature and wildlife shooting.

Left, John Goldi's obvious skill at people photography, in "Ho for the Klondike," which won 3 international Golds and 1 international Silver Medal. In retrospect, perhaps we should have called it "Heigh-ho for the Klondike."

A Shameless "Quest for Gold" - Sydney Suissa, Norm Bolen, and Barbara Williams at Alliance Atlantis, were so blown away - after having been made aware of our program and its phenomenal haul of international Gold & Silver - I handed Norm and Sydney a personal copy to look at - that they shamelessly copied it in toto (the same event from the same historical period, exactly the same story line and chronology, the same re-enacting dramatization model, the same program beginning, middle, and end, and exactly the same US and Canadian locations, in the same order) to make an "extended" carbon copy, as a series for History Television. They also borrowed our "Klondike" titling... probably hoping that, like the Klondikers of old, and the Goldis, they too would strike it rich in their "Quest for Gold" - their subtitle for the series - on the Film & TV awards competition circuit...

Very, very flattering, of course... though, through some oversight, they did "forget" to pay for rights, or pay royalties..., or come to think of it, to mention the names of our - the Goldis - originating "creative partners," in the credits, when they brashly listed their own - all three did - as the "creators" of the series...

But they are hardly alone. In the sordid world of Canadian television they are far from alone at stealing other people's intellectual property and passing it off as their own and then tapping into government broadcast funds to help carry it out...

Alas, in another repeat from History, we can find no record that, unlike our own spectacular and unparalleled international medal haul for this show, the "Quest for Gold" by these three creative geniuses ever succeeded in finding "pay dirt" of any kind on the national - let alone international - film and television festival competition circuit, for "their" show...

Wildlife & Nature Director/Cinematographer
- People and wildlife photography require totally different sensitivities, knowledge, and skill sets, which are rarely found in the same person - an ability for constantly meshing in gregarious interaction with people in groups, as opposed to extremely long days of solitary isolation, interacting with wild birds and animals, in remote locations, alone, and far from other people.

In fact, more than one nature photographer has told John Goldi he doesn't like people very much, saying they actually prefer the company of birds and animals to humans. You know, the "Dian Fossey" syndrome, which sees people, and human behaviour, as the chief threat to the survival of birds, animals, and their habitat.

In spite of his passion, and talent, for wildlife photography, John Goldi has never made a strictly "wildlife film" in his life. All his "nature films" and "wildlife" documentaries, though filled with great bird and animal photography, have always, strongly, focused on people, interacting with their natural environment.

Double Gold - At the North American Outdoor Writers of America Film & Television Festival, in State College, PA, where programs he had shot, directed, and edited, won both the Gold (4-Star) and the Silver (3-Star) Awards, reportedly a first in the festival's 40 year history, it was one of his "bird shows" which took home the Gold.

"Birds, Birds, More Birds or Bust," a little cable show program on birders, and birding at Point Pelee, Ontario, was filled with his outstanding footage of birds and was entered in a nature competition full of programs from a host of wildlife specialists.

Entrants came from around the world, including some big budget, heavy hitters from Canada - the National Film Board, Keg Productions which specializes in wildlife programs, and taking no chances, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation which sent no fewer than 7 (seven) productions... Alas...

Sound Man

This was John Goldi's camera set-up to shoot the Outdoor Adventure Canada series in 1996-98.

In a trailblazing innovation, for a quality television production, he used no sound-man at all, in any of the 26 programs, because that would have been an inconvenient intrusion when shooting people in fast moving situations, with the stumbling sound recordist, or his damn boom pole, forever getting in the way...

In a show where 90% of the shooting was hand-held action - jumping in and out of a fast moving wagon train in Westward Ho the Wagons; ducking in and out between competitors, on the field in Highland Heavies; weaving around busy workmen, in The Saskatchewan Will Never Die; chasing after fast moving runners, on the Chilkoot Trail, in Ho for the Klondike, running after kite fliers, in Go Fly a Kite, and stumbling behind prancing horses, in The Field Behind the PLow, etc. - it gave him tremendous freedom to bob and weave in the field. No worry about colliding with another crew member, or fight with his shadow.

Though a director/cinematographer first, he has worried more, throughout his career, about getting good sound, than good pictures...

To him, top flight sound was absolutely key for a television series whose bedrock was intercutting "wild" voice clips gathered on the fly, in the field, from people in the midst of activities, that he would then have to assemble to form the narration track back in the studio.

And the first thing to do - to get good sound - was to get rid of the damn sound man... and do it himself...

Put another way, it was the first television series ever shot in the field by a soundman, not a cinematographer... After all, John Goldi was specifically interested in capturing "the voices of passionate Canadians," to serve as his entire soundtrack narration. If their faces came with the package, so be it... In fact, in the final programs that went to air, he covered up all but 5 introductory seconds of every interviewee's face, with high quality illustrative, action video.

He ignored both mike holders on the camera and designed a special hook-up, with an adjustable pistol grip, to distance the mike further from the camera's electronic hum, and to position it forward, closer to the interviewees. The vast majority of the "interviews" - which were the core of the show he was after - were shot this way, with him monitoring the recordings with his ear phones. There was no other tape recorder used; there was no time for radio mikes; all the sound for the entire series, came from this Sony BVV-5 Betacam camera recorder, using the 416 Sennheiser shotgun microphone as mounted above on his Sony DXC-30.

The sound in the 26 programs was superlative, with every single word totally intelligible.

Outdoor Adventure Canada won an unheard-of 79 top international awards, for 17 programs, in only 18 months.

Fraidy Cat...

John Goldi setting himself up, for a flight over Halifax harbour,.with his Arriflex SR-2 on his favourite aerial shooting platform, a Bell 206 Jet Ranger helicopter.

"Oh, I've always had a fear of heights.

"It's why I've never gone up the CN Tower (Toronto), and never will.

"I once had to quit accompanying my wife in a climb up to the top of the steeple of Strasbourg cathedral in France. My stomach got queasy part way up, looking through stone filigree work on tiny windows, at ant-like people down below. I had to go back down, my legs were buckling so badly.

"The same at Venice's campanile, in San Marco Square. I don't trust high buildings. After all the original tower fell down one night in 1902, after standing 1,000 years. I could have been in it...

"But my fear of bad pictures is worse, so I learned to steel myself, to keep my fear of heights under control so I could get the quality aerial pictures I wanted.

"I just found that shooting through windows in choppers degraded my pictures too much, and gave me very poor flexibility for shooting within the confines of the cabin. So I always have the pilot take the door off, so I can sit on the floor, with my feet on the step, or landing strut, where I can pan freely from side to side, and tilt up and down, without parts of the chopper getting in the way. I give the pilot flying instructions through a headset.

"I've flown this way over Quebec, Winnipeg, Nanaimo, Halifax, across central and southern Ontario, and at countless places in Canada's arctic and sub-arctic regions, in summer and winter.

"Aerial shooting is a bit of a problem at 30 and 40 below, with the cold air blasting me with wind chills down to minus 50 or worse. It's bad because you often have to sit there till you get to where you're shooting. So it's often a long cold ride in the freezing wind. By the time you get to the shooting spot you're frozen stiff.

"With temperatures like that my fingers quickly get so numb from holding the metal camera - it's like holding a block of ice with bare hands - I have to grasp it with my wrists between shots. I long ago got used to the unbearable pain and customarily shoot with cotton gloves. With thick gloves or mitts your hands might stay warmer but you can't set focus, zoom, exposure, or variable speed.

"Actually cameras don't work well at these horrifically low temperatures; the oil stiffens up; the camera grinds down; the batteries die quickly. So I had a heater barney, a custom fitted bag, around it, and packed in four or five hand warmers, with burning fuel sticks, to keep it warm enough to function. Needless to say finding and operating the controls, now hidden in a bag, and hanging out of a tilting chopper, made life interesting 1,000 feet up in the freezing cold.

"An occupational hazard has been pilots who turn too aggressively - they love to "cowboy" their machines - when I want to circle over oil rig platforms, ships, or office towers.

"Several times, with a rookie pilot new to aerial photography, I had to lean way back into the chopper, in desperation, with my back to the floor, and my feet flailing wildly in the air, to keep from falling out, when he suddenly banked too severely.

"It's disconcerting when turning sharply, 800 to 1200 feet up in the air, trying to hang on to the chopper and camera both at the same time.

"To avoid being launched out into space - a biologist friend, doing a bear survey, once fell out of a low-flying chopper like that; luckily she survived - I always wear a construction safety belt around my middle, tied off with mountain climbing rope and karabiners attached to two different places inside the cabin.

"My wife insists on a parallel safety rope on my very expensive Arriflex, though I find it a nuisance, and prefer to do without, as it gets in the way, and sometimes snags the camera. When she catches me she says sternly,

"If you drop it, you may as well go after it."

"Hangin' Out" - Aerial Cinematography - John Goldi csc

Ditcher trenching the sub-arctic for Northern Canada's first pipeline. Filmed over two years, often at 30 and 40 below.

In summer and winter we choppered and drove with four-wheel drive vehicles up and down the pipeline right-of-way hacked out of the bush.

Drilling for oil on a newly constructed artificial Island in the Mackenzie River. Shot over two years, documenting Esso building 8 huge islands

Each island was started at 30 and 40 below, with trucks dumping huge rocks through holes in the 7 foot thick ice over a period of many weeks.

The fort atop the hill at Halifax.

The fort looking towards the Bedford Basin where thousands of ships gathered for convoy duty in two world wars, and just behind the bridge, the epicentre of the Halifax Explosion of 1917.

Métis strip farms along the Red River, which caused the Riel Rebellion in 1869.

Winnipeg at the Forks, of the Red & Assiniboine Rivers, the site of the first European settlement in western Canada in the early 1800s.

Locks on the Trent-Severn Waterway, a huge water route across southern Ontario from the Bay of Quinte to Georgian Bay.

Looking over Fort George, and the Niagara River, towards Fort Niagara, both sites of fierce battles in the 18th and 19th centuries..

The Prairies

Hovering over cadets on the Chilkoot Trail above Lake Lindemann, Yukon. We choppered them up then shot them hiking. Show business...

Downtown Winnipeg on the Red River

The most famous intersection in Canada - Portage & Main, Winnipeg.

The Citadel on the heights at Quebec, where the Governor-General lives in the long building atop the bluffs, directly overlooking Lord Dorchester's "Where General Montgomery was Defeated" Plaque.

The battlefield of the Plains of Abraham beyond the fort, where Wolfe defeated Montcalm in 1759, making French Canada, British, and the narrow path below the cliffs where US Gen. Montgomery was shot in 1774.
HMCS Saskatchewan just before being sunk to become an artificial reef, outside Nanaimo, BC, in the distance She has huge holes cut in her sides so that when the explosive charges that hole her are set off, water pours in equally and she sinks upright.

Fort Simpson at the junction of the Liard (right) & Mackenzie Rivers

Historic waterfront of downtown Halifax

The Otonabee River flowing to Rice Lake, Ontario, part of the Trent Waterway System.

Lower Fort Garry on the Red River.
Off & Online Editor - In another departure from the usual practice - among other directors of photography and cinematographers - since he started, in 1979, John Goldi has done all the editing of picture, sound, dialogue, and music for every show he has ever shot and directed. Since the advent of the digital age, in film and television editing, in 1995, he has mixed/onlined all his shows "broadcast ready" on his Avid and Final Cut Pro Suites. More so, than any other cinematographer, John Goldi csc has been able to hand-craft the shows he has shot, to make them international award winners.

On-Camera Host - In a further departure from the norm among his cameramen colleagues, John Goldi hosted before the camera (his own), 27 times, to bring alive people, places, and events, in a Boer War documentary series, performances for which he won a Gold Medal for Best "Individual On-Camera Talent," in international competition, at the world's biggest film and TV festival in Houston, Texas.

Right he demonstrates the charge of the Canadians, in South Africa, on the battlefield at Paardeberg, the bloodiest battle of the Boer War, on a spot once littered by hundreds of dead British soldiers (including some 20 Canadians) on Bloody Sunday, Feb. 18, 1900. (31 Canadians would die at Paardeberg.)

He made up every presentation, off the cuff, on each historic site, carefully hitting his marks, and delivering his "walking and talking stand-ups" straight into the camera lens, his preferred style for all people he interviews on camera. He set up the shots - here with Paardeberg Hill in the background; his wife triggered the camera.

flashing newGreat Canadian Heritage Treasure Producer

One documentary series John Goldi initiated, shot, directed, and edited, was inspired by a set of books given to him by Clayton Shackelton, a high school teacher in 1959.

40 years later, on the 100th anniversary of the event, John and his wife, Joan Goldi, as co-writer, co-producer, and special effects editor, would create the four-hour long definitive documentary series The Great Anglo-Boer War: the Canadian Experience.

In an unheard-of accomplishment, and in a daring departure from convention, where the talents of dozens of people are usually harnessed to work on a project of this magnitude, Joan Goldi and John Goldi csc, would do all the phases of production themselves, from historical research, script writing, location scouting, grunt work, and shooting in the field, to all the Avid offline and online editing, of picture, voices, music and (audio) effects, titles, supers, special effects, and credits. They hired only one person to help out, to narrate their script, the man they believe has no peer, anywhere, as the best voice in television narration - the CBC's Linden MacIntyre.

Countless women hailed it as the first "military program" they were ever enthralled enough by to watch.

The four part series would go on to win four international Gold Medals, at Worldfest Houston, the world's biggest film and television festival, in competition with the best productions from around the world: for: Best TV Series, Best TV Program (Part 1), Best Writing (Part 4), & Best Host (for John Goldi as on-camera presenter).

Completed for History Television, it is an "Outrageous" Canadian First.

We know of no other documentary program that has ever won
so many top international awards at any festival.

Gift of Boer War Books, CR Shackelton to John Goldi, 1959
Orig. books -
Found - Glencoe, ON
Prov - Goldi Coll

To promote the program, and as a spin-off history project, John Goldi continues to author the internationally acclaimed "The Canadian Anglo-Boer War Museum" as a Daring, Provocative, Compelling, Educational, and Entertaining web site.

Focusing on the People, Places, Events, and Memorabilia of the Victorian and Edwardian period, it features items he used to illustrate his television program, and seeks to place the issues of those times into their present day context. It reminds people that History is Alive and happening right now, and is merely a reworking of old themes and past events. Only the villains have changed...

Go to The Production Team
Go to International Feedback
Go to The Canadian Boer War Museum
Canadian Historian - For the four-hour Boer War television documentary, John Goldi did the most research*** anyone has ever done, in 100 years, on Canadian historic sites in South Africa, where some 5,000 Canadians served from 1899 till 1902, and some 300 died.

(*** John Goldi pursued university studies leading to an Hon. B.A. in Modern History, at the University of Toronto, and a B.Ed., and an M.A. in History at Queen's University.)

With his wife, Producer and Writer Joan Goldi, he spent two months, and drove 11,000 kms, following the trail of the Canadians, in South Africa, and discovered historic buildings, and rock inscriptions related to the Canadian stay, that were unknown to the Government of Canada, Canadian historians, and not noted in Canadian historical or tourist literature.

Everywhere he went he noted there was not a single Canadian Government heritage sign of any kind - other than grave markers.

Even though the 100th Anniversary of the event had come and gone...

Outraged at this total lack of Canadian Government recognition of an important part of Canada's heritage - the first time Canadian troops were ever sent to fight in an overseas war - he submitted a massive multi-media proposal, to Parks Canada, the Historic Sites & Monuments Board of Canada, and the Minister of Canadian Heritage, to "End a Century of Neglect" and put up proper signage.

Thanks to his strongly insistent, and massively documented initiative, the Canadian Government declared the Boer War an event of National Historic Significance, and announced it will put up official Historic Sites & Monuments plaques on South African locations, the first Canadian markers the Historic Sites & Monuments Board has ever erected on the African Continent. Stéphane Dion, then the Minister over the relevant departments, sent John Goldi a personal letter announcing the decision.
Restored to Canadian consciousness by John Goldi, doing his Gold Medal winning stand-ups, in front of the Canadian Boer War hospital above, and the Canadian guard house at Belmont, South Africa. And the Canadian rock inscriptions in the hills above Belmont. No Canadian print records or signage of any kind previously noted their existence or significance.

John Goldi's historical sleuthing also uncovered - and proved conclusively - the previously unknown historical fact that the first combat photograph in world history, was taken in 1900 by a courageous, death-defying Canadian at the Battle of Paardeberg.

Sadly Overlooked - Until Now!!! - James Mason was a brave officer as well as a photo fiend who took the camera where it had never been before, and who dared stick up his head at Paardeberg, the bloodiest battle of the Boer War, and while bullets snapped his helmet and badge, shot his truly iconic photo, scoring a first, in world history, in documenting men at war.

Go to the World's First Combat Photographer
John Goldi unmasked, as a fake, a photo long held to be an iconic image of the Canadians attacking the Boers at Sunnyside during the first "blooding" of the force in 1900.

Faking the Maple Leaf - He pointed out what everyone else had missed, that the photo had been doctored for patriotic purposes, and that both helmets and badges were altered in other photo copies of the same scene, and suggests that instead of capturing a great Canadian heritage event, it probably shows idle British troops seconded to a British photographer to re-enact a battle scene for his studio camera for one of the many fake battle propaganda photos from the Boer War.

Go to Those Faking Canadians
In 2008 John Goldi would expose a huge mistake in the historical interpretation by Canada's top ceramics and pottery authority, Elizabeth Collard, of the oldest and most famous of the "Canadian" ceramics, those made by J Heath c 1845-53.

Elizabeth called the scene on the service a total figment of the imagination of a far-off Englishman and accused him of dreaming up a preposterous view of what Canada was really like at the time.

"No stretch of the imagination could credit (this) view to Canada."

- Elizabeth Collard - Canada's pre-eminent expert on 19th century china and earthenware.

The Royal Ontario Museum in its J Heath collection still perpetuates the old myth shown to be a complete error in scholarship by the investigative sleuthing of historian John Goldi.

He proved conclusively that the scene of Indian tents, a castle, and multiple waterfalls, is a far more accurate, than unreal, depiction of Dundurn mansion in Hamilton and an area that boasts some 90 cataracts.

It proves experts on paper are not often experts of their own environs, and so spin fanciful tales all their own.

And that staff at the ROM rarely revisit their collections labels to remove the old canards, being too busy attending social balls at Hilary's...

Go to Sorry Elizabeth but...
Go to the ROM Playground of the Super Rich
In 2010 John Goldi would launch a major investigation into faked war photography in the Boer War, by analyzing numerous photographs that had been published as genuine combat photos in 1900, and remained unchallenged even in modern times, regularly being published in books, magazine articles, and web sites as genuine.

He examined hundreds of photos published as postcards, in books, magazines, and newspapers, or as stereoviews. He picked 66 commonly encountered photos, using comparative forensics to show why they were all complete fakes.

His publication was the biggest exposé of fake war photography in history.











Featured are two of the many photos that were passed off as genuine combat photos for gullible home audiences in 1900, complete with breathless explanations of the action being shown.

Go to Those Faking Boer War Photographers


Website Designer - Since he started creating provocative and trailblazing educational websites in 1996, John Goldi has continued to be one of the world's trend setting, multi-media internet website designers, and educators, having used big pictures, lots of them, and video and audio clips on his educational websites, literally years before newspapers and television broadcasters like CNN, ABC, CBS, and NBC started to use them.

His unprecedentedly lavish Canadian Anglo-Boer War Museum, set international standards that have been slavishly imitated and praised around the world. Said a typical internet surfer - "It's too good to be Canadian."


Go Great Canadian African Discoveries
Go to Stéphane's Letter
Go to Canadian Anglo-Boer War Museum
Go to "Too Good to Be Canadian"

Juror - Canadian Film & TV Awards

John Goldi csc, has served as a juror on the Canadian Society of Cinematographers Awards panel to select Canada's Best for the CSC's annual documentary cinematography awards

He has also served on the awards panel for the Genie Awards, which honour the Best in Canadian Theatrical Motion Pictures.

"To Whom it May Concern at Goldi Productions,"

"I wanted to express my gratitude for your website, "Canada's First Peoples."  While teaching the First Nations unit to my Grade 4/5 class, your website was invaluable!   The lay out, pictures and information under clear headings really helped us find information for our projects.
Thank you again!  We've been blessed by your work."
- a Teacher, Toronto, ON

"Thank you for putting together such an awesome website on Canada's First People. I teach grade 4 in Kamloops, BC and it has been a great resource for my class. It is easy to navigate and has tons of great info and pictures. I just wanted to congratulate you on a job well done!
Best regards."
- a Teacher, Kamloops, BC

"We used your website the first people of Canada yesterday for a S3 History lesson and my whole class was engaged and loved the information, format, and clear crisp images.  Thank you."
- a Teacher, Carberry Collegiate, MB

"Thank you for your quick response!  And thank you for such a wonderful website that is teacher/student friendly.  Third through fifth grade will be using it next week in our school
computer lab."
- a Teacher/Media Specialist,
Cedar Wood ElementarySchool, Bothell, WA, USA

Teacher/Principal/Educator - For six years, John Goldi worked as a teacher, educator, and school principal in Inuit and Dene schools in Canada's far north, living in remote Aboriginal villages. He travelled many hundreds of miles by snowmobile and boat on outings or hunting trips with numerous Inuit and Dene hunters and families, routinely sleeping under canvas at 40 below. Then, with his wife, he worked for many more years as a filmmaker working with and for Aboriginal groups.

It gave him passion and insight for a culture and a way of life few Canadians know anything about.

With his wife he sought to produce programs that reduced the ignorance of Canadians about the life, history, culture, and legal rights of Canada's founding First Peoples.

The very first film, of any kind, they ever made, "Dene Family" won the Gold Medal at the American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco, where their program was one of the very first Canadian films on Indians ever honoured at only the 3rd Annual showing of the American Indian Film Institute.

"Dene Family" was featured on Sesame Street, was used as the core document by the British Columbia Department of Education to teach the province's teachers about cultural sensitivity, and is found in countless school libraries across Canada.

The first one hour program they ever made - to counter the international anti-fur lobby - was "My Land is My Life," and featured the life of the Dene on the land, year round.

The program was fabulously narrated by CBC's Linden MacIntyre, then doing only CBC radio work*** (Sunday Morning.)

The program was premiered on Canada's Parliament Hill, near Christmas 1986 and was also showcased at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, in 1987.

It was made into Canada's first interactive CD by the Government of Canada and its touch-screen computers were installed in the Museum of Civilization in Ottawa, the British Museum, and were the centre-piece of the Secretary of State's Bravo Canada, cross-Canada trailer display. The program won the Golden Sheaf, the top award at Yorkton, Canada's oldest film festival.

***Linden was our choice, definitely not the CBC's. In fact top CBC television executive producers told us, quite firmly, NOT to use him; they didn't like his voice, complaining it "was too regional" sounding, that we should get "someone better suited for TV." At the risk of offending CBC brass (one of the protesters was Darce Fardy, Head of CBC Network Television Current Affairs) and losing a possible broadcast sale, we stuck with our first choice.

We're absolutely convinced that Linden's powerful work on our program, turned around the prejudices of the CBC bosses - we did not lose our sale - as not long after, he was able to overcome the negativity and launch his career on CBC television. 17 years later, when he was more appreciated, Linden would lend his talent again, for our four Gold Medal Boer War series.

Joan Goldi and John Goldi csc have continued making programs and websites that promote a better understanding of Canada's First Peoples.

Go to Premiere on Parliament Hill
Go to First Peoples Programs
Go to First Peoples Website
Éclair ACL with 200' Magazine - One of his early 16mm cameras, which John Goldi used to shoot inside the tent of Dene trapper Philip Zoe, a hundred miles from town, with the temperature outside -42. All lighting by Coleman lamps which are going all the time as daylight lasts only a very few hours this far north.

He used a 5.9 mm Angénieux. Shooting was a nightmare as the viewfinder was fogged up constantly with the extremes in temperature. He shot blind by eyeballing blurry shapes...

After a month of constant worry, till he got his 16mm film images back from the lab, he was relieved to see they were in focus and sharp in spite of constant condensation problems on the lens, viewfinder, and mirroring system in the camera.

A gas-powered generator charged the batteries during the week he was at the camp out on the Barren Lands.

In the last, emotional frame from the film, Philip teaches his kids how a hooked stick can hang a pot over a fire. Philip Zoe, an elder, much respected for passing on the old traditions to young people, checks the furs drying on the rack.
Alice Zoe, who went on the trap line daily, with her Dad, watches him light the Coleman lamp. Philip Zoe, of Fort Good Hope, NT, passed on in 2009, much lamented by his community. But through the film his message about the living heritage of the Dene, reached untold thousands around the globe.
Investigative Journalist - In 1995, from a personal passion, after many years of experience living and working in remote Canadian Aboriginal communities, John Goldi struck out into another field, as an "investigative journalist," as he researched the controversial shooting of Dudley George at Camp Ipperwash, Ontario, a place he had attended as a cadet in July-August, 1958, and at the exact spot his family had picnicked at many times in the early 1950s.

Go to the Making of a Master Cadet

The police, and the mainstream media, said the Indians shot at police, and "only got what was coming to them." John Goldi, with years of direct experience with policing practices in Aboriginal communities, immediately smelled a rat... more than one... He was absolutely sure the police were lying.

He initiated the project, shot, directed, edited, and with his wife and Producer, co-wrote Ipperwash: A Canadian Tragedy.

"Thank you so much for believing in us
when no one else would listen."

Cully George, sister of Dudley George
Aug. 2004
- to the documentary filmmakers
Joan Goldi & John Goldi csc

Evidence of rogue police behaviour the Goldis uncovered, was directly responsible for the Ontario Special Investigations Unit, re-opening its investigation of police wrong-doing, just a day before it was closing the books with no charges laid.

Information the Goldis supplied, and access to Camp Ipperwash they offered to arrange for the investigators, led directly to sensational criminal charges against police and a huge public inquiry into police and government wrong-doing.

The resulting documentary dealt with the killing of the only civilian - an Aboriginal Dudley George - by police forces in Canada, over a land claims dispute in the 20th century. It documented rogue police behaviour.

The program won the top award given at Worldfest Houston, the world's biggest film and television festival, for Investigative Journalism. It aired as the season premiere, on CBC TV's signature series, "The Passionate Eye." The program is used by Amnesty International and is in many schools, universities, and libraries.

Go to The Killing of Dudley George
Go to The Production Team

The skipper whose seamanship saved five lives, at one of three wheels he hooked up on a converted fish boat, with which he sailed Great Slave Lake for nine years. It is a lake on which you can travel for days without seeing another human.

The day after this picture was taken a large black bear who had clambered up the gangplank, below, stood in the same spot and clawed at the door trying to get into the cabin where the food was.

Inside - loud shouting, pounding on walls, and a dog barking furiously...

The bear went off after quieter food...


For many years John Goldi was a hunter and trapper in Canada's far northern arctic and sub-arctic regions. He saw it as an important part of meshing with the people in the Inuit and Dene communities where he was school principal.

In the most unforgiving wilderness area of Canada, he went on countless hunting expeditions to bag caribou, seal, moose, bear, swans, geese, ducks, ptarmigan, and grouse.

He learned how to butcher an entire moose by himself, and how to skin, and stretch, lynx, fox, mink, weasel, and marten, which he caught on his own trapline, selling the furs to the Hudson Bay Company.

At Cambridge Bay and Gjoa Haven, in the high arctic, he built his own Inuit komatiks - a heavy sledge made of 2 x 10 inch planks - a 12 foot one with runners of steel, and a 14 footer with nylon runners.

In Dene country, on Great Slave Lake, he made his own 8' toboggan out of wood and fibreglass.

He built his own 16 x 18 foot log cabin, using the vertical post construction of 8' logs of 16" diameter.


"For six years, caribou was the staple meat dish in remote settlements where "fly-in" meat was prohibitively expensive.

"Hunting and butchering caribou became a seasonal routine, as I joined groups of hunters on weekends, traveling 30 or 40 miles to locate wandering herds, which were typically made up of a dozen animals.

"Much of the traveling was done at night across frozen lakes, and often involved struggling and laughing men dragging toboggans and skidoos up steep inclines, and muscling them, ankle deep in water, across flowing creeks and streams. At night, around huge bonfires, we laughed and joked about incidents on the hunt, before turning in, to sleep in tents at 20 and 30 below.

"A special achievement was the first lynx I ever trapped. It was the talk of the town. A local hunter, who had passed my trapline, came to school, during classes, to tell me of my success. I still remember the thrill of the successful trapper, as I stood eye to eye with the beautiful cat. I shot it with my sawed-off single-shot .22, which I had cut down to pistol size, for easier packing. I skinned it in the kitchen and my wife helped me mount it on a stretcher to dry. When she got ready for bed, shortly after, she discovered her upper body was totally covered with black lice that had jumped from the dead animal to another warm body. Screaming, she ran for the shower, and scrubbed and scrubbed. I sold the fur to the Bay for $430.

"Decades later I cannot imagine I ever killed so many marvelous wild animals. But in wilderness societies man adapts his thinking to fit new circumstances. As I did when I returned to my conservationist roots and urban society in Toronto. I still have all seven of my long guns which I used on the hunt. But it's been over thirty years since I last shot one of them on these hunts. I dutifully registered them for the Long Gun Registry, scoffing at those who claimed this act of citizenship was somehow a dastardly attack on my freedoms."

The far north is the most dangerous place to live in Canada, having the nation's highest per capita fatality rate from accidents. John Goldi knew many people who died tragic deaths from boat sinkings, freezing to death, accidental shootings, going through the ice, or from snowmobile mishaps.

On several occasions, only sheer luck prevented him from meeting an untimely end himself:

He narrowly escaped being shot while photographing birds... MOO

He came close to losing his eyes, and his life, in an owl attack... OWL

"For over five hours we battled up the channel against the huge waves and fierce winds that threatened to roll over our boat, and sink us, with all hands, if we, just for one moment, lost control and turned sideways...

"After a run of 60 miles, up the Hearne Channel, alongside the steep cliffs of Blanchet Island, we finally reached shelter behind Etthen Island."

John Goldi's converted fishboat was notorious on Great Slave Lake, among the fishermen, as the "Banana Boat," because of its unique hull shape, which made it rock in the smallest waves. When the waves were huge, it got, well, exciting... but hard to keep your footing...

"We were carrying six huge 55 gallon drums of aviation fuel - weighing a ton in all - on the front of the foredeck, tied down with rope. With the wild plunging of the boat the rope came loose, the drums shifted, badly listing the boat, and making her hard to steer...

"Turning the wheel over to the wife, I ventured out on to the heaving foredeck. Accompanied by screams from inside the cabin, every time I lost my footing as the boat plunged into a trough, I fought to wrestle the sliding barrels - each weighing 330 lbs. - back into place, as huge waves poured over my head. Twice the boat plunging left me with feet in midair, only saved from going overboard by the rope I desperately grappled on to..."

On one wilderness trip, his forty foot steel vessel unexpectedly encountered huge waves and powerful winds on Great Slave Lake. With the vessel rocking and plunging wildly, the cabin flooded, passengers screaming, and throwing up, only with great seamanship, and desperation, over a five-and-a-half hour ordeal, was he able to keep the vessel heading into the gigantic waves, and keep it from being broadsided and flipped, and going down with five people and one dog on board.

On another occasion he got lost in a blizzard at 40 below, at night, crossing the middle of Great Slave Lake, by snowmobile, while returning from a hunting expedition and then running out of gas...

When the community had given him up as lost, Twin-Otter searches by RCMP and the Coast Guard found him alive, two days later.

On another trip, heading for a Dene camp and crossing a remote lake by snowmobile, at night during freeze-up, he suddenly found himself travelling over ice so thin it started to roll and wave as he drove over it.

Only desperately revving up the engine to the highest speed kept him afloat till he reached thicker ice, and avert a fatal disaster.

As a result of his many wilderness experiences, he and his wife continue to produce programs for an award-winning series of Outdoor Safety Programs that have been credited with saving countless lives all over North America.

They have been bulk-purchased and used by the Canadian Forces and the Coast Guard in both Canada and the US, to teach their members survival skills when going out to work or play in Canada's great, but deadly, outdoors.

The programs can be found in mulitple places, in every Canadian province and territory, and every US state...

Said a Canadian Coast Guard educator in Nova Scotia:."There is not a school child in the Maritime Provinces who has not seen your film on cold water survival."

Go to Cold Water Survival


flashing newGreat Canadian Heritage Treasure Canada's Greatest Arctic Disaster: In 1845 British explorer Sir John Franklin, in two ships, the Erebus and the Terror, and some 130 men, set out to find a way through the ice-bound channels around the north end of the Canadian arctic.

They never returned, and within a couple of years, search parties set out by land and sea to try to reach the spot in the arctic where they might possibly be. But all that was ever found were relics and bones.

It turned out that the ships had frozen in and the men abandoned them and tried to walk out, south to Hudson's Bay posts. None of them made it. Relics were gathered from Inuit people who salvaged what the men abandoned, or dropped, as they died of starvation.

During a seal hunting expedition, in Canada's high arctic, Canadian school teacher and historian John Goldi trekked along the southern shore of King William Island, an area where only a handful of white men have ever been.

He followed the exact trail of Franklin's men, by snowmobile during April, the same month the men died along the shore, when the land was snow-free, but the ice was still thick on the sea.

He found several cairns containing bones, set up in the 1930s by Hudson's Bay Manager Paddy Gibson FRC.

The jaw bone, left, probably from a cabin boy who was on the expedition, was found by itself, along the shore by Johnny Anguttitauruq, a hunter who was accompanying John Goldi, and brought it to him.

"Kabloonak! Not Eskimo!" said Joseph Nahalolik, another hunter who looked it over. He, and his wife Bessie, knew all the bone remains of all the Inuit people in the area.

There are no teeth, indicating scurvy had ravaged through the gums of the dying men as they trekked along the shoreline.

It was an emotional moment, to be so in intimate contact with one of Canada's great historic tragedies in a spot which was still exactly as it was when Franklin's men stumbled to their deaths along the barren coast.

Both Inuit hunters, friends who accompanied John Goldi on this hunt, in 1975, died young, later, in tragic accidents: Joseph Nahalolik, by falling off his snowmobile, and hitting his head on jagged ice, and Johnny Anguttitauruq, who shot himself accidentally when unleashing his rifle from his sled.

Sir John Franklin's Jawbone, 1847
Lower jaw - Size - 10 cm d
Found - Peffer Point, King William Is, NU

In fact, finding human bones, in the remote areas of Canada's high arctic - where few humans, let alone white men ever go - is not uncommon. On one occasion John Goldi found a human skull, with a bullet hole in it.

Alarmed, he collected it and brought it to one of Canada's top archaeologists, Dr. Walter Kenyon, at the Royal Ontario Museum - the Toronto Police Forensic Lab was not remotely interested, that someone was carrying around a skull.

Kindly Walter explained the life history of the person - an Inuit woman with many maladies - and that the "bullet hole," was not, but a hole made long after the skull was on the ground. Then he informed me that our "good intentions notwithstanding," we had broken several laws regarding human remains... He kindly refused to accept the skull for research saying, "I have lots already." Getting rid of a human skull in Toronto proved to be a major problem...

Later, Dr. Kenyon was himself, charged with numerous violations of the Cemeteries Act, by First Nations groups, whose graves he was fond of digging up...

Director of Research and Collections, the Canadian Anglo-Boer War Museum

John Goldi's many years of intense research, and single minded scholarly determination, have been entirely responsible for the Museum having a collection of 4,415 antique memorabilia items (in addition to 1,200 books), all of which he authenticated, curated, and acquired for the museum.

The collection of antiques includes furniture and paintings, photos, autographs, documents, uniforms, weapons, equipment, and tools, as well as historical items of glass, ceramic, parian, plaster, earthenware, fabric, leather, metal, wood, paper, ivory, bone, and stone.

Right doing Museum inventory.

As of Jan 1, 2013 he was appointed the Museum's first Honorary Curator Emeritus.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure An absolutely rare and fabulous Arctic Scenery platter from c 1845 - the same year Franklin and his men were in Canada's high arctic - shows that arctic expeditions were popular to feature on spectacular dinner ware services.

This platter is huge and shows about what it must have looked like when Franklin and his men were wintered in, in the Central Arctic, before starting on their fatal trek out to civilization.

Covering the ships over, as the men hunkered inside, was a common practice in arctic expeditions. With summer the ice would, hopefully, melt and the ships could sail away.

But the ice did not melt around Franklin's ships which were crushed instead and sank leaving the men no choice but to walk out.

Platter, Arctic Scenery - 1846
Orig. platter - Size - 30 x 40 cm
Found - Napanee, ON

The Photographer - Beginnings...

flashing newGreat Canadian Heritage Treasure
Goldi Family Kodak Brownie Target Six-20 - 1951
Orig. camera - Size - 9 x 11 x 13 cm
Found - Aberfeldy, ON
Prov - Goldi Coll
This was the Goldi family camera - bought in 1951 - and is the first camera ever used by John Goldi csc, when he was 12, to take family portraits in the early 1950s.

Below is the very first photograph he ever took, in February 1953, of his mother and youngest brother, and already showing signs of good composition, and getting great poses from his subjects, which would serve him well in later life..

His artistic genes came from his mother Ruth's side. Her family were skilled woodcarvers and she was a talented artist, had a fine eye for photography and took the early photos of her family with the Six-20.

In this incarnation of the Brownie rollfilm camera, produced from 1941-1952, Kodak restyled its basic box with a metallic, linear, Art Deco faceplate design by Walter D Teague for the Beau Brownies in the 30s.

Go to The Goldi Dream Farm

Below the first action picture, and the first colour picture, John Goldi ever took, with his Brownie Hawkeye aimed out the window towards the locomotive as it crossed the bridge at Terrace Bay, Ontario, in July, 1960. Since film was very expensive he took very few photos in colour.

The composition, the lines of sight, and the ideal moment to press the release, are truly amazing for a first time effort with a primitive camera. The creative genes of his mother are at work already in the teenager.

Below the first wildlife photo he ever took, with his Brownie Hawkeye, of Bighorn Sheep at Banff National Park, in August, 1960.

Who could have guessed that the passion for photography, instilled in him by his mother, by asking him to take the family photos, and giving him his own camera in 1956, would ultimately lead him into a career as a top Canadian cinematographer and a creator of major Canadian heritage documentaries?

flashing newGreat Canadian Heritage Treasure
John Goldi's Brownie Hawkeye - December, 1956
Orig. camera - Size - 95 x 100 x 115 cm
Found - Aberfeldy, ON
Prov - Goldi Coll
This was the first camera ever owned by Canadian cinematographer John Goldi csc, which he received as Christmas present from his parents in 1956.

It remained his camera from 1956 till 1961, when he got a job and bought a 35 mm rangefinder.

Below is the very first photo he ever took with this camera, one of his family, on Dec. 25, 1956. It was the first Christmas without their father, for whom this picture was made.

The farm had failed; he lost the multi-thousands he had brought to invest in his "Canadian dream," and had gone, alone, to work in the iron mines in the remote north of Labrador, as a blaster, putting to work skills he had learned while directing construction teams building Switzerland's largest airport at Kloten (Zurich), during World War II.

The rest of the family stayed on the farm for another year as tenants to the conglomerate which took it over, before moving to the nearby town of Glencoe, where Ruth took work in a sock factory. There they were finally joined by their father, "Wiener," who now became a welder in Strathroy, to support the family.

Below the first documentary projects John Goldi csc, ever undertook as a photographer with this camera, from 1958 to 1960.

Go to the Making of a Master Cadet

Below the first colour photographs he ever took in 1960.

Go to Banff National Cadet Camp

The Hawkeye was an extremely popular camera in the early 50s (produced from 1949-1961) and took on the bulgy rounded styling of the cars of the period. It was extremely rugged compared to the rather fragile Six-20.

Below the format of the picture the camera produced at 1 1/2 times actual size on 620 film.

The two photos are shown in proper proportion to each other as they were returned from the photo lab. The oblong format of the Six-20 made it more versatile and gave you more negative surface since most pictures fit better into the horizontal format.

The Hawkeye format being smallish to start with did not provide very good enlargements since there was a lot less detail crowded into a very small surface area. Blow ups of faces, unless they were quite close to begin with, tended to be fuzzy or soft.

A lack of a zoom meant you had to physically move in to get good pictures. Most people did not and left the main subject too small.


In the tradition of all great artists before him, 16 year old John Goldi would do a self-portrait, with his Hawkeye.

He carefully lined up his camera on a chair in the doorway of his small bedroom, holding the Hawkeye firmly in place with books, and string, after carefully composing the scene. The wall displayed banners from places he had visited and paintings of Ontario game fish he had drawn and coloured for a science project.

Then he tied a heavy cold chisel to the end of a monafilament fishing line - so it wouldn't show - and suspended it from a hook he drilled into the door molding over the camera. The cold chisel was hung just above the camera release.

He then took up his position, grabbed the fishing line, and when all was ready, loosened it, letting the heavy cold chisel trigger the release and set off the flash.

It took a bit of jiggling, with the twisting chisel ; you can see the look of expectation, and the tugging hand coming up to do the mechanics.

The composition, for a teenage amateur, is actually quite amazing, especially since everything was jury rigged with a fixed lens.

No expert photographer with a zoom lens could compose the picture any better.

Only days later he would take his camera to Cadet Camp Ipperwash for the summer.

Black-bellied Plover

Allan Brooks

John Goldi - King William Island
Like Allan Brooks, fifty years before, I was to spend many months, alone, in the intimate company of many of Canada's most interesting bird species, to try to capture the best images possible. (Nikon F2 (80-200mm) 1974)

Hans and Allan - A Boy and his Hero

I like to think that the first words in English I learned - as "Hans," a 9 year old Swiss immigrant to Canada in 1950 left - were "Allan Brooks."

I still remember the exact moment in 1951, and the library corner of the room in the rural public school in Southern Ontario, when I opened up a nature book and his name - beneath a stunning bird picture - leaped out at me, and burned itself forever, into my subconscious, to join a list of other Great Canadian heroes, Champlain, Cartier, and Frontenac.

By then Allan had already been dead for six years. But his legacy through his work, inspired others, like me, to carry on educating the public about the wonderful natural world around us.

His glorious bird pictures profoundly effected me. Actually I don't remember the bird painting I first saw, but my mind's eye can see his signature clearly almost 60 years later. He was the guy who made the magic...

When the Toronto Star Weekly started to print full page portraits of his paintings I cut them out and pasted them into scrap books which i treasured greatly for years after. I eagerly awaited the weekly trips to town to pick up the next issue of the magazine.

I started to seek out the birds he painted and to collect bird nests and eggs OUCH...

Allan Brooks started me on a lifelong passion for exploring nature, and for birding and bird photography, and for communicating it to others, like he did to me.

In the 1960s I frequently went on photography expeditions, with Isidor Jeklin, one of the world's top bird photographers.

Isidor was also probably the world's top bird photography exhibitor in international salons, winning hundreds of Gold Medals for his amazing photographs of birds.

Together, toting our Nikons and Hasselblads, we hiked through many southern Ontario beaches, fields and woodlands, seeking out new birds that we had not already photographed.

Then, two years, spent as a CUSO teacher in remote Uganda, East African schools, gave me wonderful opportunities for photographing all kinds of exotic birds and animals.

Later, 14 years spent in the Canadian north, in the remote arctic and sub-arctic regions, opened up new avenues to explore the rich variety of Canadian birds, on nesting grounds which few Canadians ever get to see.

Right the time and location where I first discovered Allan Brooks, the Ousley School in the farmland near Inwood, Ontario, in June, 1952.

The school library was in the tiny room enclosed in the bell tower extension.

Sitting inside there I first discovered Allan's birds while sitting alone leafing through nature books.

Sixty years later I can still recall, with a tangible thrill, the exact moment it happened.

Semi-palmated Plover

After years of experience, carefully working with birds - you actually train the birds to accept you - blinds are sometimes not necessary in the arctic. This Semi-palmated Plover was shot with a flash setup, and no blind, from about seven feet away. I was able to get up - slowly of course - walk away, and come back, without the bird leaving the nest. (Nikon F2AS (80-200mm) flash, 1975 - King William Island)

Sabine's Gull

To get the best photographs you learn to "work with birds," in a partnership. If you get good at it, you can sometimes do your photography without the encumbrance of a blind. I find that talking to the bird, in a friendly manner, often helps break down cultural barriers...

Here on King William Island, near Gjoa Haven, a Sabine's Gull sits on eggs near a tundra pond, while her mate sits on my head, using this vantage point to keep a sharp lookout for intruders that might be a threat... (Nikon F2AS (80-200mm) 1975)

Below, no not Photoshop, just comfortably settled in the hand of a friend...

Kindly note, in neither photo is the bird's beak open, shrieking sounds of protest, terror, or alarm... The wings are still, and settled. The bird is completely at ease with the photographer.

So much nature footage, of birds and animals, even that shot by National Geographic, shows them running in terror from the photographer, or snapping at the very expensive National Geo helicopter. Or polar bears floundering madly on ice floes, trying to protect their young, or caribou, or moose, running in panic, at break-leg speed across broken ground and tripping over logs and stones.

Those budget driven photographers have more the relationship of the trophy hunter with wildlife, than that of a naturalist, who sensitively accommodates him or herself, to the welfare of the bird or animal they are seeking to photograph. Dead or maimed birds and animals are just some of the collateral damage that commercial nature photographers (including National Geo, Walt Disney, Wild Kingdom, etc.) routinely exact to "get that thousand dollar picture" for their editor, or footage for their film or television program...

The Canadian North - I ultimately spent 14 years in the Canadian north - the arctic and subarctic - where I pursued my birding hobby.

Living in the remote North West Territories, where people are few and the landscapes vast, allowed me to accomplish a number of birding landmarks.

While living in Yellowknife, NT, I reported the sighting of a Brambling - an accidental from Europe below - which at that time (1981), was only the third sighting of the bird ever reported in North America.

I received phone calls from excited birders from all over the US, asking me to describe it and how I found it - it came to our feeder with a flock of buntings. Its unusual colouring made me run for my European field guide.

Oddly enough, though I was a professional cinematographer by then, and it stayed three days at our feeder, as scores of people streamed into our house to see and photograph it, through the living room window, I never took a picture, not even a proverbial record shot. To me it was just normal birding - seeing, appreciating, learning, and sharing...

Astounding but true...

With patience, knowledge, skill, and understanding, you can build up trust with wildlife.

To illustrate the point, I directed my wife to kneel, and shelter a Taligvak (Ruddy Turnstone) baby - which I found, running lose on the tundra - in her gloved hand.

The mother soon showed up, quite upset, naturally, that her baby had met with a possible predator.

But by holding still and quietly talking to her, I calmed her down and she came closer and closer.

In a very few minutes she climbed on Joan's hands, which were flush to the ground, and sat down there beside her baby - not standing, and not shrieking - as if the gloves were her own warm nest.

All the while soothingly talking to the mother, I had Joan slowly raise the family three feet above the ground so I could take this photo.

After a minute or two mother and baby were slowly returned to the ground.

As we did so, and quietly said our goodbyes, the mother responded with some soft burbling sounds, and covered her baby exactly where we put her down, as we slowly backed away...

(John Goldi - Ruddy Turnstone (Inuit - Taligvak), King William Island - Nikon F2 (80-200mm) 1975)

Northern Flicker

Ultra Rare - I believe this is the only photo in existence of a Northern Flicker with its eggs on the ground. They always nest in holes which they excavate in trees.

After years of experience interacting with birds, and going out into the wilderness a lot, you discover rarities. I shot this ornithological first in the sub-arctic wilderness, some ten miles from a tiny village on the shore of Great Slave Lake, in the middle of nowhere (blue dot below).
(Hasselblad (250mm) remote release, 1978)

While seeking out wilderness locations for doing bird photography I made a number of "first sightings" of birds in Canada's Northwest Territories.

I reported the furthest north Canadian sighting of a Yellow-headed Blackbird above which at that time had not been reported in the Northwest Territories before, establishing proof that it was extending its range yellow dot below.

Hasselblad ELM & 250 mm Compur Lens

No wonder the flicker is looking up as a fabulous and massive Hasselblad with a super sharp Compur lens, is sitting on a short tripod only, 7 feet away.

In the 1960s and 70s the Hasselblad ELM motor drive medium format camera was the one every bird photographer wanted, but few could afford.

It offered a big 2 1/4" square negative ideal for the flicker shot because you could not know exactly where the bird was positioned in the viewfinder when you pressed the trigger from a good distance away. You needed safe space around the bird.

With a small 35 mm negative you could not do this because the bird would be cut off all the time. With 35 mm shooting you had to look through the lens for every shot to make sure the bird was exactly in the frame. The large Hasselblad negative offered a margin of error to get more pictures and also allowed you to blow up the images for sharper bigger pictures.

I also recorded the first sighting, and filmed the first nesting, of a Black-billed Magpie left in the Northwest Territories, another furthest north sighting in Canada.

Modern range maps do not reflect either of these discoveries even today, and show how inaccurate these range maps really are in the border areas.

In 1979, when I became a professional film and television documentary cameraman, editor, and producer, I included my hobby in my work.

Red-throated Loon

I worked with this bird for three days, from a distance, across a pond using a blind. To get this picture I slowly came out of the blind, and entered the pond wearing my chest waders. With water up to my waist I walked, very slowly, some forty feet across the pond, getting closer and closer till I got a roll of pictures like this, hand-held. When my roll of film was shot off, rather than reload and possibly spook the bird, I backed up, slowly, and retreated to the blind. The bird trusted me so much it never left the nest during the entire encounter. (Nikon F2AS (80-200mm) 1975)

Marcel Marceau - The great French mime artist is always at my elbow when I'm alone, close to birds and their nests. ALL MY MOVEMENTS, of eyes, hands, head, feet, body, are all mimed, very slowly, with practiced fluidity. Anyone watching would think I was doing Tai Chi exercises. But it has paid off countless times, as birds and animals accept people and movements, which they are given time to process visually and mentally, through time and space. So instead of fleeing they stay to give me great photos. And I do not have to wait hours for the return of a spooked subject.

From the article "Wild Things" in the Canadian Society of Cinematographers Journal

“I saw his outstretched talons and
big yellow eyes coming at me.”

— John Goldi csc


For John Goldi csc, “wildlife photography starts with the heart, not with the camera. In a real sense the camera, and even the cameraman, has to disappear because the photographer’s presence interferes with getting a natural performance from wildlife.”

Goldi, also Toronto-based, spent two years in East Africa, two years in the Canadian Arctic and 12 in the sub-arctic learning his subjects’ habits. His goal was to be able to film wildlife without inducing “terror behaviour.”

He said television’s insatiable appetite for wildlife footage, while creating an opportunity for cinematographers, can also encourage practices that in the name of expediency can put nature subjects and sometimes even the photographer in danger.

Being knowledgeable about nature and a keen observer are every bit as important as being a good photographer. Goldi noted that while in Yellowknife, NWT, he achieved a number or ornithological firsts for the region. He was the first to sight and film yellow-headed blackbirds there, and the first to sight magpies, as well as to discover and film their first nesting site.

He also sighted a brambling, one of only three recorded sightings of this bird in North America. It was a lost European migrant about which he received calls from all over North America. He also believes he has the only photograph in existence of a flicker standing among its eggs, nesting on the ground. Flickers are woodpeckers that always nest in holes in trees.

Goldi, like his colleagues, has been subject to “natural hostility,” including being attacked by a great horned owl below while he was teetering over the side of a cliff.

“I sensed his attack out of the corner of my eye, and was just about the raise my elbow, when I saw his outstretched talons and big yellow eyes coming at me. I absorbed the shock on my arm, but the blow rolled me over and I almost fell over the cliff.

“Wildlife photography starts with the heart, not the camera.”
— John Goldi csc

“I remembered Eric Hosking, the British nature photographer who lost an eye to a tawny owl. I was shaking so hard I decided to quit, packed up my gear and backed away from the site, always with one eye on the owl, and he with both on me. I turned away when safely out of reach and . . . Wham! The owl struck me on the neck behind, raising a bloody gash.

“I thought this would make a great setup to film an owl attack. So I tried to get my wife to put on my hat and parka and be my model for filming. Joan didn’t share my enthusiasm for the project. I learned that not everyone is as dedicated as the photographer.”

Goldi has won 85 international television awards in the last two years, including 29 gold and silver medals, most for a documentary series of 26 programs he shot called Outdoor Adventure Canada, which features a good deal of his nature and wildlife cinematography.

After more than 30 years in the field, Goldi’s passion and enthusiasm remain undiminished.

“What’s my dream project? We keep doing it all the time!”






























Tawny Owl (Europe), Peter van Zoest

A Close Encounter...

I was living for several years, in a remote Indian village, on Great Slave Lake. On weekends I'd go off into the wilderness to find birds to photograph. I would carry a big blind that would stretch out to seven feet, made out of burlap sacking. It helps you get closer to birds for good pictures.

One day I left the village and drove across the bay, to a spot behind the far point below.

I was soon sitting near a killdeer nest, with the brown bag over me, waiting and shooting as the birds came and went.

Suddenly, I heard a motorboat approach on the other side of a small spit of land beside where I was shooting. I could hear two men scrape the boat ashore on the rocks, and then get out, jawing away in Chipewyan.

Through the burlap mesh and screen of trees I could tell from their body language and voices that it was Fred and Louis, two young men in their twenties, from the village.

Hopefully they won't see me, and come over and socialize, and scare off my bird. Better keep still... But then again...

Probably they're going hunting. I'd better stand up to show them it's the school principal doing photography, or I might get taken for a bear, and take a .30-.30 shell or a shotgun slug.

And if I stand up slowly, hopefully it won't spook the bird...

As I did so, my long brown bag falling around me, I could tell they had spotted me.

Then all hell broke loose...

I could hear shouting and the loud clanging of boots on aluminum as the men leaped into the boat, madly scraped the boat off the stones, cranked up the engine, and roared away at a terrific rate.

Wonder what's going on with them...?

Good I thought, at least they're gone, and the commotion didn't even scare the bird.

Five minutes later I decided to pack up and head back to the Indian village across the lake.

The whole town was down on the waterfront... dozens milling about. (the spot I came ashore below)

I wondered what the heck was going on. Obviously something quite serious had happened. Stern looks everywhere...

My best friend Georgie, came up and eagerly pulled my boat ashore. He quickly sized up the situation and started grinning from ear to ear.

"That was you over there, cross the bay?" noting my burlap blind, all rolled up in the boat, and smiled.

"Yeah I was photographing birds," as I unrolled the blind for all to see.

Georgie grinned. "You lucky; you just about got shot." He laughed loudly... but nervously...

I looked at all the faces as the smiles and laughter started to spread.

"You real lucky John... Fred and Louis had no guns or they would have shot you. They came back to get them. They thought you were the Moo. Ho, ho, ho..."

Then the laughter became general, as people began to realize it was only the school teacher under a brown bag. Fred and Louis, came over, smiling nervously...

"You're lucky John. I almost shot you! You shouldn't wear that big bag..." Fred said shyly, realizing now that if he had he would have shot the school principal and not the notorious Moo.

Among the Dene of the Northwest Territories the legend of the Moo - or the Bushman - a wild man that inhabits the wilderness and can kill you, if you're not careful, is a potent reality for many people to this day.

In a hunting culture, where people travel in the wilderness by boat or snowmobile, everybody always carries a rifle. There is only one way to deal with the wild Moo, when one suddenly encounters him in the bush...

We laughed about it for years afterwards... Wondering how it would have ended if Fred and Louis had their rifles with them - as they usually did - on that day?

We laughed that Fred and Louis had mistaken me for the Moo... We didn't laugh about the Moo as a myth. Everyone knew that the real Moo was still out there... lying in wait...

Below two television programs on Birding and Bird Migration
- now available as DVD programs - have won numerous
international Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals at
American film and television festivals

"I would like to thank you for producing the outstanding video about the Presqu'ile Waterfowl Festival. I have spoken to a number of field naturalist clubs across Ontario who said they watched this video and were most impressed. I was personally impressed by the cinematography and sharp, crisp photography. Also, I felt that the film captured the essence and excitement of the event. Films such as yours are vital in reminding us just how important our public lands and parks are for wildlife and for people." 
           - Donald A. Davis, Life Member, Fed. of Ont. Naturalists

"I was particularly pleased with how thoroughly you captured the flavour of waterfowl migration at Presqu'ile.  We have had many film crews here but none invested the time and energy that you did. I had high expectations for the film. However, my expectations were exceeded! Thank you again for the excellent work."
- Don Tyerman, Biodiversity Specialist, Presqu'ile, ON

Go to Birds, Birds, More...
Go to Spring Fever

John Goldi csc (cameraman, director, editor, co-writer) along with Joan Goldi (producer, writer), his life and work partner of 52 years, have won 136 international awards for their television documentary work including 41 Gold and Silver Medals, and 22 Finalists.

Double Golds - At three different US television festivals three of their Silver Medals - all for different documentaries - were beaten by three of their Golds, competing against each other, as well as a host of other programs from the best producers from other countries around the globe.

Go to The Creative Team
The 'csc' designation is the top honour bestowed by the Canadian Society of Cinematography, "for outstanding achievement as a cinematographer". The Society is the professional association of Canadian film and television cinematographers.

Green Heron, John Goldi 1995 - Sony DXC - D30

Brown Thrasher, John Goldi 1969 - Nikon F2AS (flash)

Arctic Loon & chick, John Goldi 1985 - Arriflex SR-2

Arriflex SR-2 Wildlife Camera - The footage of the Arctic Loon above was shot from a blind, on a small island which I reached with a canoe, and using this Arriflex SR-2 set-up. The Arri SR-2 was the top professional 16 mm film camera used around the world for decades both for production and wildlife filming. National Geo used this camera for all its shooting.

Just like a different kind of knowledge and sensitivity, in a cameraman, is needed to shoot wildlife, so completely different gear is required, that the non-wildlife shooting cinematographers do not possess.

This was my special high-end wildlife set-up.

If features a production bridge plate, supporting a Nikkor 80-300 mm zoom lens, which I had specially machined in Japan, to fit on my ARRI. I also had an aluminium block machined to support the heavy lens.

The variable speed control sits on top, with extension cables and grips to make it easier to operate.

A zoom motor sits beside the barrel of the lens.

A small snap-on battery sits behind the 400 foot magazine.

This was used on a top level fluid head Sachtler tripod. The whole set-up weighed something like 80 pounds.

Arriflex BL - The first production camera John Goldi owned, was the predecessor to the SR-2, the Arriflex BL, with which all the top flight documentaries were shot in the 1960s and 70s.

It was a heavy clunker with a most ungraceful, high profile design that was wonderfully eliminated with the Arri SR largely due to the development of a co-axial magazine, where the two reels of film were changed from "front and back" to side by side.

It was popular for shooting high quality dramas in 16mm because it was the first self-blimped camera.

Since movie cameras were invented, camera noise has been the bane of sound recordists. Bags, blankets, and barneys have been packed around cameras to eliminate noise from the motor and gears driving the film through the camera and the 400 foot magazine. The BL was supposed to be quiet enough so you didn't have to do that anymore.

Still there were "quiet" BLs and some less so.

More than once, when sitting close to a nesting bird, when the camera started up, the bird took off. Still it was far quieter than a Bolex RX-5, which you could never use close-up on nesting birds at all because of its very loud machine noise.

Attack of the Killer Owl

In the 1970s I was the school principal, living in a small village on the shore of Great Slave Lake. Some kms outside town I had found the nest of a Great Horned Owl, half way up the side of a cliff.

In order to film it I built a platform some 50 feet up in a tree that grew beside the cliff. I used a climbing ladder to get up to it. Over a period of a several of weeks I filmed the magnificent bird as it swooped in to incubate the eggs, and later, to feed the chicks.

As the days passed I thought we had become used to each other. I said hello when I arrived and goodbye when I quit for the day, like good friends do.

One day as I came, along the top of the cliff, to do filming, I decided to look over the lip and see if I could take a short cut to the platform, by just lowering myself down some 40 feet, instead of clattering down the rock face and then climbing the ladder back up as I usually did.

The owl had already seen me approach and was sitting in a tree top, at eye level to me, some 70 feet away. It was not in a good mood. It's beak was snapping loudly (below the very owl that almost did me in) and it was prancing for a footing on the thin branches on the tree top.

Not a good sign. I would have to be careful.

Of course I had heard of Great Horned Owl attacks on people who it feels threaten its nest. I knew that Eric Hosking (1909 - 1991), a celebrated British bird photographer, had lost an eye from a Tawny Owl attack in Wales in 1937.

When he lost his eye, he became famous overnight and remained one of the few photographers able to make a living from bird photography alone.

Since then all bird photographers who go to photograph the owls like he did, wear face masks like fencers wear. (Right Eric's most famous photograph, the Barn Owl and Prey, shot in 1936.)

I grabbed a spruce branch and waved it in circles around my head to make me look more threatening and to protect my head against a surprise attack.

As I squatted down near the cliff edge I kept a constant look at the owl, flitting my eyes between the bird and the dangerous steep drop off I was approaching. I waved my branch furiously.

When I got to the edge, and leaned over, I could see the platform some 40 feet below, and the ground 50 feet below that. Didn't look like a safe way to approach at all.

As I leaned over for another look, a quick movement at the corner of my eye instinctively made me snap my head back towards the owl.

In a fraction of a second I had left, I saw her outstretched talons and big yellow eyes coming at me, like a torpedo, not seven feet away. Like a flash I lifted my elbow, and leaned away to protect my face.

The blow hit my raised elbow and rolled me over. I dropped the branch, which skittered over the cliff.

I scrambled in a panic as my feet lost their footing, sending a shower of rocks and dirt over the cliff edge. I ended up on my back, with the owl triumphantly nattering in the nearby tree top again.

I was in shock, my heart racing madly.

Had I been a fraction of a second slower in responding I would have taken the blow of the extended talons full in my face. Quite overcome, I contemplated life without eyes...

Worse yet, she would have hit me just at the very moment I was completely off balance, and leaning over the cliff edge. I would have joined my stick, and the rocks I had kicked in panic, at the bottom of the 100 foot cliff.

Completely shaken, as I began to realize how close I had come to a tragic end, I decided to pack up for the day. I was frankly too scared to do photography.

As I slowly backed away from the site, my eyes were constantly fixed on the owl as she watched me. I waved a new branch over my head to cover me when I had to look momentarily away to see where I was going.

When I was some 50 yards from the owl I finally decided I was safe. I turned away and started off down the trail to my snowmobile thinking about my near encounter with multi levels of disaster.

WHAMMM...! The blow hit me on the nape of the neck. I was literally seeing stars. It still took several seconds before I realized what had happened. I turned in time to see the owl flying off, back to her tree-top eyrie.

My heart was racing. I reached up to the nape of my neck. My hand came away bloody. I thanked my lucky stars that I was wearing a big winter parka with a hood covering much of my neck. It had cushioned much of the blow.

I was truly amazed by the power of the blow that a ball of fluff and feathers could deliver, to drive its sharp and spiky talons into prey. It was as if a sledge hammer had hit me. I wondered too how a fragile bird like that could withstand such a powerful collision with an immoveable object.

I got out of there in a hurry.

But it gave me a great idea.

I decided that an owl attack like this would make a great film sequence. When I got home I explained it all to my wife. My idea was for her to wear my parka and hat, and walk by the owl hoping to trigger an attack while I would film it. It would make great footage and be very educational too.

Unfortunately my wife did not share my enthusiasm for the project. I learned that, unfortunately, not everyone is as dedicated as the bird photographer.

I did return to photograph the owl but wearing a climbing helmet to which I had bolted a wraparound, flip down face protector. I wore it religiously, but was also more careful, and was never attacked again. (Below approaching her eggs.)

Postscript - The owl footage I shot in 1977 did become part of a series of northern wildlife heritage preservation public service announcements, which I edited for broadcast on northern CBC Television in 1980.

But the owl family never got to grow up.

Indian teenagers who followed my tracks to the cliff site, on a day I wasn't there, blasted parents and chicks with shotguns. I was devastated. All I found were a few feathers...

I still keep them in an envelope, a strong reminder of the powerful emotional ups and downs in my life as a nature photographer. No doubt something else I shared with Allan Brooks.

Paillard Bolex RX-5 - Right the Paillard Bolex RX-5 camera I used for years, to shoot 16 mm wildlife footage - including that of the owl above - when I was a teacher and not a professional cameraman.

In fact much of the wildlife footage that I submitted to the Canadian Society of Cinematography to obtain my "csc" accreditation, was shot with this camera set-up, when I was an amateur, doing it for fun out of passion.

The Bolex is a high quality Swiss camera that is often the first movie camera ever used by leading filmmakers around the world.

The base camera in this hook-up remains the spring wound RX-5, which I bought from a British major who had used it to shoot travel movies on his holidays.

I added upgrades, like the 100 POE zoom lens, electric ESM motor, 400 foot magazine, all driven by a heavy battery pack in a sling bag - not shown.

This camera, unlike the Arriflex BL and Arriflex SR-2, was not blimped. The camera motor and magazine gear noises were considerable.

You could not do nest photography, or "ambush" photography, lying in wait till your "quarry" approached within range, because when the camera started up it scared away anything close by.

Still, with telephoto lenses at distance, the camera noise was not a problem, though on occasion I did wrap a blanket around it to reduce noise.

Osprey, John Goldi 1990 - Sony DXC - D30

Great Gray Owl, John Goldi 1997- Sony DXC - D30

Barn Owl and Prey, Eric Hosking 1936

Great Horned Owl, Allan Brooks

Great Horned Owl, Allan Brooks

My Compton mountaineering helmet with visor adaptation

Remains of the Great Horned Owl Family

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

A fabulous image of the Wandering Tattler, one of the many shorebirds that can be found in Canada, which has more shoreline - along oceans and lakes - than any other country in the world.

It can be found widely distributed along Canada's west coast, breeding in the far north, then moving south for the winter.

Wandering Tattler - Major Allan Brooks DSO, 1904
Orig. wc - Image Size - 18 x 27 cm
Found - Toronto, ON

Passing on the Heritage

Probably my most successful achievement, during my many years as a teacher in cross-cultural societies in Africa, and among the Inuit, and Dene was my bird house building project in an Indian village on Great Slave Lake.

I found a book with plans for building bird houses. I soon had the entire class hammering and sawing away on a shop project. The kids were very enthusiastic, as each was determined to put a swallow box on top of their house.

I learned long ago that teacher and student interaction, and knowledge transfer, is best when they do things together. There was lots of noise, laughter, and good fellowship all around as the class pounded away. It gave the kids great pleasure in producing something with their own hands that they - and I - took pride in.

I was especially pleased. No one skipped class while we were on the building project.

Better yet I had managed to teach an appreciation for birds, and bird conservation, in a culture which saw birds entirely - ducks, geese, swans - as something to shoot and eat.

I grinned with pride the day we went out to put up the boxes. Everywhere around town I saw students on rooftops hammering swallow boxes on boards nailed to the top of the gable sides.

Parents came out laughing, immensely pleased their children were engaged in something productive instead of looking for the usual mischief to get into.

We all waited to see if our boxes would be successful in attracting swallows.

Within days the swallows started to take over some boxes. Students eagerly came to the house to announce that another pair had taken over the box on their house.

A couple of days later two boys came by the house.

One gripped a swallow in his hand. I asked if it was wounded, thinking they had come to get help...

"No, no, John. Look, see..."

He threw the swallow into the air.

And then, as it flew up, he yanked it back with a long string he had tied its feet.

"Good, eh John? Bird boxes make really good trap."

When I loudly protested he answered.

"Not just me John. All the kids do that."

And after I was to see kids on the roof clapping hands over the entry holes. And tossing swallows on strings, into the air...

So my conservation project was a big bust. Through my good intentions I had installed deadly bird traps on virtually every house in town.

I had probably decimated the swallow population in town and the birds that didn't die were no doubt crippled for life...

Conservation can lose something in the translation between cultures...

Tree Swallow, Allan Brooks

Red-necked Grebe Family, John Goldi, 1982 - Arriflex SR-2

White Crowned Sparrow, John Goldi, 1985, Nikon F2AS (flash)

Copyright Goldi Productions Ltd. - 1996, 1999, 2005, 2010