the story behind the images

The Car that has Been Through it All: My Prairie Toyota Story

Meet Tonya. Yes, I’ve named my vehicle, and she’s part of the family! A 2002 Corolla sport, she’s been my trusted sidekick for as long as I’ve been on the road. This blog is about how a little car took me from adolescence to adulthood, while finding my passion and following a dream. Through all the changes in my life, she has been the one reliable constant. This is my Prairie Toyota story.

Photography wasn’t always a passion I pursued in life. In fact, it’s only been four years since I bought my first DSLR and just two since I’ve made photography my full-time vocation. It all started with a trip to Waterton National Park in Alberta, where I fell in love with the rugged cliffs and tall peaks that were both bountiful and breathtaking. Capturing photos of this place was the best way I could describe to others the magic it held. Thankfully, I’ve always had Tonya the Toyota take me where I needed to go, no matter what. From place to place – but also from my previous 9-5er – to a life full of spontaneity, beauty, and uncertainty.


I remember learning to drive stick shift in this car with my dad on long prairie country roads. I would never have thought then that I’d still be driving Tonya so many years later, over so many more prairie country roads. She has over 340,000 kilometres on her. Each kilometre represents a piece of my photographic journey; a memory of an epic road trip for a job or an adventure with my camera just to explore this wonderful country.  I’ve never doubted that Tonya could get me there – through any conditions or terrain.

As a landscape photographer, it is so important to have a reliable vehicle to take me to locations with no service, often to places I’ve never been before, or just to get me to the airport on time without having to be concerned about car trouble issues. Tonya is always waiting for me when I get home, prepared for the next trip; a true photographer’s assistant.


I took a drive out to Waterton for the day with my Toyota a couple of weeks ago. I wanted to catch a nice sunrise and enjoy the scarce time I have at home these days; Waterton is the perfect place to do so. This is where the prairies meet the mountains, so close to my hometown of Lethbridge, Alberta. We started early to capture the sunrise and I took my brother’s dog with me, Harley. It is heartwarming to connect to these places and go back to where it all began. I can truly reflect on where I came from to where I am now.  Photography has grown and flourished into a great passion of mine, along with many others such as my love for the natural world and my drive to help conserve it. Making the adjustment from my traditional 9-to-5 job to freelance photography has been a scary and exciting change, yet one I have never looked back on. I took a leap.  Sure, there was financial uncertainty, moving from a secure job to an unpredictable passion project (and now career!), but I chose to never let finances rule my freedom and creativity. Not having to buy a brand-new vehicle has been a huge help. Even though my car is small, it’s reliable and safe, which is what I truly rely on and need when it comes to my commute. It’s comforting to know that this vehicle will last me for years to come, driving me through my journey as a photographer and being there as I follow my passion.

I am so glad Prairie Toyota chose to do a story with us. Now I can share with everyone how a car helped give me the freedom to be everywhere possible for my career needs. The real star is often this trusty Corolla behind the grand photos I take, since none of them would be possible without the freedom its reliability gives me on all of my prairie adventures.  

Written in Partnership with Prairie Toyota.  

Katie GoldieComment