Shining a LIGHT on the amazing Churchill Polar Bear

Our latest design project in the office has taken us all the way to the Polar Bear capital of world; Churchill, Manitoba!

We arrived here on Monday morning to get started on the new project. Janine and I were so excited to meet the locals, get to know the area and really experience the culture of this famous town.

And are we ever getting an experience of a lifetime! On Monday evening, the largest, strongest and most epic blizzard to ever hit Churchill blew into town and has currently stranded us here until further notice. We’re talking hurricane blizzard, snowmageddon, blizzacane 2017!  The massive amount of snowfall combined with 130km/h wind speeds along with dangerously extreme windchill temperatures of -55⁰C has basically buried and shut down the entire town. Despite all of this, our spirits are high! The locals have been nothing short of kind and hospitable. I do believe this is where the term Friendly Manitoba has originated!

So, what to do while riding out the storm? Well, in thinking about how to tie in the local culture into our design, I started researching the famous polar bear. As a lighting designer, I’ve discovered something beyond fascinating about these creatures, and I just can’t keep it to myself. I always knew that polar bears aren’t actually white, but that in fact their fur is clear and transparent. What I DIDN’T know was that the bear’s fur is actually LUMINESCENT!!

Each strand of polar bear hair is transparent, hollow and absolutely free of any pigment whatsoever. To ‘appear’ white, these hairs create optical tricks. The hollow cores are made up of the protein called Keratin and they also contain tiny light scattering particles. In addition, on the outside of the fur, in between each hair, are salt particles accumulated from the ocean waters.

The BEST part: When the rays of the sun hit the polar bear’s hair, the light’s energy gets trapped inside the hollow core and keeps bouncing off all of these tiny little particles. The effect is what is known as LUMINESCENCE.

Okay, let’s totally geek-out on this.

This luminescent effect gets stronger as the light hits these particles. The scattering of light breaks the beam up into several more beams of light and sending them off in many different directions. The beams of light are also scattered and reflected off of the salt particles on the outside of the hairs as well. Check out this graphic below that helps you understand the process a little better.

So in reality, the bears actually reflect the light and environment around them. The whitish light that is reflected from the bears helps with camouflaging themselves into the white Arctic ice and snow.

These gorgeous animals just hit the top of my cool lighting list!!

Photo Credit: Kennan Ward

I’m looking forward to the challenge of translating this amazing concept into a lighting design scheme that will truly reflect the beauty and wonder that is Churchill, Manitoba.

Elaina (the newest resident of Churchill)


The Power of Light

I’ve been inspired to write about something that has been flooding the news lately, especially following the attacks in Paris. The hot topic at hand…the POWER OF LIGHT + its effect on the socio-political world. What do I mean by the ‘Power of Light’? Well, read on…

I’m sure most of you have noticed in the past couple of weeks that your social media news feeds have been filled with images of famous landmarks from around the globe showing support + solidarity for France. Landmarks donning the colours blue, white and red, are meant to symbolize the French National Flag.

Light for France

How are they doing this? By using LIGHT as their medium! In the past, it wouldn’t have been this easy to make such a powerful statement (or at least done as quickly). Being able to illuminate something as grand and significant as a recognizable landmark is quite a power tool. Most people don’t think too much about light. It’s often taken for granted because it’s always just ‘there’. There to allow us to see. There to illuminate our environments (whether inside or out).

What if you stopped for a moment to think about the power that light has! How it can truly affect the world we live in. In this instance, how changing the colour properties on a luminaire’s setting can actually proclaim your point of view in the world. As seen with the Paris attacks, the world united together by illuminating their buildings and landmarks all over the world. That’s it. They ‘turned on a light’.  I just find it amazing how simple illuminated colours can be so bold as to show support for a cause or express a strong political stance.

Berlin Arches

Take the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Illuminated Pink and it’s creating awareness for Breast Cancer. Illuminated in Rainbow colours, and it’s now supporting/celebrating the legalization of gay marriage. Applied thoughtfully and carefully, the power of colour + light can resonate a pretty powerful statement!

Support or Celebration

Let’s look at it another way. Light can be just as powerful when it’s not there. Below are a few examples of landmarks who showed their respect for the mourning by ‘turning out’ their lights. A moment of silence, if you will.

Lights Out for France

I believe the language of light can speak volumes! Don’t you?

I do…


Non cropped thumbnail Elaina


Exhibition Lighting Design – Sightlines Photography Booth

So, you may or may not be fully aware, but S3 is developing a new ‘design department’ and it will focus on Architectural Lighting Design. Design projects can range from Residential to Commercial, from Institutional to Exhibition, and really, anything in between. Whatever specialty lighting design challenge is out there, I want to tackle it!

I would like to start off by featuring one of our latest design projects recently realized for Sightlines Photography. We were commissioned to design a trade show booth for this photographer, who showcases  yearly at the Wonderful Wedding Show at the Winnipeg Convention Centre. Although this was not a stand-alone lighting project, as the booth itself was design by S3 as well, I thought it was a great way to start showing what we can do with interesting lighting techniques.


Design Requirements

  • The owner has asked for a clean, contemporary look that represents the style and personality of the company
  • The design must capture the visitors’ attention as many other booths are competing for the same business
  • Lighting the displayed photographs are of utmost importance
  • Storage for marketing material, and other supply items to be incorporated into the design

Project Limitations

  • The whole booth must remain within a 10′ x 10′ allocated lease space, and no taller than 8′ in height
  • The entire structure must be able to be assembled/disassembled by 1-2 people, and must be compacted to store in the off season
  • Size of the booth, must be able to reduce in size depending on other trade show leasing space size

The Concept

The entire concept for this booth stemmed from the company’s interesting logo, which is meant to represent perspective ‘sight’lines receding to a vanishing point. As this photographer has a keen interest for architectural photography, I thought it appropriate to accentuate this concept.


Since cleanliness, and maintenance was a great concern, using a black background with white lines was a better choice that white with black lines. And since I wanted to incorporate lighting, white lines seemed most appropriate. The inspiration for the lighting came from a detail once seen in a hotel corridor. (see image below).

Logo Lines                      Lighting Concept


The resulting concept was presented to the client with a 3D graphic model.

Sightlines Booth 3D

Developing and Implementing the Design

Lighting details were incorporated into the sides, to accentuate the strong white lines of the concept. After working with scaled mockups, the sides of each panel were illuminated with linear LEDs through crisp, white panes of plexiglass. The photographs were also illuminated using linear LEDs, although in this application, encased in a metal channel built into the small shelving units above.


Once the playing with foam core and light fittings in the office was done, off to the ‘drawing board’ I went to get the design package together for the contractor.

Sightlines Booth Furnture Plan

Furniture Plan


Sightlines Booth Furnture Elevation

Front Elevation


Sightlines Booth Electrical Plan

Electrical Plan

Working closely with the contractor/electrician as well as the client, we refined (and are still making a few minor adjustments) to the lighting details. We experienced some issues when the linear LED tape wasn’t staying put in the sidelights. And after having received the wrong metal channels for the photograph display lighting, there still needs to be some added valence to conceal the units. But it’s starting to all come together! What’s a lighting project that doesn’t throw you a few curve balls along the way 😉

(And if you look really closely at the wedding photograph below, you’ll notice that it’s actually of me and my now-husband. Sightlines was our wedding photographer and did a lovely job capturing our day.)

IMG_1097 IMG_1121

Once most of the kinks were mainly worked out, Sightlines was ready to open up the booth for business! We’re all really pleased here with how it all turned out, but most importantly, we’re happy that the client was excited about it in the end. That is our number one goal; to create the experience that more than satisfies the client (and in turn their own clients).


Can’t wait to showcase more exciting lighting design projects as they come in!


Non cropped thumbnail Elaina