#1126 Manufactured and Natural Beauty

Exhibition Details
Vernissage: Friday, August 19th.
Artist’s Talk: Saturday, September 24th; 2-4pm.

Rutherfords; 753 ch Riverside, Wakefield.

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The words “perfection” and “beauty” evoke high expectations and standards that many spend lifetimes pursuing…

Manipulated Perfection
Actors, models and news anchors are expected to appear in perfect form but, as this Dove video shows, it is often after much manipulation including make-up. The beauty of the Dove video is that natural beauty occurs everywhere – it’s our expectation of manufactured perfection that should be questioned.

Photography has followed the same path in the last few decades. Initial photo captures are manipulated, massaged, changed, and doctored to take a natural element and transform it into an ideal that aligns with one’s beliefs. Often the end result has little resemblance to the initial element being photographed.

4x5 photograph

Watershed – Chelsea Creek; near Old Chelsea Village – In the capture, above, I juxtaposed the light levels of the silhouetted underside of the bridge, the bright forest and the strip of well-exposed shade directly under the bridge.

Natural Perfection
About five years ago I started exploring with old, low-tech photography in the pursuit of a more authentic approach to capturing the perfection that surrounds us everyday.

I started searching for processes that were simple and pushed my core photo skills rather than my processing and editing skills.

Low Tech Photo Process
I came across a process that allows me to put the final paper of the artwork into the camera resulting in a (photographically) positive final piece. My only tools to capture the beauty before my camera are shutter speed and aperture. In the dark room there is little room for manipulation and processing except for some contrast and minor tinting possibilities.

8x10 field camera

Low-tech, plywood, large format camera

The results are original artworks that record the bare beauty of the subject before me. I need to select the exposures for the most valuable part of the scene – I can only capture what lies before me. There are imperfections but, for me, that adds to the beauty of the piece.

In the black & white capture, above, I  juxtaposed the light levels of the silhouetted underside of the bridge, the bright forest and the small strip of well-exposed shade directly under the far end of the bridge.

I was also clear as this project developed that I wanted the artworks to stand alone – they come straight from the camera. Each capture is unique.

Photos include my personal representation of the watershed I have been following for 15 years.

New Works and Hand Crafted Frames
As I prepare for the upcoming show with Emily Rose Michaud – InterconnectedWatershed – I have chosen to frame the new works with the help of a seasoned cabinetmaker who has been crafting and installing premium furniture and cabinets for 15 years. He has built the frames with the same care that he builds his exquisite furniture. While the frames are all the same and benefit from Mark’s experience, they are all unique pieces that mirror the one-of–a-kind artworks that they protect.

Custom, hand-built frames

Custom, hand-built frames

Vernissage Details
Come to the vernissage as part of Wakefest – Friday, August 19th from 6-8pm – Rutherfords; 753 ch Riverside, Wakefield.
The show runs until September 23rd, 2016.

#1125 InterconnectedWatershed

InterconnectedWatershed is the melding of two water-based art projects that are naturally linked. I have teamed up with Emily Rose Michaud to present our bodies of work on the Gatineau River and Chelsea Creek. The show opens August 19th at Rutherfords’ in Wakefield, Quebec as part of Wakefest.

Emily, a interdisciplinary artist who drew international attention for her Roerich Garden Project is exhibiting her layered cyanotype drawings based on flora and topographical maps from around the Gatineau River watershed.

I’m excited to be collaborating on a project connecting our watershed works – Emily is interested in the Gatineau River and I have been working on a project capturing the Chelsea Creek watershed (which flows into the Gatineau River) for 15 years:

film photography artwork

Some previous Watershed work.

I’ll be exhibiting some new, one-of-a-kind works based on a direct process that allows me to capture the artwork directly onto paper within one of two traditional, low-technology cameras – one I built from plywood.

Home-made large format camera.

Home-made large format camera.

What intrigues me about this process is the challenge to get a close to perfect PHOTO. There is no negative or processing once the lens of the box camera is closed. In traditional film or digitally captured processes, the artwork can be processed in the darkroom or computer to alter the end product. In the process I am using there is no manipulation possible once the lens is closed. The only time for adjusting the final outcome of the artwork occurs when the lens is open and exposing the paper – usually four seconds to 25 minutes.

This artwork is created by placing one (and only) sheet of paper directly in the camera. Only one photograph is created - it's one-of-a-kind.

This artwork is created by placing one (and only) sheet of paper directly in the camera. Only one photograph is created – it’s one-of-a-kind.

The process pushes my limits and wrenches my gut. If I am using a 20 minute exposure the light is fading to dark and there is no chance to try again… In this instance I have one chance to get it “exhibition perfect.”

I am now working with a custom, fine furniture maker to create hand-made frames. Just as each art piece is unique, each of my latest frames is hand crafted. They are works of art themselves.

I’ve been traveling some sections of my local watershed regularly and it’s fascinating to see the creek change so dramatically over the years.

The creek crossing, below, changes every year – a slightly new route, someone “fixes” the wooden bridge, erosion (or humans) take down trees.

Captured on paper directly in a large format camera.

Captured on paper directly in a large format camera.

I’ve explored from Fortune Lake almost to highway 105 – 20km. I have 5km to go to get to the Gatineau River.

The diversity along the watershed also fascinates me. Come to the show and see for yourself:

Bistro Rutherford
753A Riverside Dr, Wakefield, Quebec
Vernissage: Friday, August 19th (6-8pm)
Show runs until September 23rd, 2016.

#1124 Laurentians / Tremblant Photo Safari and Adventure

Early mornings and a deliberate, casual pace marked this week’s photo adventure in the Tremblant area with long-time photo student Margaret.

photo adventure

Tremblant photo safari

I’ve been travelling to the region that many associate solely with the mega ski hill and village run by Intrawest. The ski hill is impressive but the surrounding hills, rivers, forests and lakes are what keep me coming back.

Like the slow food movement, I prefer observing and shooting with purpose rather than the speed of a fast trigger finger. Margaret finished the day with a manageable number of quality photos that made editing easier.

Tremblant photo safari

© Margaret A. – Laurentian’s water – learning about flow

We shot throughout the day. Yes, there are two magic hours per days. J David Andrews once told me “It’s always perfect weather to shoot something.” Likewise, there’s always something to shoot, no matter the time of day.

Tremblant region photo workshop

© Margaret A. –  Early morning calmness – a perfect time to observe and learn.

Days flew by. One day we visited a segment of waterfalls and rapids. We arrived at 11am and after what felt like an hour Margaret approached excitedly “It’s five o’clock!” When you’re excited and engaged time vanishes.

Margaret’s photos improved and her confidence grew. We both smiled, a lot! We spent evenings reviewing concepts, ideas and photos. See some of her work… Well done Margaret!

Laurentians photography adventure

© Maragret A. – We explored possibilities when shooting a scene – motion, composition, depth-of-field.

#1123 Directions

Many of you know that I transitioned from full time photography and teaching workshops to traditional elementary school teaching in the last couple of years – I still teach one-on-one / small group photo workshops and have kept my art practice.

This week I finished teaching Grade 4 for the year.

Teacher

Teaching
Elementary School

The year flew by – full of adventures helping students navigate through academic and life challenges.

I received many cards of thanks – some were really touching:
“I will never, ever forget as (my friend) and I watched you do a cartwheel. You inspired me to reach for our dreams…”

My cartwheels are, erm, terrible but I believe in encouraging students to TRY. The best way I can do this is by example… I’d forgotten about my cartwheels. It’s nice to know they made an impact.  :)

I’m grateful to many people who have supported my path. Thank-you!!

#1122 Watershed Art Project … currently

Watershed started in 2001 more as a fun, muddy adventure with a dog than a photo project.

Fine Art Photography

Near the start of our adventure – 4×5 Black and White straight from the camera.

My dear old dog and I wondered behind our house where the little creek flowed. I put on rubber boots and we followed it upstream to the headwaters of the little creek – a large beaver pond in Gatineau Park. The hour or two adventure took us along the little creek’s path through areas that very few people have ever seen.

Fine Art Photography

Watershed lead me through tunnels, over waterfalls and into an ever changing landscape. The wooden bridge in the background got washed away a couple of years ago.

I came home wet, smiling and curious to see where the creek went. And for a few years I explored the creek further and further. The nameless creek joined Chelsea Creek and wanders under a major highway, through backyards & Gatineau Park. Parts of the creek’s path are well known while other areas are rarely seen.

It dawned on me that the creek offered an amazing art project… to photograph 25km of a watershed through all seasons over many years. The project has art and educational possibilities. So far the photographs have been presented in schools, exhibited in galleries and hang in private collections.

Fine art photography

Watershed in exhibition

I have photographed the creek on panoramic, medium and large film formats. The lightest camera weighs a few hundred grams. The heaviest rig ( 8×10 camera and tripod) weigh almost 25kg.

My current work uses a B&W photo paper mounted directly in the large format cameras. Using an unusual process I can create a single positive image from the paper. The finished product offers no chance to post process in the dark room or computer. It’s a single chance to create one perfect photograph using only a shutter and lens. I love the challenge.

Watershed art project

8×10 large format camera

The headwaters of the creek start at a nameless beaver pond and Fortune Lake near Camp Fortune ski hill in Gatineau Park. The creek eventually falls into the Gatineau River which flows into the Ottawa, St Lawrence Rivers and eventually into the Atlantic ocean.

My goal is to get to the Gatineau River. So far I have covered most of the 25 km of the goal.

Fine Art

Watershed Photography

#1121 Large Format Photography

The more advanced photography becomes the more I find myself chasing simpler technology.

Field Camera

8×10 Home-made plywood camera


High Tech Photography

I admire the tech that’s now available – the potential is amazing if placed in the correct hands. Even in the wrong hands amazing things can happen. That’s good news for many but not so exciting for me.

Large Format Film
Part of what I like about shooting on film is the challenge to create excellence without the support of digital previews and post processing. Technically, a film photo boils down to the correct interpretation of the physics of light using only shutter speed, aperture, recording media and a lens. That’s it.

Field Camera

8×10 Camera Lens – mounted on a wood lens board.

Direct Paper
In the last five years I’ve experimented with shooting directly onto paper loaded into the camera. The paper becomes the unique, final product after simple, traditional processing. There is no recovery for “oops” in the darkroom or computer. There’s no negative, no digital file… just one chance to get it perfect. Click. The big camera and direct process forces me to slow down before I open the shutter.

Art Photography - direct from camera

Sun Streaks captured within my large format cameras.

And that’s what I like. Shooting SunStreaks and my latest Watershed works tests my skills and patience. I can bracket exposure but, at two minutes to eight hours per exposure that gets impractical and expensive.

When I do make mistakes I am discouraged. But when the photos are excellent, straight from the camera, that makes me smile wider than anything I shoot digitally.

My Cameras
I have two large format cameras:
Graflex 4×5 – Mine is very old. It’s so old I found a similar Graflex (below) in a museum. It’s simple. It uses no batteries. I dropped my Graflex in a lake – totally submerged. It still works well after a thorough drying!

Field Camera

Graflex on display at the Canadian Aviation Museum,

Home-Made 8×10 View Camera – I had trouble finding an affordable 8×10 field camera. Someone gently prodded “They’re not hard to build – just a box with a lens…” I spent a summer tinkering with ideas and, with the help of a friend’s added suggestions and precision tools, we built the 8×10 camera out of plywood. I added a Schneider lens and it’s still producing excellent results.

Art Photography

8×10 Camera – Watershed

I use the two cameras predominantly to capture my Sun Streaks and Watershed projects. It’s an enormously slow and challenging process compared to phast photography using current equipment. I like the challenge!

#1120 A winding Path with Grit

It is always nice to look back and reflect on the path traveled.

I’m 47. I’ve worked for about 20 years as a photographer / arts educator. Before that I worked as an outdoor educator with aspirations to become an elementary teacher. I couldn’t get into Teacher’s College in the 90s. But I’ve come back full circle to where I wanted to be.

After disappointments I gave up on traditional teaching and pursued commercial art through stock photography – it was lovely work – one of the most traditionally creative times of my life. I produced commercially viable photographs that were marketed through stock agents. My best sale for one grand use of a photo was ~$32,000 split three ways between two agencies and myself. Alas, the industry crashed (digital cameras and websites caused flooding of the stock photo market.) Time to move on!

Assignment Photography

Stock Photography

Someone suggested I teach photography. I built a broad base of photo workshops – live and online that culminated in opening our own studio / classroom on Preston St, below. Alas, workshop sales dropped off significantly. Why? Who knows, but I think it was tech, again – YouTube offered free learning and smartphones reduced people’s desire for traditional photography. Sigh. I was left scrambling again to re-invent myself.

Photo classes in Ottawa

Photo Workshops at our studio.

A couple of years ago I was very low and a friend inadvertently replanted a seed stored in a drawer of my memory. Teacher’s College… I was accepted, thrived and succeeded. I worked hard and was offered a contract teaching a Grade 4 class until Christmas. It has been extended until June, 2016. I love it.

My photo business has been reborn. Although the new business has shrunk enormously, I am only doing work I love – teaching a few clients and working on two innovative and exciting (to me) art projects.

Cyanotype large format photography

Sunstreaks – tracking the sun’s path across the sky.

It’s been a long road… with many bumps and bruises. But it’s been exciting and I am grateful for where my winding path has taken me.

One of my favourite TED talks rings true as I look back… Angela Lee Duckworth talks about GRIT:

It’s worth a view.
Keep pursuing your passions.

#1119 – 2015 Christmas Photo Sale

I’ve had a great year.
I have many people to thank who helped…
Details about my “thank-you” photo sale are below.

Teaching
I took a leap of faith and went back to school in 2014 to become licensed as a traditional elementary teacher. Teaching has always been part of what I do. I graduated Magna Cum Laude from UOttawa and started supply teaching right away in West Quebec.

elementary school teacher

A “very stern(!)” Mr. Nowell in grade 4.

In August, I was offered a four month replacement contract at our local elementary school. I bring different personas to the classroom: “stern teacher,” voyageur, inspector, newspaper reporter, pirate and others to liven up the teaching. I’m happy to say my contract has been extended until the end of June. I am grateful to those that supported my passion and always-growing skills as a teacher. Thank-you! I love it!

Photography

Watershed one-of-a-kind art photography

Watershed one-of-a-kind art photography

Christmas Photo Sale
My Watershed collection of artwork continues to develop. I continue to shoot and explore 25km of our local watershed in Gatineau Park and Chelsea. I am capturring a creek from Camp Fortune to the Gatineau River with my large format cameras and a process that allows me to create positive prints straight from the camera. The photo paper is loaded directly in the camera… the end result is a one-of-a-kind photograph.

Large Format Camera capturing the sunrise

Large Format Camera capturing a sunstroke (see Sunstreak link below)  at St. Stephen’s Church – a SunStreak original.

As a thank-you to all that have supported my vision and passions I am offering 10% off available photos with an additional 10% going to the Ottawa RiverkeeperContact me to see some Watershed or other work. There are traditional photos from years of shooting music, Sunstreaks, and Watershed. There’s a wide range of prices from $20 for posters to $thousands for large, limited run photographs.

The sale lasts until January 3rd, 2016. Viewings are by appointment only in Old Chelsea, Quebec.

Watershed art work

Watershed art work – a 4×5, one-of-a-kind photograph from the Watershed Collection.

Our Photo Studio
Our Ottawa studio on Preston St. is now the home of Style Zone - a boutique of men’s fashion. Teaching photography will be offered more in the summer is available as time permits.

 

#1118 Grateful in Grade 4

I feel fortunate and am grateful.

Word Wall - Grade 4

Word Wall – Grade 4

Towards the end of August I got a call from a principal at an elementary school offering me a replacement contract to cover a Grade 4 class while the permanent teacher recovers from knee replacement surgery. I said “Yes.”

Helping elementary students develop and learn made me happy I changed career gears.

Special Guests
I bring “special guests” to the class to help teach Social Studies, Math, Language Arts. Chief Inspector George, Jacques Noir and a caped superhero, among others have all replaced me to illustrate a concept we are learning.

education Ottawa

Chief Inspector George visited our class looking for the missing 5 Ws.

These characters always bring the students to life and make the learning more fun. The students seem to suspect the guests are me in disguise.

Preposterous.

#1117 Fall Photo Custom Course

Last weekend I spent some time with a long-time photo student exploring fall in Gatineau Park in a Custom Photo Course. I enjoy seeing the creative progress of students who invest in their skills. Margaret has done well!

Custom Photo Course

© Maragret A. – Early morning Gatineau Park.

We started early and explored a small part of the park along the escarpment. By the end of the morning she had a handful of stunning photos: “Move slowly and make each photo count!”

Ottawa Custom Photo Course

© Margaret A. – Maple Sapplings; Gatineau Park.

Margaret shared the photos above and note, below:

I loved yesterday’s outing… I really appreciate the thought you put into what I was to learn and work on.  All of the exercises were very relevant for me at this particular time so I know I’ll be applying the learnings as I move forward in the next few weeks.

Read Margaret’s blog for more of her photo adventures.
Well done Margaret!