#1126 Imperfection – Manufactured or Natural Beauty

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, 2016 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.


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!!

#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.

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!


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.


#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!

#1116 Free Online Photo Program

A while ago I started our Online Photo Program. Every month we offered a new challenge with support and critique. Members loved it…
We’re looking for more members for the new, free format!

Online photo challenge

© Sara Hendrix

With some changes in direction over the last couple of years, (read past blog posts ) I’ve turned the program into a small, community managed, friendly, free, monthly photo challenge based on a private group on Facebook’s platform.

Online photo program

Online Photo Program
Portrait and Photojournalism Challenges – “Cooling off on a hot day behind the arena…”

Senior members of the group take turns developing the monthly challenge and posting links and information pertaining to the month’s photo adventure. Members offer real critique and questions that guide the discussions. I offer support, critique and tips to the group.

The group wants more members! We’re looking to attract supportive photo people of all levels willing to participate, contribute and support the community as we all try to interpret the month’s challenges. It’s not a competition. And members are looking for genuine feedback rather than praise.

Online photo challenge

Night Time Shooting
© Christine Payant

What members have said:
• ” I really enjoy the positive and constructive feedback. I know when posting that those who participate are likely just like me, wanting to learn and grow. The group has typically been diverse, with people of varying levels of experience which has been great to push me to try different things. I realize that I have some ¨Harryisms¨ that come to mind: ¨get closer¨, ¨what are you exposing for?¨, ¨triangles¨, etc.

Motion in Landscapes © Al Garner

Motion in Landscapes
© Al Garner

• “The program challenges me to get out there and photograph improving my skills as a photographer. It provides some focus. Without it, I would probably not photograph as much and I would not learn and grow as a photographer. It has helped me tremendously and gets me out there shooting and enjoying life!

Landscapes and Sunsets © Maisie Ismail

Landscapes and Sunsets © Maisie Ismail

• “… having the close group to help out and provide critique in a “safe” environment really makes a difference. It helps get over the shyness of… ‘maybe this is not good enough to post.’ What a great group to belong to and get great feedback! Thanks Harry and everyone!

To join the group you need to request to join the group and befriend me on Facebook so I can add you to the Facebook group.

Hope to see you on the other side!

#1115 Photo Studio Transforms into the “Little Big Learning Centre” – Montessori Influenced Home Schooling Centre

The photo studio that many of you know and visited over the last half decade has a new direction.

… We are excited to welcome Amy of the Little Big Learning Centre into the classroom we developed in 2010 to support my photo and arts workshops. Amy started Little Big in 2014. It blossomed so quickly that she needed a bigger space in Ottawa for her Little Big Learners to develop.

Montessori inspired, home school friendly learning space

Amy of The Little Big Learning Centre!

How did the learning centre take off? Amy drew on the influences of Maria MontessoriHoward Gardner, the Reggio Emilia approach and outdoor and experiential education.

The students blossomed and word spread… all the way to their new learning centre at 160 Preston St.

I asked Amy what inspired her to open “Little Big.” Her answer was three-fold:
• “I had a good public school experience due to my small cottage town. I grew up in Apsley, Ont. and our school had only 5 teachers. There was lots of one-on-one time, small classes, enriched learning. It was a great way to learn.

Kindergarten to Grade 4 alternatives to school in Ottawa Gatineau Chelsea

One of the smaller learning areas of the Little Big Learning Centre

• “I earned my Bachelor of Education and was shocked. There were so many kids in a class. There was too much going on. Kids were falling through cracks. Everything was so tied to the curriculum in the wrong way and geared towards practice tests for EQAO (standardized testing). I wanted to give younger students a voice – school is not just book learning.

• ” ‘Hmmm,’ I thought aloud to my husband. ‘What if we opened our own learning centre?’  And I started looking for like-minded teachers, parents, students. I wanted to be creative with teaching so that all students could fit…”There is currently only one other learning centre like Amy’s in Ottawa based out of Barrhaven.

Curious to see and hear more?
Amy is opening the doors of her Little Big Learning Centre to welcome curious minds soon. An open house is in the plans. Stay tuned…

Visit their Facebook page, too!

Ottawa Montessori inspired learning centre

New Learning Centre for students aged 4-10. 

#1114 Summer Photo Adventures

Summer started well for groups of photo students who recently enjoyed Custom Photo Courses. We’ve been taking people out to extend their photo limits using their existing equipment.

We’re also preparing a Laurentians Photo Adventure for early summer 2016, below, for people wishing to challenge and explore their skills behind the camera.

Custom Photo Courses
Join us for individual attention or as a small group for our custom courses. We’ve been offering custom courses for many years. Read a recent review.

Photography Lessons

Custom Photo Course
Chelsea, Gatineau Park

Locations include central Ottawa, Gatineau Park. We use other locations, too.

Our most common course is a four hour, individual session for $350.
A two person, four hour session is $550 (or $275 each).

Material covered depends on your needs.
We’ve covered:
• beginner basics
• portraits
• advanced creativity

Contact us to book your summer photo adventure.

Photo course Gatineau

© Christine P.
Heritage cemetery.

2016 Laurentians Photo Adventure
Join us on a relaxing but immersive photography learning session next summer.

We combine a tranquil and comfortable base in the Laurentians bordered by a bike / walking path and the Rouge River.

Early July, 2106

night photography course

Night time Teepee Photography Laurentians Photo Adventure

We’ll be choosing from locations to best suit the weather and the group. Shooting locations and subjects could include:
• Tremblant Village
• Horses
• Gardens
• Rivers and Waterfalls
• Night time Teepee shooting
• Parc national du Mont Tremblant

Throughout the day you can expect:
• early morning shoots
• evening photography
• critique sessions
• time for relaxing & meals

Tremblant Photography Safari

Laurentians Photo Adventure

More important than the locations will be the support and creative stimulation you’ll receive on the adventure.

We are teaming up with a quiet Bed & Breakfast close to the action of Tremblant but a universe away. Our hosts provide a limited number of gorgeous B& B accommodations and attractive camping. You may choose your own accommodation when registering for the Laurentian Photo Adventure.

My family has stayed with them many times and explored the area for years.

Laurentians photo safari

Our hosts’ patio for post shooting relaxation and editing!

Breakfast is available at our base B&B. We will take care advantage of local restaurants and available eateries for lunches, snacks and dinners. Mid-day meals may include packed picnic lunches.

We will be traveling short distances – up to 30km to different photo sites. Most people will travel by personal vehicle or share driving with other participants. No transportation is included in the cost of the Laurentians Photo Adventure

garden photography

Our hosts’ gardens in the Laurentians

Costs include:
• photography instruction fee – early bird rate of $500 for 2 days on the adventure.
• accommodation for two nights. 2015 rates range  from camping @ $14/person/night or lovely B&B rooms from $99/night (single occ. Lover’s Loft) to $154/night (double occ. Garden Retreat); Other rates exist for different rooms.
• meals
• transportation
•extras that you wish to undertake

Photo Adventure spots and accommodation are limited as this is our hosts busiest time of year. Please contact us for more information and booking your adventure.

#1113 Rent our Preston St Studio!

Thanks for all your support. We had good interest in our Preston St. commercial space. We feel lucky to welcome Amy of the Little Big Learning Centre to our space. It’s a good match – we developed the space as a classroom for our photo workshop and it will soon be used as a learning centre. Check “Little Big” on their Facebook page, too!

If you read this blog regularly you’ll know I started supply teaching in elementary schools this spring and will continue a small photography service.

As a result we’re looking for your help to find a commercial tenant for our studio on Preston St. Know someone looking for commercial space? Let us know. We’re even offering a finder’s fee to land a solid tenant.

Ottawa downtown office space for rent

Preston St. Commercial Space for Rent

Location = Ottawa Studio Works; 160 Preston St, between Gladstone and Somerset.
Development in the area continues to bring new residents and intensified main street commerce.

Space Description
680 sq ft main floor plus access to basement space.
Possible uses:
• office space
• boutique retail
• studio
• health outlet (physio, chiro, yoga, doctor…)
• promotional sales centre
• gallery
• artist’s co-operative.
We’re open to creative tenancies – like a shared tenancy with three complimentary people or businesses sharing the space.

Commercial office space Ottawa

Office space at the studio

• Studio – 11×24 showroom / studio / classroom / gallery / boardroom. Gallery lighting illuminates the studio.
• 3 x supportive creative / office spaces; 7×10, 10×10 and 14×14 (unfinished basement creative space)
• Kitchen / bathroom.
• No car parking is currently available.
• A small backyard garden/patio allows you to relax.

Studio for rent Ottawa

Main studio space

Rent = $1450 + utilities per month.
Rent is below market value. Similar rental units on Bank St and the Byword Market can be double our cost or more. This is a chance to get into a growing commercial strip at an affordable time.

If you or someone you know could benefit, we’ll arrange a showing. We are offering a finder’s fee to anyone who helps facilitate a solid tenant. Contact.

Artist studio for rent

Events at the studio