#1134 Upcoming Watershed Events

Follow the Chelsea Creek Watershed with two events this summer. I have explored 20 km of the watershed over the last 16 years. I’ll be sharing some of my experiences at three events:

1. An Adult Forest School evening to explore the Chelsea Creek Watershed and…
2. An Ottawa School of Art photo workshop based on the art of “Watershed.
3. Watershed Art Exhibition – details to come…

Chelsea Creek watershed

Chelsea Creek watershed

1. Adult Forest School Along the Watershed.
Join us the evening of June 15th for a Forest School inspired play date – just for adults.
As a Forest School teacher I’ll lead you on an exploration of a small part of the Chelsea Creek watershed.

Meet at 7pm at Dunlop Picnic Field across from P9 in Gatineau Park.

By starting our adventure at Dunlop we will see three significantly different parts of the watershed. Be prepared for some hiking as we travel up hills and across flat terrain. We will stop to investigate interesting elements of the watershed.

June 15th; 7pm – 8pm.
Dunlop Picnic Field across from P9 (Meech Lake Rd.) in Gatineau Park.
Cost – Suggested donation $10.
Registration – send me a message – or connect on Facebook – and show up!

Please bring:
• Curiosity and smiles.
• Sturdy, comfortable footwear.
• Lightweight, long sleeve and long pants – ideally a nylon or quick drying variety. Think of gardening clothes. You may come back a little muddier than you started…
• Bug repellent –a citronella based product is effective.
• Water and (nut free) snack.

Chelsea Creek Watershed

Chelsea Creek Watershed

Watershed Photography Adventure and Workshop
Bring your cameras as we will be expanding creativity alongside the Chelsea Creek watershed, a 16 year art project starting in Harry’s backyard. Slowly, “Watershed” has grown into a travelling and expanding exhibition.

Harry Nowell leads this photo/art adventure following in the footsteps of his “Watershed” project following Chelsea Creek through Gatineau Park and Chelsea. On the first evening Harry will briefly discuss his long-term project including inspiration, process, and equipment.

Discussions will include:
• Technical and creative challenges.

We may also discuss:
• Art project development – what it takes to create a body of work.
• Equipment choices and demonstration of large format equipment.
• Opportunities /challenges of traditional, digital, analog and unusual formats.

Practical challenges:
Harry will introduce students to different areas of the Watershed project and guide participants to stretch their artistic practice, whether artistically or technically.

Harry will offer critique to the participants on an ongoing basis. Digital cameras will offer the most immediate feedback but other formats are encouraged. Participants may email a small selection of photos for critique after the workshop.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday, August 11, 12, 13
Cost: $300
Register through Ottawa School of Art – scroll down to “S17DAA7:  Creating Photo Artwork on the Watershed”

Prior to formal teaching Harry worked as a commercial photographer and arts teacher for 20 years. He has explored 20km of the Chelsea Creek watershed over 16 years. His photo project “Watershed” currently captures photos on a 22 kg, home-made, plywood camera.


Large Format Photography – Chelsea Creek Watershed

See you soon!
Another exhibition of Watershed artwork is coming up towards the end of June…

#1132 Watershed and SunStreaks Exhibition at Chrichton St. Gallery

Join us on April 7th to celebrate watersheds everywhere with a vernissage of original photographs captured along the Chelsea Creek watershed. Following the Chelsea Creek watershed for 16 years (and over 20 kilometres) I have seen abandoned cars, dramatic changes and solitary beauty.

The whole Watershed project started near this little bridge… The creek runs behind our home and, in 2001, I wondered “Where does the little creek go?” 20 km later I am still following Chelsea Creek with my cameras…

large format photography

The creek in Chelsea, Quebec that infected me with curiosity for the Watershed project.

Also on exhibit are innovative SunStreaks. Using an old blueprint chemistry I capture the path of the sun directly onto paper mounted inside  a plywood camera.


SunStreak – Meech Lake, Quebec. The sun’s path burns a line across the sky (and through the paper!)

Current work for both projects is captured in two cameras – a commercially manufactured 4×5 camera and a home-made, fully functioning 8×10 plywood camera.

Recent frames are also hand made by fine furniture builder, Mark Kittridge.

hand made large format camera

The 8×10 home made camera with SunStreaks. The camera and tripod weigh 50 pounds.

No negative or digital file is created while capturing the artworks. In both projects the final paper was placed directly in the camera. Through many attempts and mistakes I honed the process to create consistent works. Part of my attraction to the processes comes from the fact that, unlike traditional photography, there is just one finished product. While I could, technically, create two photographs at the scene, each would be unique.

Join us for the Vernissage:
April 7th; 5-8pm.
Crichton St. Gallery
299 Crichton St.,

Support  Ottawa Riverkeeper  through the show!
A percentage of sales will be donated to the Riverkeeper as well as a donation from the Crichton Street Gallery. You may donate to the Ottawa Riverkeeper and learn about the good work they do at the Vernissage.

The show runs until April 29th.
Thanks to supporters of “Watershed.” I just sent Ottawa Riverkeeper over $150 as proceeds from sales of Watershed artworks at this show. Your purchases help support the good work the Riverkeeper does.


#1130 Forest School

Learner Led Learning

Forests – amazing classroom potential

It seems wherever we go in life we keep circling back to similar themes. I started teaching in the outdoors with Outward Bound in the mid 1990s and am returning to a taste of different outdoor teaching with Chelsea Forest School. The path to now has been an interesting one as my teaching philosophy continues to develop…

At school I excelled within the arts – physics and engineering were far from my core interests… until I needed them for an arts-based application.

About four years ago I wanted to buy a very large format camera to pursue a new part of my Watershed project. The negative from this camera is eight inches by ten inches. It’s a big camera. It wasn’t long before I realized the easiest way to acquire one (they’re expensive and scarce) was to build one myself. All of a sudden, I had a new passion for the physics of light applicable to designing and building a camera…. It made learning easy.

large format camera

Learning math and science through art…

This experience helped shape my philosophy of education.

During Teacher’s College I discovered  Forest School. I started learning about Forest School’s Learner Led Learning philosophy and fell in love with the idea. Why? At Forest School students are the driving force in their learning. Their teachers’ role is to build the curriculum around the students’ interests. Learners learn because they direct the learning… I wangled a way to visit a Forest School as part of my practicum and enjoyed what I saw.

Last year I had a great year. I led a traditional, but active, classroom. For me that meant as little sitting at desks as possible, more spirited debates, less worksheets, more hands-on learning. It wasn’t Forest School but I brought influences from many philosophies to the classroom.

Grade 4 classroom

Traditional Classroom Teaching

I saw the benefits of an active class. One of my students last year had had a tough year the year before. Initially he didn’t want to go to school. By the end of the year all that changed. I received a letter from his home that described the boy as thriving – his desire to skip school had vanished. Active learning has its benefits. Stories like this made me smile (more.)

This year I’m exploring my passions in teaching and enjoying some different contracts / opportunities…

I feel fortunate to be working a contract at Chelsea Forest School. The Learner Led Learning model is central to the teaching at the school. My job is to provide an environment that supports their interests and to build the curriculum around their passions. We spend almost all the time outside, in or near a forest.

child led learning

Chelsea Forest School learning

As a teacher it’s challenging – we need to support environments conducive to learning and be a catalyst as children discover and become engrossed in animal tracks, snow sculptures, bugs, imaginary space ships.

As a teacher it’s also lovely – watching students discovering, wandering, counting, building. I’ve never had to urge a Forest School student to get on with their work. Ever. Children always find something interesting and their work becomes play. And they learn!

… My 8×10 plywood camera still works well. It was designed and built with the zeal of true  intrigue – the essence of positive learning. That’s what learning looks like for me.

Home-made large format camera.

Home-made large format camera.

#1128 – Recent Photo Teaching!

I changed directions a few years ago – more toward traditional teaching but I still get requests to teach one-on-one or small photo classes.

This fall I taught my most popular classes to individuals who came knocking. I spent a half day with each person covering Creative Fundamentals and Natural Light Portraits.


Portrait photography course © Chris Payant.

Creative Fundamentals began inside a beautiful building and we ventured outside to explore some of central Ottawa’s visual appeal.

For Natural Light Portraits Chris practiced on the teacher preparing for an actor to come and “model” for her camera.

portrait photo class

Portraits © Chris Payant

I cannot thank you enough for the session yesterday.  I learned so much and I had fun! You certainly know how to challenge me just enough and you are a gifted teacher. I sent some sneak peaks to [the model] and she is thrilled!

Smiles all around!
A big thanks to everyone for the fun!

#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.

#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.

#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!

#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!