Toronto, ON, Canada
I work from home so, I’m somewhat flexible. However, I am busy so, the best for me would be to set up appointment times as needed on a case by case basis.
Type of Mentoring Provided
As a mentor on the NPN site, I am not in a position to offer tutorials on photography. What I can do is help beginners and people new to this site by offering a level of orientation and support that will give you the confidence to put your work in front of others and receive the benefit of their feedback as well as help you to find the confidence to offer critiques and feedback to others in return. One of the most important learning tools for any photographer, beginner or advanced, comes through the art of critiquing. Whether we like or don’t like a particular image is largely unimportant. We want to know the extent to which we are affected by an image and why. Learning about critiquing is an important component of what this site has to offer and differentiates it from many other places where we can post images. Equally, learning from the masters makes sense. We want to be able to look at images that move us and be able to understand why we are affected by them. Looking at the works of the masters, not to copy what they have done but to understand their process of fulfilling their vision and giving it voice, is another important way to hone one’s skill and develop as an artist. I can help beginners by pointing them to photographers worth their attention and who can serve to inspire. As for technical support, while I am not prepared to walk beginners through the “how-tos “of photo processing, I can make suggestions of techniques they might try to improve their images as well as point them to teaching tutorials they might check out to learn them. I am not a “gearhead” and don’t care to spend a great deal of time debating the merits of this brand over that. But I can help beginners in terms of helping them to ask the right questions and make choices that will make sense for their own particular needs.
In 2005, at age 54, I had my second hip replacement. My wife and I were passionate canoe and backcountry paddlers in our younger years, but because of my hips, we were never able to do that together in all our years together. But a year after the surgery, I could comfortably sit in a canoe again, and we began a new journey together. We did shorter two-week paddling excursions for four years to get back in the groove and recover our backcountry chops. In 2010 we took the month of August and made our first month-long canoe trip. We have been doing that every August since finding more and more remote places to paddle in Northwestern Ontario and Northeastern Manitoba. These are places where we were likely to spend a month on the water without ever seeing another human being. It was heaven, a time when we could devote ourselves to deep contemplation and connection – with ourselves, each other, and the natural world. However, it wasn’t until 2016 that I realized I needed to share this experience. That year I bought my first camera. I studied photography briefly in my late teens while attending Architecture school. Still, early in my twenties and well into my late thirties, I was an itinerant traveler and found having a camera became too much of a hassle. So, in my early twenties, I sold my camera and never picked one up again until I bought my Fujifilm XT-1 some forty-five years later. For me, photography is a form of mindfulness meditation. When I am out with my camera, I am at my best. I have become more mindful of who I am in my relationships, especially with the natural world. For me, photography is about seeing and engaging the world. The product, the picture, is secondary to giving voice to that experience of deep relationship and connection.
While making photographs of the natural world, especially the remote, wild places that my wife and I frequent every summer, is a pursuit that gives me a great sense of connection and fulfillment, I am also aware of how much I enjoy other forms besides landscape photography. For example, I love and get great satisfaction from street photography although I don’t make enough time for it. But even within the realm of landscape photography, I discovered early on that simply making pretty pictures was not particularly fulfilling for me. In recent years I have become more and more interested in increasingly intimate subjects some of which border on abstracts. My great desire both in my life and in my approach to photography, is to get under the surface of things, to peel back the layers of the onion, as it were, so as to get closer to the essence, the soul of whatever I am engaging through my camera’s eye. I find this approach to be very challenging – there is a lot of “failure” – but it is rewarding and eminately fulfilling. Again, I try to keep my attention on the process of engaging my relationship with the world rather than getting caught up in the product. I think the most meaningless question a photographer or any artist for that matter, can ask about their work is, “Is it any good”? It’s the wrong question. Good compared to what? F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “There are some writers that have something to say , and there are some writers who have to say something”. As photographers we need to value our own experience and come to understand that we each have something of unique value to offer and that our responsibility is to bring that into the world. That’s what it means to find our voice. It isn’t about style. Rather, it is a process that is ever-unfolding – an open dialogue between our self and the world. And while we can never fully achieve it, the commitment to its discovery and expression is what gives meaning to our life as we live it.
In a past life, I designed and built furniture. There is something about the technical aspect of craft that has always attracted me. Maybe it is because it was my long-held belief that it could be mastered – the techniques, not the craft. When I got my first digital camera, the first thing I wanted to do was master technique. I spent hour upon hour studying my camera and practicing post-processing techniques, first using Lightroom and then expanding with Photoshop and the various generations of Tony Kuyper’s TK luminosity panels. But in the end, as one of my photography mentors, David duChemin, aptly put it, “Technique is good, but vision is better.” Still, there is a great deal to be said for solid technical skill – in the ease we feel operating our camera, knowing our lenses, and understanding how to choose them according to our vision for the image, and all that is possible in terms of post-processing – these are technical skills that make a difference and need to become second nature if we want to be artists making art. That being said, technical skill is like having a full toolbox, with the understanding that knowing how to use a tool is not the same as why you might choose to use it in the first place.
Processing Software Used
Lightroom, Photoshop, TK8 panel