Nature Photography Has Been Made Into An Art Form

by Bill Rea
King Sentinel April 21, 2010

Garry Conway sits by his computer. The screen shows gannets he photographed at Gaspé. The best of King’s artistic creativity is going to be on display the weekend of May 1 and 2 with the annual Studio Tour King.

“King is one of the fastest growing regions in Ontario, in terms of the number of artists coming in,” observed Laskay resident Garry Conway. He added the artistic communities in other places of York are envious of King’s artist contingent, both in terms of numbers and calibre, “which is pretty neat to hear.”
Conway’s medium is photography, and specifically nature photography. He said he first became interested as a student at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, and was reintroduced to it about 12 years ago, when he moved to King and found “all these absolutely incredible places.”  The wide variety of vistas has been a major attraction for him. He helps take care of some of the local tracks for the Oak Ridges Trail Association, and he said there is one area in the Happy Valley that he believes has more trilliums per square kilometre than any other place on the moraine.

“Any time I go into the woods, for me it becomes like visual candy,” he added.

He added the variety available in nature sometimes complicates the task of picking something out, while other scenes can be passed by several times before their visual value is really noticed.
“Photographs are a language,” Conway explained. “As we learn about the language and the images, the more there is to learn. It just spirals on and on.”
Conway uses digital photography. “I changed quite a while ago.”

The advent of digital has been a positive development. He said it’s a benefit in terms of conservation and deciding if there’s enough film available. “I can shoot many, many variations of the same thing,” he said.

As well, he said the digital technology has advanced to where the quality is better than that of film, although that’s only been in the last couple of years.
Photography as an art form has been gaining popularity over the last several years. Conway said he’s learned to pay more attention when he goes to movies, noting that most sets in house interiors have pictures on the walls, as opposed to other types of art.

“They’re looking at photographs as the art form,” he observed.

Some art forms can be a little more dangerous than others, although there are times when a calculated risk is in order. Conway recalled there was one occasion when he came upon four baby skunks on the edged of the Oak Ridges Trail.

“I took a chance and got right close to them,” he said, adding he had just read that skunks aren’t able to spray anything until they are about four weeks old. He said they did try. “I ran, but I couldn’t have been fast enough if they could have done it,” he recalled.

Research came in handy on that occasion, as it has at other times when Conway has been working on his craft.

“I spend a lot of time reading nature books and looking up Websites when I can,” Conway said.

Although he has found a richness of subject matter to photograph close to home, Conway said he has never been able to get a good picture of a deer close to this area, suggesting they tend to be more cautious this far south because there are so many people. It’s a different story farther north, where their habitat is not disturbed as much. He said he has taken lots of great shots of deer around Haliburton and Bancroft.

Conway also said when he sees wildlife, such as deer, that he wants to photograph, he starts taking pictures right away, before trying to get close. “They become accustom very quickly,” he said, adding it’s the sudden sounds of the camera up close that tends to frighten them. “There’s a fair amount of strategizing, in terms of how to get them.”

He also said beavers can be fun to photograph. He added the best time of year to get them in March, when lakes and rivers have started to thaw, and they don’t mind having people around as they nibble on a branch. For some reason, they are much more timid in June.

Studio Tour King will feature more than 25 artists showing their work in 17 different locations. conway’s creations will be on display at Laskay Hall on Weston Road, along with the ceramic works of Beverly Berger and Christine Paige.

The tour will run from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. both days, and admission is free.