Friday, September 11, 2015

Artist Spotlight: Photographer Don Pettit

Photographer Don Pettit got his start through science. Though his father's landscape painting instilled a love of nature and composition from a young age, it was in his high school darkroom that Pettit began to apply this ingrained appreciation. A kindly physics teacher taught him and his friends how to shoot and develop black-and-white film, and this chemistry kick-start was the beginning of the end for Pettit – he was hooked.

After high school, he got a job as assistant to a commercial photographer in Toronto, and eventually began working freelance. Through years of self-guided study, experience, and experiments of which his high school physics teacher would no doubt be proud, Pettit built his career doing what he loved: photographing nature.

Image owned and provided by D. Pettit

After those initial sessions with his former teacher, Pettit found inspiration in the work of photographers like Ansel Adams (1902-1984) whose work pushed Pettit to explore the Zone System of ideal film exposure and development on the journey to perfect his darkroom-developed images.

The darkroom experience of watching those sheets of blank paper become gradient-rich black and white images was a big part of his life and job, but digital elbowed its way in, eventually. Though Pettit is a faithful digital convert today – he enjoys a Canon 5D Mark II camera with a shallow depth of field, zoom lens, and has begun dabbling in HDR - he still misses that unique interaction with contact sheets, chemical beakers, and enlargers.

Over the years, Pettit has taken it upon himself to embrace and disperse nature's beauty for the enjoyment of every person. Driven by that concern many of us share, about the future of the natural world, he strives with every image to awaken a sense of awareness and an urge to protect and preserve our non-urban habitats before they are edged out by encroaching cityscapes.

Image owned and provided by D. Pettit
These days, Pettit snaps and shoots primarily in Northeastern British Columbia, where he captures the diversity of the region, from its craggy Rocky Mountains to the grassy prairies just over the Alberta border, topped here by crystal blue skies, and there by the awe-inspiring Aurora Borealis. Sightings of moose, bear, deer and other wildlife make each season its own brilliant array of colour and life. “You must totally leave your regular world, for at least a few hours, to discover a new one,” he says.

In addition to his own, personal projects, Pettit spends his time creating large-scale canvas prints for local interior design clients. He continues to be inspired by the greats gone before; he advises aspiring photographers to explore the work and words of the established artists they respect. That, in combination with some basic photography classes, a solid grasp of manual camera settings, and a good tripod, is a surefire way to get started on the path of photographic happiness and success.

Image owned and provided by D. Pettit

To Pettit, any time is a good time to capture a beautiful, bucolic scene, be it midday, midnight, or that elusive Golden Hour just after the sun rises and just before it sets. He encourages fellow nature photographers to get lost in the moment when shooting outdoors. His recommendation: “Consider nature photography to be a visual meditation that breaks through the mind set of human civilization and allows you to sink into and communicate with the immediate and present natural world.” If you get out of the bustle of urban life, just be still and watch, “you will be amazed at what you see and find to photograph.”

Image owned and provided by D. Pettit

Interested in hanging some of Don Pettit's work on your own walls? Get in touch by calling 250-782-6068, or shooting (pun intended) him an email:

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