CULTIVATING CREATIVITY: Reflections on a lifetime behind the camera

For our fall issue of Umbrella magazine, the Quinte Arts Council shared a profile of Mike Gaudaur, a local photographer and owner of Quinte Studios. Here are his reflections on a lifetime behind the camera:

“My addiction to photography started back in high school the day I discovered that there was a darkroom tucked away behind the chemistry classroom. I quickly racked up quite a bill for all the film and paper I was using. However, I soon learned that I could pay that off, and have enough left over to buy my lunch, by selling sports action shots to the varsity athletes. That eventually led to shooting sports and human-interest stories for the Trentonian newspaper, and a part-time job as their darkroom technician.

Throughout college and my first 10 years of teaching junior high school I began shooting weddings, portraits, live theatre, and even aerial photography.

In 1998, an opportunity came up to teach at an international mission school in Kenya. With my wife and two young kids, we headed off to Africa. What was intended to be a two-year adventure turned into a 15-year experience. It wasn’t long before I was running the Graphic Arts department for the school, teaching photography and graphic design, and eventually transitioning the program from film to digital.

Being located midway between a half dozen of Africa’s premiere game parks afforded me the incredible opportunity to go on over 70 photo safaris, often leading groups of photographers, and other times exploring all by myself. There is nothing quite like the tranquility of sitting beside a herd of grazing elephants on the African savannah, where the loudest sound is the ripping of grass and the clicking of my shutter. There were also some really exhilarating moments such as driving my Land Rover through swollen rivers or following lions on a hunt.

Moving back to Canada in 2013 allowed me to realize my life-long dream of opening my own photography studio. I love the varied challenges my clients bring me, whether it is making technical photographs of a 100-foot dinosaur for the Smithsonian, or trying to get a two-year-old to smile for a family portrait. One of the most difficult tasks I face on a regular basis is producing printed reproductions of paintings and drawings for artists. They are usually very particular in that every tone and hue is just right.

Many photographers believe that once an image is captured with their camera their job is done. I am a firm believer that the darkroom, whether chemical or digital, is where the real magic occurs. I love being able to take the RAW pixel data captured by my pro DSLR cameras, my pocket-sized point-and-shoot camera, or even my iPhone, and bring all the power of modern technology to bear in order to produce an image that causes viewers to pause for a moment and explore my photographs. I believe that “the world is charged with the grandeur of God” and my job as a photographer is to get people to stop and notice it.”

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