Common focus

Photographers gather in guild to share interest, knowledge

Posted: Sunday, January 16, 2005


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  "Tracy" by Clayton Hillhouse is one of several portraits on display in the show. Clayton Hillhouse

Members of the Kenai Peninsula Photographers Guild discuss digital cameras during a recent meeting in Kenai. The group meets once a month to share ideas, techniques and images.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

More often than not, visual artists are seen as loners, traipsing off all by themselves to some remote location to study nature and capture images that are then brought back to a lonely studio where works of art are created.

Painters, sculptors and photographers often demand such solitude so as not to be influenced by the opinions, prejudices or criticism of others.

The resultant creative artwork can honestly be called one's own.

Why, then, would a number of Kenai Peninsula photographers come together to form a guild?

"Pat Dixon and I were out on the Kenai River flats one day taking pictures when the snow geese were in," said Greg Daniels, recently elected president of the Kenai Peninsula Photographers Guild.

Dixon, at the time, was a photography instructor at Kenai Central High School, and he and Daniels got to gabbing about organizing a camera club.

The two decided to advertise by word of mouth and found about a dozen photo enthusiasts eager to join a club. That was more than a decade ago.


Greg Daniels enjoys photographing Alaska's natural scenes. A founding member of the guild, he has made the transition from film to digital.

Greg Daniels

Daniels recalls one woman who came to the club's first three meetings before anyone realized she did not even own a camera.

"She was just interested in seeing other people's work," Daniels said.

Marianne Clark, a member of the guild for the past five or six years, enjoys the benefit membership provides of alerting one another when something especially interesting is occurring out in the wild.

"If someone sees something of interest, we send e-mails to each other so we can go see," Clark said.

"I remember a couple of years ago when a lynx was spotted feeding on a carcass near Skilak Loop Road. I got an e-mail and headed out there.

"I didn't get any good pictures, but I did get to see the lynx feeding.

"Having somewhat of a biology background, I found it very interesting," she said.


Clayton Hillhouse and Traci Knutson work last week to hang the guild's annual show at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

On another occasion, near the same spot, Clark noticed movement off the side of the road and found a lynx with a little kitten.

"They played right in front of me for about a half hour," she said.

"I got some great pictures and video."

In addition to sharing nature alerts with one another, Clark said she also enjoys being able to share her work with other members and talk with them about her photography hobby.

The full-time animal control officer for the city of Soldotna, Clark has been taking pictures since she got her first camera as a little girl about 35 years ago.


This view caught William Heath's eye as he looked out the window of a hotel room in Resurrection Bay last October.

William Heath

"I got into 35 mm photography when I was working with the Florida Department of Fish and Game," she said.

"I would go out and find things in the field and come back and report about them in the office.

"Many wouldn't believe what I said I saw, so I started documenting the wildlife," she said.

Today she shoots between 200 and 300 rolls of film a year.

Clark also finds the guild members to be "a great group of people" who have shared interests and are willing to teach her about the art.

The members eagerly share the pros and cons of the multitude of choices in photographic equipment constantly coming onto the market.

Another pioneer member of the peninsula guild, Bill Heath is keenly aware of the changing picture in photography.


Guild members photograph from the bow of a chartered boat during a field trip several years ago.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

Heath was shooting with a Minolta 570 camera and an assortment of four lenses, and using exclusively Koda-chrome 64 slide film when he joined the group.

"It's all changing. Now half of us are digital," Heath said.

When he first learned of the budding photographers guild, he had been running a small, hiking tour business, which wasn't doing too well.

"I was moving toward photography for the tourism industry," he said.

Much like Clark, Heath had been interested in photography since he was 11 or 12 years old, but he had not pursued it in earnest until he saw the guild ad in the newspaper and attended the first meeting.

Now he does a good deal of fine art work in the form of digital photography.

"I sell prints, mainly nature and outdoor photography," Heath said.

"There's been a lot of questioning about where photography starts and stops," he said of some of the controversy discussed at guild meetings over whether to allow digital enhancement of photos.

"Originally most of us shot slides. You shoot, that's it," he said.


Connie Goltz has a college titled "Alaskan Gardener's Walkabout" on display in the guild's show at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center.

Connie Goltz

"Now, we're starting to allow enhanced photos and photo montage.

"I was one of the early adopters of digital," he said.

"There was a lot of resistance at first, but most of it has crumbled over the last year."

In addition to the equipment and technology information exchange afforded by being a member of the photographers guild, Heath said he enjoys finding people who are like him, people he can talk with and discuss the things he likes doing.

Heath first joined the guild to learn more about his craft. Today, he sees membership as teaching — giving back, he said.

"(The Kenai Peninsula) is a great area. We like to share it. We love to see people enjoy it and get the shot that's just right," he said.

Daniels, who retired as the principal of Redoubt Elementary School in 1988, recently was elected president of the photographers guild.

"We decided we needed to refocus our meeting format," Daniels said.


John Ferguson shares images of the aurora at guild meetings.

John Ferguson

He said meetings, held monthly except during the summer, offer an exchange of information as well as an opportunity for members to show their work. Meetings usually are on the first Tuesday of the month. Exact dates and places are listed in the Peninsula Clarion.

"Our meetings need to offer a time for friendship and socializing as well as be educational and allow for presenting our slides," he said.

Under the educational caption, Daniels said the meetings provide information on selling stock photos, shooting the aurora borealis, portrait photography and digital cameras.

He said the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center has cooperated closely with the guild, allowing the group to display members' work and sell prints at an annual photo show the guild puts on.


"Tracy" by Clayton Hillhouse is one of several portraits on display in the show.

Clayton Hillhouse

The show, which runs through Feb. 25, allows members to display up to three favorite images, all of which must have been taken in Alaska.

Members of the guild in good standing need not pay to have their work displayed in the show, and new members need only pay $10, which is then applied as their annual dues.

"We have some fine photographers on the Kenai Peninsula, and I think more people are at the level where they are ready to share their work with the public," Daniels said.

When asked what makes a good photograph, he said, "It's the person behind the camera that makes a good photo.

"Your vision will be much different than mine.


Guild member Marianne Clark enjoys photographing wildlife and scenics.

Marianne Clark

"If you think it's a good photo, put the elements together — composition, lighting, good technique," he said.

Besides monthly meetings and the annual photography show at the Kenai visitors center, the guild organizes field trips for the advancement of their craft.

One such trip has taken them to the tide pools of Seldovia. Another placed them aboard boats from Seward to Prince William Sound and an upcoming outing will take the group inside a Kenai greenhouse as spring flowers begin to color the scene.

"One other thing we're moving toward is helping people critique their work and improve," Daniels said.

"It's tough for people to take criticism. We're careful in that we don't judge any of the work."Daniels said, as the guild continues to serve its members, it needs to open up and find out what the members need.

"You can have 10 photographers all standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon. All shoot 36 images and all come back with different images. We're all still learning," he said.

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