The TransCanada Trail (now officially the ‘Great Trail’) stretches some 24,000 km, winding through all 13 provinces and territories and stitching our country together, ocean to ocean to ocean. But sometimes it pays to think small; within any few metres of our own Kawartha section you’ll find photo opportunities. You just have to slow down and look with fresh eyes. That was the lesson of the first of three free photography workshops for seniors sponsored by the Kawartha TransCanada Trail Association.
All three are being led by professional photographers; each has a particular theme and explores a particular section of the Trail.
For the June 26 session, Ruth Tait was the instructor. ‘Creativity in Your Photography was the theme, and the easily accessible portion of the Trail that winds through the Fleming campus was the site.
Fourteen seniors, armed with an assortment of smartphones, point-and-shoots, and a scattering of serious looking DSLRs with special lenses and lens hoods, assembled at Fleming’s Log Cabin for Tait’s workshop. (Hard to imagine what time-travelling pioneers arriving on the scene would have thought.)
Given the variety of equipment and the range of experience — from almost none to lifelong pursuit –Tait had wisely decided to focus on a few basic principles of composition such as the ‘rule of thirds’ and on encouraging participants to take time and explore up close.
She took the group through a series of exercises. Nothing complicated about any of them – and all could be tried by anyone of any age, anytime, anywhere along the trail.
For the first, cameras were dispensed with altogether. Each senior was given two L-shaped cardboard pieces. These ‘cropping arms’ could be fitted together to make smaller or larger squares or rectangles. The task was to take a small section of trail and use these arms to frame what came into view and so begin to see possibilities for photographs.
The second assignment, cameras now in hand, was to pick a spot and take 10 to 15 shots from that single vantage point. For one photographer the album might include a riot of wild roses, an overhanging honey locust, a cedar rail fence; for another, the purplish umbels and thick-ribbed oval green leaves of milkweed, vining purple vetch, and feathery horsetails.
Insects or other critters might find their way into a shot, too. (Milkweed alone is host to over 450 different insect species).
The third exercise pushed the seniors to move outside their comfort zones. Tait took around a “bag of foolishness” — small Dollar Store props to be incorporated into photos. Participant Marian Sweetnam managed to capture her glitter-covered plastic butterfly in a natural setting before it took flight with a gust of wind; for another, a three-inch model of a cow made for a playful exploration of scale.
For the culminating exercise the seniors had a choice. They could move along the Kawartha TransCanada trail and return with a collection that was all about different textures or a collection that was all about different colours. The alternative was to pretend they were back in the photographic Dark Ages, those pre-digital days before you could take hundreds of shots, get instant results and delete all but the best. Those who took this challenge had to return with just 12 shots.
After a Q & A, a draw for prizes provided by Down to Earth, and a group photo, the workshop participants were sent off with one more challenge — to send their three favourite images for a chance at fame (well, publication on the Kawartha TransCanada Trail website) and fortune (okay, a modest prize).
There’s still space in the remaining two workshops: ‘Bring Light to Your Photography’ with Fred Thornhill on August 21 and ‘Make Your Photography Meaningful’ with Mark Ridout on October 2.
Funding comes from the provincial New Horizons for Seniors program, so you must be 65 or older. To register, or for more information, call 705-879-2719 or go online.