The photographer stares in awe of the Atnarko River’s beauty.
Stretching 100 kilometres in length, the river starts in Charlotte Lake before connecting with the Bella Coola River, a landscape characterized by granite intrusions, volcanic activity, and plenty of tributaries and lush greenery.
Wildlife also thrives there, notes wildlife photographer Darren Colello. There’s cougars and coyote, red foxes and river otters, and moose and mule deer. It was also there a few seasons ago where Colello spotted a young male grizzly going in for a soak while Colello was on a boat journey along the Atnarko, in B.C.’s Bella Coola valley.
“It was incredible. We just steadied ourselves in the boat – we were about 50 or 60 feet away – and he was just fishing away. He was looking for pink salmon,” says Colello.
Colello, who along with partner Tina Antrobus operates a wildlife viewing and photography company called Wild Exposures, prepared himself. The young bear was chest deep in the water. When he came up, at just the right moment, Colello was ready with his camera in hand.
Colello recently learned his image of that bear in the Atnarko, replete with excellent rim lighting and drips of river water still hanging off the bruin’s body, was chosen to grace the cover of Canadian Wildlife magazine after winning the grand prize in its annual photo contest.
Colello, who lives in North Vancouver, is also a one-year member of the North Shore Photographic Society, which he credits with helping him bolster some of his photography skills in addition to getting the opportunity to meet and connect with other local photographers.
During his brief tenure as a member of the society, Colello has connected with other shutterbugs, both amateur and professional, to learn more about landscape, nature and macro photography specifically.
“There’s constantly different talks that come up, and hints and tips and things like that,” he says. “We’re almost surprised we didn’t do it earlier.”
Founded in 1983, the photographic society boasts more than 75 active members of all ages who meet regularly three times a month from September to June at North Shore Unitarian Church in West Vancouver.
During two of the three meetings, members can submit digital or print images where guest judges will assess the images’ strong points and what could be done to improve them. The third meeting of the month is generally reserved as a programme night, where noted photographers are invited to share their expertise, or a photography field trip is organized.
Recently, a field trip to a local beach was organized so members could learn more and practise long exposure photography, and just as recently a group of photographers went to Chinatown to shoot the bright lights and expansive colours during a Lunar New Year celebration, according to Gord Cook, who runs membership recruitment and retention for the society and has been a member for two years.
“One of the things I had a big problem with was trying to figure out where to take pictures. There’s certain spots, but with your photography group you get ideas on where to go,” says Cook. “It really becomes quite inspiring.”
Touted as one of the preeminent photography competitions in the province, the society is also getting the word out about its own 36th annual North Shore Photographic Challenge, which photogs have until midnight on Feb. 12 to submit to before the March 7 event at Kay Meek Arts Centre.
The open-theme competition invites photographers from B.C. and Yukon to showcase their best work, according to Cook.
“It really hones their skills to try and compete in certain provincial and national, and some of them, international competitions,” says Cook.
The society is always accepting new members, adds Cook, who invites people to visit nsps.ca to learn more about becoming a member or to submit images or learn more about this year’s North Shore Photographic Challenge.
Asked why it’s important for photographers to want to share their work with each other or take part in a competition, Cook says it’s just a part of the community.
“It’s just kind of the next level to share your work,” he says. “What really happens when you join clubs like this, it really drives you to improve your photography.”