So, you want to be a photographer?

“Beginning a Vision,” by Timothy O. Sutherland.

So you want to be a photographer?  Well, so do I, and I am still trying.  Everywhere I look I see things that I want to keep in my memory to savor time and again. I recognized a long time ago that I am an extremely visual person.

When I go to a mall or stand on a busy street, I rarely see “people.”  Instead I see “things.” I wonder how many faces I would recognize if only I had the ability to separate them from the crowd or the background. This is the reason that I tend to photograph landscapes and static things rather than people.

I think each of us gravitate towards what we are most comfortable with. People lovers like to photograph people, earthy people like photographing nature and landscapes.  Artistic people never cease to amaze me with their ability to construct something visual from nothing.

Whatever your chosen direction, you need instruction.  You need the tools to put into visual form what you want to preserve or share.  So many of us have gone out and purchased a camera or have been given one by a relative with the grandiose notion of becoming the next Ansel Adams or Annie Leibowitz. This only lasts until you see your first few rolls of developed film. You ask yourself, “What happened?”  What was so beautiful when you were there is not in the photograph.  Why isn’t the photograph true to your vision?  Probably because you did not have the tools and knowledge to produce the vision the way you wanted.

Tools mean education.  If you do not know how to properly use the simplest of cameras, then you are at the mercy of the “happy accident” syndrome.  That is when, as fate would have it, all things from the lighting, the exposure, aperture and shutter speed come together through the choice made by the automatic camera to make a nice picture for you. The trouble is could you reproduce that shot at will?  Probably not, emphatically not!  While new cameras with very complex computers do strive to make an intelligent decision regarding exposure, it is the human touch that makes the “artistic” decision.

What we all need to learn is that we should stop “taking” pictures and start “making” pictures.  All of us, even those that should know better, “take” pictures.  Slow down and do what I tell my students.  “Look at what you see in the view finder and be absolutely sure that what you see is what you are willing to pay for. This is because when you snap the shutter, that’s exactly what you just did, you “bought” that picture. You are going to pay the store for the developing and the printing of that shot and chances are it will be put in a drawer for the rest of its natural life!

“Making” pictures involves making decisions that even an automatic camera is not capable of.  Composition, or what to include in the frame, is an important decision.  Choices about how much or how little depth of field is desired. I preach over and over in my classes that photography is nothing more than the ability to solve a set of problems to attain your visualizations.

Knowing what a good photograph is becomes paramount in helping you to compare yourself to the generally accepted work of others.  No matter what the genre, being exceptional, technically and artistically, shines through. In later discussions, I will get more deeply involved in the variables that can help you drastically improve your photographs.

Craft workshop

On Saturday, Dec. 13, from 10 a.m. to noon, there will be a craft workshop at Pagosa Pottery, 117 Navajo Trail.

This class will be taught by Sindey Greher, painter, craftsperson and member of the Pagosa Springs Arts Council. The main project will be making mosaic wine bottles. You can bring your own bottles (empty of course) or use ours. It is a creative project and can be fun for the whole family. The cost to attend will be $12 per person, which includes necessary supplies.  Advanced registration is required as seating is limited. Future workshops potato engraving and printing, and working with egg shells. Call 731-3311 for information.

Photography Club

The Photography Club meets the second Wednesday of each month during the Club year from September through May from 6-8 p.m. Interested photography enthusiasts are welcome to attend the first meeting at no charge. Any and all are invited to join for annual dues of $20 for individuals and $30 for family membership.

For more information, contact club vice president Barbara Conkey at or call 31-6877.

Winter gallery hours

The PSAC Gallery in Town Park is now on its winter schedule.

The gallery is open Thursdays from noon to 4 p.m. Although the gallery will not be staffed on a regular basis, voice mail and e-mail will be checked regularly, so please leave a message and someone will get back to you as soon as possible. You may e-mail us at or leave a message at 264-5020. Also be sure to visit our Web site at for additional information.

Holiday gift

The 2009 Pagosa Country Calendars are available at the Town Park Gallery. The calendars sell for $8.95 plus tax for nonmembers and $7.95 plus tax for PSAC members. There are also quantity discounts: 10-24 for $6.95 each and 25-plus for $5.95 each. These calendars make ideal holiday and Christmas gifts!

PSAC workshops

The Pagosa Springs Arts Council sponsors and manages workshops in the Arts and Crafts Room at the community center. From the outset, the Arts Council has been a partner and supporter of the center.

We started the workshops in 2002 and they have grown substantially since that time. Workshops provide those who want to teach a venue to do so and, at the same time, give our residents a place to learn something new whether it is watercolor, acrylic, oil, drawing, photography or the like. The space also provides a home for the Photo Club, Watercolor Club and a meeting location for various clubs.

If you are interested in teaching a workshop or class, call the Town Park Gallery at 264-5020 for a workshop application form or download the form from our Web site,

If you are a resident and have ideas and suggestions for a class or workshop we haven’t offered, please let us hear from you. The Arts Council’s mailing address is: P.O. Box 533, Pagosa Springs, CO, 81147, or e-mail

To date, all our workshops have been held during the day. Would evenings work better for you? Would you prefer a series of classes? If you would like to see the Arts Council offer workshops in either of these formats, call PSAC at 264-5020, leave your name and number and we’ll touch base with you.

New members and volunteers

Started in 1988 the Pagosa Springs Arts Council, a non-profit organization, was conceived and developed to, in part, promote the awareness of the vast array of local artistic talent, provide educational and cultural activities in the community, sponsor exhibits and workshops by local and regional artists, and encourage and support continued appreciation and preservation of the aesthetic beauty of Pagosa Springs.

If becoming involved with such a dynamic organization excites you, we hope that you will consider becoming a member or, perhaps, volunteer. If you have questions or would like more information regarding membership, call the PSAC office at 264-5020.

Membership rates are: Youth-$10; Individual Senior-$20; Individual Regular-$25; Family Senior-$25; Family Regular-$35; Business-$75; Patron-$250; Benefactor-$500, Director-$1,000 and Guarantor-$2,500 and up.

2009 PSAC Sponsored Events Include:

Gallery Exhibits in Town Park, May-November.

Art Workshops and Classes in the Arts and Craft Room of the community center.

Annual PSAC Membership Meeting.

Annual Juried Art Exhibit.

Annual Photo Contest.

Home and Garden Tour.

Plein Air Painters Club.

Photography Club.

Summer Youth Art Camp.

If you would like to become a member or renew your membership, call 264-5020 or e-mail