Sylvia Galbraith, Photographer

Silver Creek Photography,
Fergus, Ontario


Sylvia Galbraith, Photographer

Silver Creek Photography,
Fergus, Ontario



“Why do you teach? Don’t you get tired of showing people how to set a shutter speed, or explain depth of field, over and over and over again?”

Fall 2019 - I am asked this question regularly, mostly by experienced photographers who seem unwilling to share their  ideas or skills. I've always found this odd;  it's a competitive, narrow viewpoint that I do not share.  Well, the answer to the above question is a definite “No!” I do not get tired of it. You might even say I teach photography for purely selfish reasons. As a professional photographer, I take photographs every day, most often to satisfy a commercial need for someone else. Over the years, I found myself straying a long way from my reasons for becoming a photographer - my love of the “art” in photography, my enjoyment of the need to be in a particular place to make my work. I never picked up a camera for my own purposes and I realized one day I had not taken a single personal photo in years. Since I started teaching more than 10 years ago, I rediscovered my joy in photography - the challenge of new situations, learning new technology through a beginner’s eyes, and new insights from personal life experience that influenced my way of interpreting the world through a camera. Through teaching, I am able to share all of this. I experience photography every day, and discover new ways of creating photographs that I can share with others to help them learn. Through teaching, I better understand my own work; I dissect it - examining my technique or contemplating my intent behind an image, and I explore historic and alternate methods of image creation. I study the work of other photographers, like I never have before. Finally, and most importantly, I see teaching as “giving back”... when I first picked up a camera and made many amateur (and embarrassing!) mistakes, there were photographers who kindly shared tips and ideas, who mentored me, and who influenced my work to bring me to where I am today. Seeing a new photographer suddenly understand depth of field, or attending a first photographic exhibition of one of my more advanced students brings me back to my own photographic journey, of fond memories of learning and discovery.

So, why do I patiently explain camera settings over and over and over again? Silly question.




November 2019 - During this past summer's trip to Newfoundland, I decided to explore the southernmost tip of the island, as I'd never been there, and everyone knows how much I like "the road less travelled".  Predictably, the weather was foggy, rainy and windy on the only day I had to visit the lighthouse at Cape Pine...  I had been told the Cape is remote and completely uninhabited most of the time, with a long drive down a gravel track that might not be passable even on a good day. 

One of the things I love most about Newfoundland is how helpful and friendly the people are.   I stop at the one gas station in the area and ask directions, trying to get a sense of whether I should attempt the drive or not. The proprietor's wife is the first person I meet after filling up my car....  she isn't sure about the road to Cape Pine, but calls her husband from underneath a car he's repairing to add his thoughts to the matter.  He also hasn't driven there in some time, but wait! he knows someone who has a hunting cabin out that way... a quick phone call should do the trick!  Another woman answers - the wife of his buddy; she informs us that her husband can't help... he's working in Korea, so hasn't been down the road either.  By now I'm thinking I'll just give it a try, but before I can extricate myself from what is becoming quite an intense discussion,  hubby in Korea is on FaceTime, his wife telling him about my plight and asking if he thinks I would be able to make it.  So, now we're up to five people, including two on cell phones, and one FaceTiming from Korea, all of  us trying to figure out if  my trek is a good idea.  " I think they put in a new culvert, although with all the rain, it won't have lasted long...  those government boys don't know what they're doing" says one.  "Does she look like she knows how to drive?" asks the guy in Korea (mechanic gives me the once-over, assures him I do, and gives my 4-wheel drive rental car his seal of approval).   Meanwhile, my car is still parked at the single gas pump, and I'm seriously wondering how to extricate myself before someone asks me to stay for lunch and my day disappears.  Just then another fellow pulls up to the shop and rather grumpily states that he's after some gas and "that Toyota's been plugging the pump for half an hour...  I seen it there from my window".  "But this lady's wanting to get to Cape Pine, and we're trying to figure out the road!"  he's told.  And, you guessed it....  out comes his map; he jots down a list of the tricky spots, with detailed instructions on how to navigate them and tells me to call if I get stuck.  And to make sure I honk as I pass on my way back through, so they all know I'm ok, if not, they'll come looking for me. Finally I'm on my way, warmed by the experience, and the kindness of strangers.               


                                                                                                                                                               - Fog, Cape Pine


November 2019 - Now that the cooler weather has arrived, I've finally taken some time to sort through several hundred photographs from this past summer's time in Newfoundland.  I was there once again for the Bonavista Biennale, an art exhibition that showcases work by regional, national and international artists, exhibited in various outports around the Bonavista Peninsula.   Although busy teaching a photography workshop as part of the event lineup, I managed to take some time for my personal work, and spent almost a month hiking along the cliffs and shorelines in rain, fog, or sunshine.  I explored new places and travelled to the extreme southern tip of the island, a lonely place with some of the most incredible landscapes I've ever seen.

I've learned over the years that I can't really assess the photographs I've made until some time has passed.   I have  to let my emotional connection fade; to separate myself from the experience of being there.  My senses are on overload from sights and sounds that are unfamiliar to me and I can't objectively judge the work on its own merits.  Some photographs make the cut, while many others are relegated to the "nice to have" pile.... 

My work is constantly evolving, and this year my images are quite different from my previous work.  I've become intrigued with old photographic processes;  I experimented with expired film, pinhole cameras, and even turned my rental house into a camera obscura at one point. I'll see how the film looks once it's processed... 


                                                                                                                                                - Jack's Room, Duntara


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© 2018 Sylvia Galbraith.