The animals that call Muskoka and Algonquin Park home are the subject for Colin Erricson’s first solo exhibition. Ever since his uncle gave him his first camera when Colin was ten years old, this fascination of animals in their natural habitat has been a life-long interest.
As a child growing up in the wilds of northern British Columbia, Colin quickly learned that watching, waiting, listening and being patient most often had the reward of a great photograph. “Chances for a great photograph, however, are rare. I spend a lot of time looking for that moment,” explains Colin. In the blink of an eye, Colin has to bring together his technical knowledge of his equipment, apply his understanding of the translation from a digital image to a final print, shoot from a moving boat, compose while navigating, look for light and shadow that will create a three-dimensional feel, know how to use reflections, and be aware of how to use fog and sun flares to give the image a painterly quality.
Colin began his photographic studies in high school where he learned that light was his most valuable tool. He enrolled in the Fine Art program at the College of New Caledonia in Prince George, British Columbia focusing on painting, pottery, applied design and art history. Colin completed his studies by majoring in photography at the Western Pacific Academy of Photography in Victoria, British Columbia, where he was inspired by his teachers who instilled within him a comprehensive understanding and develop an eye for the use of lighting, shading, texture and atmosphere in just the right combination to create each photographic image.
Over the past 45 years, Colin has honed his photographic talents, first as a young hobbyist, then as a student, a professional commercial photographer with twenty-five years of experience and now as an art photographer.
Colin is inspired by the beauty that surrounds him in Muskoka and his images capture the life of the animals that call this region home. “My photographs tell visual stories using the colour and textures within the landscape,” explains Colin. “I use lighting techniques and composition to carefully depict a true representation of the animals as they experience a moment in time.” His photographs show viewers how and where these animals spend their days in the beauty and roughness of their environment. “These animals are the definition of candid, unposed, uncontrived and are truly natural,” says Colin. “I want to allow the viewer to see, feel and hear these animals. To see the intricate patterns within ancient boulders where a heron lands to ruffle his feathers to dry. To feel the texture of pine needles under the feet of a fox as she strolls back to her den. To hear the crunch of snow as a moose lumbers through his icy forest in search of food.”
Through research and field studies, Colin has developed an understanding of the habits of animals – where they frequent and when. “I now know within a few days when the heron will be back on the river and which places it likes to feed. I’ve learnt when and where a mother Merganzer will be out teaching her new brood the ways of the river. And, when the coat of the fox is full and perfect, ready for her close-up,” says Colin.
A former commercial photographer, Colin is well versed in working in the digital world, applying those same techniques to his fine art photographs. The translation from a raw digital file to a printed image is a process that evolves with every new software development. “These digital tools and my understanding of how to use them are incredibly important to the quality of a final print,” explains Colin. People often ask Colin if his images are photoshopped. “I don’t use Photoshop to fake anything within the image. I use Photoshop strictly as a digital darkroom as it allows me to replicate the saturation and intensity that I used to apply to my photographs in the darkroom. It lets me take away the sharpness of the photograph and make texture the focus. In photography, it’s not where you put the light, it’s where you take it away.
Colin prints his images on archival paper. “Through trial and error, I’ve developed a digital process where the fibres of the paper create a perfect foundation for my art,” explains Colin. “Blending the ink to create softness gives the final piece a painterly quality. The results have a natural look and feel that other papers or canvas do not have.”
Colin is looking forward to his exhibition at the Chapel Gallery: “I truly appreciate the support I’ve received from Muskoka Arts & Crafts. The gallery is a remarkable venue. It’s beautifully simple, calm and peaceful environment is the ideal surrounding to experience and go into the scenes of my photographs as well as to focus on these amazing animals within their incredibly complex and beautiful home environments. I’m also looking forward to hearing what people have to say when they see these animals close up.”
A public reception for Colin Erricson will be held on Saturday, August 19 from 1pm to 4pm at the Chapel Gallery. The exhibition continues at the Chapel Gallery until September 8.
The Chapel Gallery is located at 15 King Street in Bracebridge. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, from 10am to 1pm and from 2pm until 5pm with admission by donation. For more information, please visit www.muskokaartsandcrafts.com or call (705) 645-5501.