In Focus

While our Focus Fridays feature shows us a snapshot of some of the talent we’ve been hiding in the valley, In Focus takes us on a more in-depth analysis of local photographers. From their work to their inspirations, we visit their processes, locations, tips and tricks. Carefully curated by Jeremy Hiebert.

In Focus: John Shiers

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We’re way overdue for another In Focus profile! We’ve featured several of John’s pictures for Focus Fridays, so it was only a matter of time before we took a closer look. His landscapes make us want to take more photos, and to see more of our valley.

John has been posting to our I Love the Okanagan group on Flickr for a while now. His shots of Vaseux Lake and McIntyre Bluff really jumped out — he obviously understands the land and light of the South Okanagan. Digging further into his photostream, you find great variety and fascinating abstracts.  John was kind enough to share his pictures with Awesome Okanagan, and answer a few questions about his photographic pursuits.

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How did you get started with photography?
Being born and raised in Penticton I started playing around with photography in the late 1980′s with an old Minolta XD11 35mm SLR I inherited from my father. In the early 1990′s I moved to Jasper AB, and learned that I really enjoyed landscape, nature and sport photography.

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How about more recently?
In the mid 90′s I moved back to Penticton and bought my first digital SLR a Nikon D70. Digital made learning photography much easier and cheaper for me and I was hooked.

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What do you love about taking photos?
I enjoy the challenge of trying to convey a scene,a view or a moment to a viewer that has some impact on them.

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How important is the online world for your photography?
I started posting my photos on-line in 2007 as a way to share my efforts with friends and family and was amazed the photographic talent in the Okanagan and with the positive feedback I got back, especially when it was from people I didn’t know.

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How else do you share your photos?
In the last couple of years I’ve created several books and calendars of my photography to give out as gifts and that has resulted in me receiving requests for my work from friends of friends and family (very cool).

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Any future plans for your photographic pursuits?
Over the next few years I plan to keep doing what I’m doing because I’m enjoying it.

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For more of John’s photos, check out:

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In Focus features interesting Okanagan photographers and their work each month(ish). Individual photos are also featured each week on Focus Friday. The author primarily picks stuff from the I Love the Okanagan group on Flickr — if you have suggestions or ideas for photography features, please pass them along to jhiebert@gmail.com


In Focus: David Emond

We’ve checked out a few of David’s pictures for Focus Fridays and figured it was a good time to take a closer look. This is solid stuff — whether he’s capturing Okanagan scenes or sharing images from the road, he’s seeing the world with unique skill and a love of beauty.

David’s landscapes seem to invite you in with compelling light and wonderful depth. I was particularly drawn to his expansive wide-angle shots and views of nature. Thankfully, he was kind enough to share his photos and answer a few of our questions about his work.

How long have you been doing photography in the Okanagan?

Although I grew up in Kelowna, I have only been taking photos here since moving back to this beautiful city two years ago.

Favourite locations or subjects in the valley?

I am always on the look out for new subjects but I tend to spend a lot of time in the downtown area whether at the waterfront or just enjoying anything that catches my eye.

Influences or artists/photographers you admire?

I joined flickr 6 months ago and have been blown away by the amount of talent here in the valley and abroad. I get inspired just by looking at the latest posts in the Okanagan. I also enjoy photos by top left pixel, a Toronto-based blog.

What motivates you to take photos?

Photography offers a different way to see and share my experiences with others. I have schizophrenia and so, in some ways, I use photography to fight stigma and create a connecting point with others.

What kinds of responses do you most commonly get when people see your photos?
I tend to get encouraging feedback about my photos and some friends and family start asking questions if I haven’t posted anything new for awhile. It’s nice to know they are anticipating my next post.

Any comments on what types of photographic gear you use and appreciate most?

I use a Nikon D90 with three lenses. My work horse is the 18-105mm. I also have a wide angle (10-20mm) and a 35mm prime lens for low light and artistic shots. I edit with Photoshop — just enough to make the image pop.

Where do you see yourself going with your photography in the next year or two?

In the future, I am hoping to develop my skill at portraits and people photography. I’d love to do more traveling and add a telephoto lens to my kit. But for now, I just enjoy getting out and exploring the beautiful Okanagan!

Thanks to David for sharing his excellent shots and thoughts! For more of his stuff, check out:

In Focus features interesting Okanagan photographers and their work each month(ish). Individual photos are also featured each week on Focus Friday. The author primarily picks stuff from the I Love the Okanagan group on Flickr — if you have suggestions or ideas for photography features, please pass them along to jhiebert@gmail.com.


In Focus: Tania Simpson

We’ve leaned on Tania for Focus Fridays enough times to realize that she might be the Okanagan’s resident Bird Whisperer. Not that her other subjects aren’t cool — she’s got great landscapes, macros and lifestyle shots too — but a quick trip through her Flickr pages reveals her main area of interest. This is a passionate birder with strong photographic skills and a love of beauty.

Most of us pay little attention to our feathered friends — we might occasionally enjoy their songs or flashes of colour without having any idea what we’re seeing or hearing. Since I started following Tania’s photos a couple of years ago, I’ve learned a lot about the birds that frequent our valley. I notice them more now, marveling at their infinite variety and amazing ability to survive cold winters or long migrations. Thankfully Tania has not yet migrated away, and she was kind enough to answer a few questions about her pursuit.

What got you started in photography, and how long have you been taking photos in the Okanagan?

Hummingbirds got me started — I became fascinated by them and wanted to capture their beauty.  I started with a point-and-shoot camera and from there my passion for photography bloomed.  I wanted better photos of them, so I made the decision to upgrade to a DSLR about six years ago.

Favourite locations in the valley?

My favourite location in the valley is Hardy Falls Regional Park in Peachland — I never go home disappointed.  The park offers so much beauty year round, from the waterfall and creek to the smallest wildflower; not to mention the abundance of birds and wildlife.  It is one of the best places to visit for autumn foliage and winter landscapes.  Some of my other favourite places include Okanagan Lake Provincial Park in Summerland and No. 22 Road/Black Sage Road in Oliver.

Influences or artists/photographers you admire?

There are so many photographers that I’ve met through Flickr who I admire and am influenced by.  Some of them are brilliant bird photographers, while others have amazing landscapes.  I have a long-time Flickr contact named Mark Baldwin from Illinois who takes the most stunning landscape shots — I have learned so much from his photography.

Another person is a local Okanagan photographer and friend, Ron Racine — his bird photography is amazing.  Just looking at his photographs I know that he has extreme patience when it comes to birds. I can’t forget to mention Doug Brown, a bird photographer from Vancouver whose photographs blow me away.  I always hear myself saying, “wow, how did he do that?”

What kinds of responses do you most commonly get when people see your photos?

I get a lot of  positive responses when people see my photos.  I’m so honoured and amazed by how many of my friends and acquaintances take the time to look at my Flickr photostream.

What do you love about photographing birds and wildlife?

I love the challenge.  It’s easy enough to take landscape or wildflower photographs, but birds and wildlife don’t sit still!  I guess you could say I like the challenge of the hunt.

Any comments on what types of photographic gear you use and appreciate most?

I use a Nikon D7000 camera with a Nikon 80-400mm lens for my bird and wildlife photography. I love the sharpness and colour quality that I get from the D7000 — upgrading to the 80-400mm lens was the best choice I’ve made. I can get close to birds and wildlife without actually getting close, and it’s small enough to carry. When I see a macro or landscape shot I want to take, I will switch lenses, and then switch right back to the 80-400mm; you never know what might cross your path.  For my macro shots, I use a Nikon 200mm fixed macro. For landscapes, I use a 18-55mm or 17-35mm wide angle lens, depending on the scene.

Where do you see yourself going with your photography in the next year or two?

I have been successful in selling some photographs for publication (mainly the tourism industry) and I always donate photographs to non-profit wildlife organizations. In the next year or two, I would like to start selling prints of my photographs or selling to wildlife/nature magazines.

Thanks to Tania for answering our questions and sharing her work. You can find more of her photos on Flickr:

In Focus features interesting Okanagan photographers and their work each month(ish). Individual photos are also featured each week on Focus Friday. The author primarily picks stuff from the I Love the Okanagan group on Flickr — if you have suggestions or ideas for photography features, please pass them along to jhiebert@gmail.com.


In Focus: Caillum Smith

Caillum’s photography caught my eye when we posted his shot of the Adra Tunnel last year, and I’ve been impressed with the stuff he’s shared since then. This winter, his landscapes switched over the U.K., where he was living and working for a few months. I thought it might be interesting to hear about his experience abroad and get him to reflect on his local photography as well.

Caillum covers a broad range of styles and approaches with his pictures — instead of going for a cohesive theme, I’ve collected a representative sampling. That said, there are common threads that run through all of his work: a love of landscape, great attention to detail, willingness to experiment, and an eye for unique moments. You can tell that this artist is committed to his craft. It’s time to put Caillum Smith In Focus.

How long have you been doing photography in the Okanagan?

I first began fooling around with a film camera about 4 or 5 years ago but took things a bit further when Dad bought me a dslr as a “go to university” bribe.  I soon dropped my studies in pursuit of satisfying my photographic endeavors.

 Favourite locations or subjects in the valley?

I love incorporating the valley itself into my photos, whether its the subject or the background; our little pond nestled between the mountains is simply breathtaking from both the shores and the peaks. I think the Kettle Valley Railway above Naramata and Okanagan Mountain Park are among my most photographed locations because of their close proximity to where I live and my familiarity of the mountainside, but the Vaseux Lake area and Similkameen are equally spectacular. My favorite spots are the ones I have yet to find.

Influences or artists/photographers you admire?

I leech most of my inspiration from a few local photographers; Greg Gaspari’s rich, detailed wildlife and landscapes, Tania Simpson’s informative and playful images and Jeremy Hiebert’s unusual perspectives have been a steady source of inspiration. 500px.com and Chip Phillips from Spokane have plenty of inspiring images for those rock bottom days.

What kinds of responses do you most commonly get when people see your photos?

Most responses are concerning the brilliant, saturated colors and scenic views.

You just spent a few months living and traveling in the U.K. — how was that experience in terms of your photography?

Living in the U.K. was very progressive in several ways. Traveling allows you to encounter unfamiliar and uncomfortable situations forcing you to constantly adapt, defining character in the process which in turn is exposed through art. Not having a vast wilderness easily accessible was a big change for me and my first two months in the U.K. passed by without a single photo taken. I had expectations of what types of images I wanted to create, usually outdoor/nature intended, and not being able to meet these expectations put me in a situation where I was able to implement new techniques and styles into my work such as portraiture and low light urban. I also had a lot of time to learn more about post processing.

Any comments on what types of photographic gear you use and appreciate most?

Brands, models and new, high tech gizmo gadgets only do so much. If you want nice photos stand in front of nice things. A few gadgets in my bag that I do appreciate are my polarizer, remote intervalometer for low light situations, my tripod regardless of its inconvenience and my work horse 10-20mm wide angle lens.

Where do you see yourself going with your photography in the next year or two?

This summer I will be selling prints at several local markets and there is a possibility of showing at some local exhibits so keep your eyes open for that.

Thanks to Caillum for sharing his images and thoughts with Awesome Okanagan. You can find more of his stuff here:

In Focus features interesting Okanagan photographers and their work each month(ish). Individual photos are also featured each week on Focus Friday. The author primarily picks stuff from the I Love the Okanagan group on Flickr — if you have suggestions or ideas for photography features, please pass them along to jhiebert@gmail.com.


In Focus: Drew Makepeace

Penticton artist Drew Makepeace is used to hearing the word “quirky” when people encounter his photographs. His unconventional views of industrial scenes, back lanes and suburban landscapes tweak your expectations and make you look again to try to figure out what might be going on.

Finding compelling patterns and beauty in unusual subjects is part of the attraction — Drew also brings a whimsical, almost comical sensibility to his images, seeing the interest and humour in places we’d pass by without a second glance. Awesome Okanagan puts Drew’s pictures and process In Focus this week.

How long have you been doing photography in the Okanagan?
I’ve been doing it since I moved to Penticton in 2004.

Favourite locations or subjects in the valley?
My favourite subjects are things that are man-made. Therefore my favourite locations tend to be urban or suburban locales.

Influences or artists/photographers you admire?
Stephen Shore and William Eggleston both come to mind, mainly for their ability to find banal scenes that can be turned into evocative art when photographed. I also admire the abstract paintings of Mark Rothko and the fluorescent light sculptures of Dan Flavin.

What kinds of responses do you most commonly get to your abstract photos?
The most common word people use is “quirky”. I’m not sure what that means, but if it means “unusual” then perhaps they are not off the mark. I try to avoid trite subjects like flowers and scenery, and instead concentrate on back walls, back lanes and the various objects that one finds there.

I’d like to hear about your experience with gallery shows. What are the benefits and pitfalls?
I’ve had a couple of photographic exhibits in small galleries, and also a number of shows in coffee shops. The benefits of shows are exposure, and the potential, however small, of selling a work. There aren’t really any pitfalls, but it’s important to have a clear understanding with the gallery owner of how sales will be handled. I also think it’s important to make your framing and mounting clean, consistent and simple so that it doesn’t upstage your work.

You’ve resisted the pull to DSLRs and bags full of lenses, instead going with a higher-end point-n-shoot — why have you taken that approach to gear, and do you plan to stick with it?
There are two main reasons I’ve stuck with a point & shoot camera. I like the compact versatility of it. For example, my Canon SX-10 has a 28-560mm zoom, which obviates the need for a big bag o’ lenses. The other reason is that I make exclusive use of the vari-angle LCD screen. It enables me to frame extremely low shots without lying on the ground, and very high shots that I simply wouldn’t be able to get otherwise. Recently, some SLR cameras with vari-angle screens have come onto the market, so I may very well upgrade in the future.

Where do you see yourself going with your photography in the next year or two?
I’m starting to feel like I’ve thoroughly mined the back lanes of Penticton and nearby cities of all their subject matter. I want more, which means I’ll need to go further afield. I can also see myself tending towards more abstract work – I think that’s a natural progression for many artists.

Thanks to Drew for sharing his thoughts and his work. Check out more of his stuff online:

In Focus features interesting Okanagan photographers and their work each month(ish). Individual photos are also featured each week on Focus Friday. The author primarily picks stuff from the I Love the Okanagan group on Flickr — if you have suggestions or ideas for photography features, please pass them along to jhiebert@gmail.com.


In Focus: Matthew Butterworth

We’re switching things up here a bit for this month’s In Focus. Our beloved local landscape is still featured, but with some added action and flair. Matt Butterworth‘s mountain biking videos and photos are getting noticed outside the Okanagan, and for good reason — this is top-notch work, showing off some amazing locations and riders. If the riding at Silver Star is half as fun as Matt’s videos makes it look, it must be pretty special:

Silver Star Bike Park Ep. 2 2011 from Matt Butterworth on Vimeo.

A lot people have bought DSLR cameras in the past year or two that can shoot video. Most of us won’t use it much, or use it for shaky, clunky clips of our friends. Matt’s use of his DSLR inspires us to learn to do this stuff properly, and to see how much fun it could be to make great video. Here’s another one, with a nifty, moody vibe:

Through the Fog :: Anthony Evans from Matt Butterworth on Vimeo.

Although it was his videos that caught my eye, I was also impressed by Matt’s still photos. As you can see in the videos, he’s got a great eye for composition and light, integrating the beauty of the landscape into his action shots. It’s not easy to convey intense motion when you’re freezing motion, but he’s nailing it — I love the energy in the photos below. He was also kind enough to answer a few questions about his creative pursuits.

How did you start doing photography in the Okanagan? 

I started out like most people who shoot action sports. Just out having fun with my buddies and taking photos/making videos to document the good times!


Influences or artists/photographers you admire?

A standout few are Sterling Lorence, Dan Barham, Harookz, and Jordan Manley. All bike or ski shooters, most from magazines I’ve been reading since I was young like BIKE or Decline. Film wise I’d have to go with ROAM or more recently Life Cycles.

The quality of your videos is unreal. It’s obviously mostly about skill, but what what gear are you using to shoot and edit video (cameras, lenses, dollies, software, mics, etc)? 

The last year or so I’ve been shooting on my Canon 7D, it’s a great camera for stills and video. It has a variety of lenses spanning from a super wide fisheye to a 200mm telephoto. I’ve got a 1m long slider mounted on my tripod made by a company called Glidetrack, its pretty awesome for dynamic side to side shots.  Since the start I’ve been editing on Final Cut Pro, and lately I’ve been spending a bit of time in Adobe After Effects.

Action photography is probably the dream job of many, and it looks like you’re well on your way to making it a career. Any tips or advice to aspiring photographers who want to shoot sports? 

Do it because you love it. If you want to make loads of cash this isn’t the right genre of shooting for you! But if you love spending your time outside with good friends, shooting what you are passionate about, this is the greatest job in the world.

It seems like the Okanagan hasn’t had the same high-profile reputation in the mountain biking scene as Whistler, Kamloops and the Kootenays. Is this changing? How would you characterize the riding scene here? 

The sport is really growing rapidly in the Okanagan. With the new mountain bike skills park thanks the local bike club MTBCO and  world class lift access riding at Silver Star, the only direction for the riding scene in the Okanagan is up.

What is inspiring you right now? Any short-term or long-term goals for your photography?

Right now my main focus is just making a living doing this stuff! I’m working on a bigger film project which I’m hoping to release this fall or next spring, so keep your eyes peeled, it’s gonna be sick! Since the beginning my big goal is to get a cover shot on a well-established magazine. Mags have always inspired me and kept me pumped up to go out and capture great moments, so I hope one day my work can do the same for some aspiring shooters out there.

More of Matt’s stuff on the web:

In Focus features interesting Okanagan photographers and their work each month(ish). Individual photos are also featured each week on Focus Friday. The author primarily picks stuff from the I Love the Okanagan group on Flickr — if you have suggestions or ideas for photography features, please pass them along to jhiebert@gmail.com.


In Focus: Kim Thomas

Yes, Kim is an Awesome Okanagan contributor, and as was the case with the article about the Kuhls, I’m queasy about featuring photographers who do commercial work because it looks like favouritism or advertorial. But my introduction to Kim’s photos came years ago on Flickr, and her unique photographic style and verve made it an easy decision to put her stuff In Focus this month.

Anyone with attractive friends and a thousand bucks for a decent camera can take some good pictures immediately, and over a few months, they might get a few great shots. Looking through Kim’s pictures, I see a progression in skill and engagement that can only be developed through years of sustained effort and passion — compelling portraits that stand alone, admired even when you don’t know the subjects. It’s art, with a measure of playfulness that makes it fun and accessible. She was kind enough to answer a few questions about her pursuit of great images.

How did you start doing photography in the Okanagan?

It was the summer of 2008. I bought the Canon XSi and began photographing like mad. I photographed everything I possibly could, and began one of those 365 projects where you take at least one picture a day for an entire year. I was hooked after that. This is one of the first photographs I ever took.

Influences or artists/photographers you admire?

I admire people and I admire life. The conversations and interactions I have with people inspire me, and really, this is the root of my photography. I could write a novel about the many photographers I love. To name a famous photographer, it’s for sure Annie Leibovitz. Some of my inspiring photographer friends are Ashley Batz and Kaare Iverson.

You’ve captured some wonderful faces. Any tips for aspiring portrait photographers?

I focus on three things: the emotion, the story and the light. The emotion and the story probably play off one another, but they are very distinct on their own, so don’t assume both elements are in a photograph. The emotion is the feeling and the story is what sets that feeling. Light is key, too, and is one of my favorite aspects of photography. I’m a firm believer in using natural light. Back light your subject whenever possible.

The wedding/family/portrait business keeps getting more crowded. Any thoughts on the difficulties and opportunities in the business of photography in the valley?

It’s true, the Okanagan is very saturated with photographers. It becomes overwhelming if you focus on competing and how to get the next gig. I put my focus on my personal work. I photograph what I want to photograph and nothing else. I knew that becoming a wedding photographer would be a good way to receive more exposure and make a good pay check, but I’ve never really wanted to photograph weddings.

The more you shoot your natural style, the better it will get. People who like your style will eventually find your work and you’ll begin to build a name for yourself. It’s a slower start, but so far has been entirely worth it.

What is inspiring you right now? Any short-term or long-term goals for your photography?

Knowing that this world is so big and I’ve seen so little of it inspires me. I know there is so much more life out there to shoot, and I must find a way to photograph it all. A short term goal I have is to buy a new camera. Mine was stolen last year and I’ve since been using film and borrowing my boyfriend’s camera. A long term goal is to travel and photograph the world.

You’ve taken some great portraits of guys — in your experience, what are the differences and similarities between photographing men and women? 

In some ways, there are no differences between photographing men and women, but in other ways, they are entirely different. I find guys are most comfortable getting their picture taken when they are with friends goofing around (the candid moments). All of the men I’ve photographed have been great, but for the most part the seem more nervous when they’re with their partner (ie: engagement shoots). That being said, a lot of times the woman is nervous, too. When shooting anyones portrait, you have to learn as a photographer that it’s your job to make your subject comfortable and in their most natural essence. I spend a lot of time getting to know my client. The relationship we build before hand makes the photo shoot more relaxed and natural. My next personal challenge is to start photographing men in a more fashion-esque way. I feel like I get women’s fashion a lot (and therefore female portraiture), but to be honest, I’m still learning a ton about how to photograph a man in his most natural element. A lot of the women I’ve photographed are my friends, so in many ways, they’re easy to photograph.

More of Kim’s stuff online:

Tons of cool stuff behind those links — don’t be shy about checking them out. Sometimes people share amazing stuff online and then only hear crickets chirping. If you see something you really like, let the photographer know with comments, Likes, Faves, re-posts and e-mails.
In Focus features interesting Okanagan photographers and their work each month(ish). Individual photos are also featured each week on Focus Friday. The author primarily picks stuff from the I Love the Okanagan group on Flickr — if you have suggestions or ideas for photography features, please pass them along to jhiebert@gmail.com.

In Focus: Jason St.Pierre

It’s been inspiring to see unique images emerging from Kelowna photographer Jason St. Pierre since he got into night photography a couple of winters ago. Anyone who has taken photos at night in winter in Canada knows that this has to be a labour of love — it’s not easy or comfortable.

Last spring, I dug into his stuff to kick off a gallery project in our I Love the Okanagan group on Flickr. He’s posted a few hundred photos since then, including fantastic portraits and daytime shots. I’m still most struck by his interpretation of the Okanagan at night — that’s the style and subject matter featured here. He was kind enough to answer a few questions for Awesome Okanagan this week.

 

How long have you been doing photography in the Okanagan?

I’ve been doing photography in the Okanagan for about 6 years.  Ever since I bought my first DSLR and became passionate about photo making, it’s been in the Okanagan.  Of course, it started with shots of my kids, and after about a year of that I realized how much I loved it and started to read, learn, and practice as much as possible.
Favourite locations or subjects in the valley?

Big sky and water!  Some of my favourite photos have been near or on the lake with big sky taking up most of the photos.  Of course, anywhere in the Okanagan is a good place to take photos if the sun has set and the dark has engulfed my camera.
Influences or artists/photographers you admire?

I don’t really have any famous people that I look to for inspiration or as role models.  I try to do my own thing when taking photos.  That being said, my style and eye have been influenced by local photographers like my partner in crime, Chris Phillips.
What is it about shooting at night that interests you, and what challenges and opportunities do you see in the dark?

The most beautiful photos of the Okanagan come from the night.  There’s something about photography at night that is both beautiful and haunting.  Snow covered mountains, beautiful smooth skies and water with stars shining brightly above.  You just can’t beat the beauty at night.
Where do you see yourself going with your photography in the next year or two?

I’ve reached the phase in my hobby where I can either invest in more and better equipment and take things more seriously, or just settle in for a life of casual snapping.  I think that I will probably lean towards shooting more people and portrait shots in the years to come with the beautiful Okanagan as the backdrop and take fewer photos of just the landscape.

More of Jason’s stuff online:

In Focus features interesting Okanagan photographers and their work each month(ish). Individual photos are also featured each week on Focus Friday. The author primarily picks stuff from the I Love the Okanagan group on Flickr — if you have suggestions or ideas for photography features, please pass them along to jhiebert@gmail.com.