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: 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

In Focus: Jason Drury

As a masters student in human geography, Jason Drury brings a fascinating analytical approach to his photography. Not that it’s dry or scholarly — there’s often a real sense of humour and whimsy in his pictures — but there is often more to an image than first meets the eye. This approach is rooted in his research interests in landscapes (including ours), as well as how people represent and interact with them.

I first dug into Jason’s pictures as part of a project to assemble individual galleries of work in our I Love the Okanagan group on Flickr. His unique abstracts filled that first gallery, but it could have just as easily focused on epic landscape shots or urban grit from all over the continent. The range and quality of his pictures imply deep curiosity and a great eye for patterns.

This week he was kind enough to answer a few questions about his learning and creativity for Awesome Okanagan.

How long have you been doing photography?

I’ve been getting more involved with my photography, at least in the Okanagan for about two years now. I’ve always had a camera of one sort or another, but recently I’ve been able to explore my vision and perception of the world with the dedication and process I think it deserves.

Any favourite locations in the valley?

Considering I live in downtown Kelowna, I would have to say that it is my favorite location to shoot just for the ease of access it affords me. I enjoy wandering the alleyways and industrial areas at night, and in the day shooting from the hip on the streets. There are so many other spots I know I need to explore some more however, and I have only touched the surface of everything around here.

Any influences or photographers you admire?

One of my favorite photographers would have to be Edward Burtynsky. His representations of landscapes transformed by humans really speak to me. Especially as a student of human geography I’m interested in the ways that humans interact with, change, and think of the places they live.

More… Keep Reading…

In Focus: Simon and Deborah Kuhl

There are dozens (hundreds?) of photographers doing portraits and weddings in the Okanagan. I was reluctant to feature one for two reasons: a lot of them are doing it exceptionally well, making it difficult to choose, and also because drawing attention to one looks like commercial favoritism. On the other hand, I thought it might be interesting to get a glimpse into this genre and learn something new.

Simon and Deborah seem to be taking a unique path, shooting a wide range of different subjects and styles, sharing their work, participating in online communities, and working together as a couple. These two obviously love the Okanagan, and would be taking pictures here even if they weren’t making a business of it.

Instead of a cross-section of different styles, I opted to feature a number of their black and white portraits. There’s a wonderful timeless quality to many of them; a sense that the picture has value even when you don’t know the people portrayed. I get the impression of authenticity, and of stories being told, whether the shots are posed or not. They were gracious enough to answer a few questions about their photographic journey so far.

Q. Favourite locations in the valley?
A. Linden Gardens is where it all started for us and we still shoot there regularly. The scenery changes by the week and it’s such a refreshing place to be, on many levels. Plus the coffee is great. It’s a place where we are relaxed and can experiment with many different styles and subjects.

We also loved living on the sunny east side of the valley and would get great results on our sunset photo-walks after dinner.

Keep Reading…

In Focus: Greg Gaspari

Looking at the quality of Greg Gaspari’s pictures, you’d never guess that he’s only been serious about photography for a couple of years. He’s exploring a variety of subjects and genres with the skill and range of someone with a lot more experience, creating memorable images with wonderful light and precision.

I first took a proper look at Greg’s work while assembling a gallery in our I Love the Okanagan group on Flickr. His treatment of trees was striking — a simple subject that yielded a beautiful gallery, but one that didn’t properly cover the range of his interests. I asked him a few questions to learn more.

How long have you been doing photography in the Okanagan?

I bought my first camera on June 9th 2009, so that’s when it all started for me. A year and half later and thousands of dollars spent on more gear (which is addictive by the way), and here I am with a magazine cover to my credit (Okanagan Map Guides). I’m also being mentored by one of the top wildlife photographers in North America.

In Focus: Rick Forgo

Rick ForgoRick Forgo looks at the Okanagan with a unique eye, finding meaning and insight behind the idealized facade. Using unconventional methods and subjects the rest of us might ignore, he presents a grittier view of the valley’s urban scenes. This style really shines in his portrayal of his hometown, especially at night. Isn’t Vernon is fascinating in this light?

How long have you been doing photography in the Okanagan?
I started being really aware of the “artistic” aspects of photography and shooting accordingly in 2005. However, I’ve spent about half of these last five years in other locales, returning to the Okanagan in 2010.

Favourite locations in the valley?
I love the classic spots, the hiking trails, grasslands, beaches, and whatnot. But for photography I’m primarily drawn to urban areas. I also really enjoy shooting fringe areas such as urban parks or abandoned settlements, anywhere that natural and human-made environments intersect. If you see someone with a tripod and camera standing in an alley or on a corner in the middle of the night, it’s probably me.

In Focus: Darrel Giesbrecht

Local photographer Darrel Giesbrecht has been posting amazing photos to the I Love the Okanagan group on Flickr (as okanaganboy) for a couple of years. Earlier this year I assembled a gallery of some his shots based on the theme serenity.  I saw a real sense of calm and peacefulness in his work, and I suspect that this sense goes beyond how the scenes appear — they convey the actual experience of serenity, and probably capture something of Darrel’s personal journey.

Some of the pictures have the standard elements we associate with calming effects: water, forests and emptiness. But they strike me as unique views of familiar landscapes, and others explicitly include people as part of the experience of landscape, enjoying a type of spiritual connection with beautiful places. It’s impossible to encompass the full scope of Darrel’s work in a short profile, but you can check out his stuff online and exhibits up and down the valley. He’s shown his pictures in several local venues including the Rotary Center for the Arts.

Gallery of Photos from Darrel Giesbrecht

Serenity Now: Gallery of Photos from Darrel Giesbrecht

Photo by Darrel Giesbrecht:

Photo by Darrel Giesbrecht: