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The Making of a Light Writer

The Incredible Aurora Borealis over Lake of the Woods • Credit: Wanda Kabel-Easton
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The Making of a Light Writer

Photographs are a visual tool for storytelling. I like to think that my photographs are my way of sharing my story.

Writing with light

The word photography comes from the Greek words for light and drawing; photos and graphe. Photography, then, by definition, is the process of drawing with light. My interest in the art of photography began with a basic desire to tell a story and I was also interested in written storytelling. 

My journey with photography started in my early teens, using Disc Cameras, 110 Cameras, and Instamatics. Depending on one’s generation, you might recognize these but if you don’t, and you happen to Google them, they aren’t that much different looking than the cameras of today. 

A unique view of tall aspens.

As my interest (and income) grew, I graduated to a 35mm film camera, with interchangeable lenses and filters. This is where I began to cultivate my knowledge of light and exposure. While I didn’t have formal educational opportunities, I did have ready access to books on the subject. And I continue to learn this way today, reading, reading, and reading some more! 

In the 2000s, while I was quite happy to continue on using my film camera, the digital camera made an appearance and though I was reluctant to make the switch when I did, I dove in headfirst! I still have film cameras and future aspirations to work with them, I’ve now pretty much gone full-frame-digital with the best equipment that I can currently afford.

I should note, however, that despite what many might think, it isn’t a camera that takes a good photograph; one can take a good photo with a smartphone. While it’s nice to have good equipment, one doesn’t need an expensive camera to practice photography. Anyone can be a photographer. It mostly takes perspective and, a lot of the time, luck, to be in the right place at the right time.

Growing up in Sioux Narrows, Ontario, the wild beauty of the Lake of the Woods and the surrounding Canadian Shield was and is a prominent feature in my captured images. My interests have been and continue to be boating, fishing, camping, hiking, and exploring with my family the natural environment that surrounds us. I am definitely in the right place!

Monotropa uniflora, also known as the ghost flower

While my work is varied, I prefer to capture candid photos of family and friends, series of particular objects or events, and wilderness landscapes with a particular focus on astrophotography, historical sites, and the people who inhabit our Northern communities.

The author captures a frozen bubble in mid-air

My process involves a weaving of imagery; my intent is to showcase both the natural beauty of the Lake of the Woods basin and the Boreal forest and the mark that mankind has made and continues to make on it. My goal is to look past the obvious, which is not always beautiful in the traditional sense. This could mean an abandoned, decaying building with the backdrop of an otherwise pastoral wilderness landscape, or a deer carcass, roadkill, against a stark white snowbank under a brilliant starry sky. I try to inspire onlookers to see beauty in both the obvious and the unusual.

In keeping with this style, I also often employ recognizable landmarks together with the natural, features of Lake of the Woods. I try to represent these in an alternative way, such as at night, under the Milky Way, with the Aurora Borealis or an eclipsed moon. To me, this weaving of subjects is symbolic of so many of the things that I love about my home, where I choose to remain and raise my family.

Illustrative of this is a piece that I am particularly proud of. I was able to capture several elements together, including the iconic Sioux Narrows Bridge, its reflection in the water, the Aurora Borealis, the starry night sky, Lake of the Woods, and the majesty of an old-growth pine tree. To me, this image is symbolic of so many of the things that I love about Sioux Narrows.

Capturing images of my family, friends, adventures, places, and natural events, also helps me in remembering. The power of photography is not only its ability to transcend language but its ability to transcend time. Photographs freeze time and live on. Though there can be a particular sadness in viewing images of bygone persons, places, or things, these images can evoke feelings of joy as well.

Sharing images and stories has never been as easy as it is today, through blogging, email, messaging, and social media platforms. I have also been fortunate to be a part of two public gallery exhibits to date.  

Movement by Water Series

A succession of still photographs assembled for stop-motion animation in mechanical flip boxes were featured in the Moving Gallery Project in Sioux Narrows–Nestor Falls as part of a Heritage Canada, Canada 150 project. The exhibit featured professional literary, audio, and visual artists from across Canada and toured Northwestern Ontario and Manitoba in the summer of 2017.

Bridge to the Aurora Borealis

A still image printed on white metal was selected to be a part of the Artist’s Muse Exhibit in Kenora at the Lake of the Woods Museum’s Douglas Family Art Centre. The exhibit extends from late 2019 to the end of January 2020.

Ice caves up close

I also participated in both the 2018 and 2019 Sioux Narrows Arts Festival events. The Sioux Narrows Arts Festival is an annual, juried Art Show and Sale that began in 1961. I had the opportunity there to speak with several children and youth in passing who are keenly interested in photography. It was such a delight to see the spark of enthusiasm on their faces, hear the magnitude of their knowledge at such an early age, and see some of the examples of their work.

I will continue to create photo stories to the best of my ability, and I will continue to marvel at those photographers around me, both emerging and otherwise, whose photographs both inspire and challenge me. I will continue to explore, capturing images of my family, friends, adventures, places, and things around me. I will remember with greater clarity the people, places, and events that were and are important to me. I will carry on sharing my stories, whether it be through physical prints of my images or digital representations via the internet or Instagram. Whatever the case, I will continue writing my story with light.

To see more of Wanda's work, please visit her website, Facebook page, or on Instagram.

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