When you look at the Erie Canalway, what do you see?
Ninety-two photographers from around the state answered that question by sending a total of 270 images to the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor as part of the 2011 Erie Canalway Photo Contest. Twelve of those photos stood out from the rest and will make up the free 2012 Erie Canalway calendars, debuting later in the fall.
“These outstanding images show us the beauty and character of the canal corridor and remind us of what makes it a unique place to celebrate and preserve,” said Beth Sciumeca, executive director of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor.
Judges sifted through the pile of landscape photos to create a calendar that depicted the diverse scenes along the canal, which stretches from Whitehall to Buffalo.
“You just get such a different and more diverse perspective from people who actually live or are visiting that particular place because the National Heritage Corridor is so large,” said Jean Mackay, director of communications and outreach for the corridor.
Creating the calendar by soliciting photos from the community has been the best and simplest way to go since 2006.
“We don’t really have the capacity to be out and about on any given day when the light is right, so it’s much nicer to have people to share with us what they’re seeing,” said Mackay.
Tina Baxter of Clifton Park captured a striking view of Whipple Bridge in Vischer Ferry, which won her first place in the “Nature of the Canal” category.
“It’s a 180-degree angle view, that’s my favorite lens,” said Baxter, who has been photographing for about a year.
She’s gotten “a lot of honorable mentions” but this was her first time clinching a higher honor.
“I thought it was awesome to get first place. It was really cool, I called my Mom,” said Baxter.
Landscape photography is her favorite but Baxter said she’s not wedded to that style. She’s self-taught, so experimenting with portrait, food, architecture and wedding photography is natural.
“I watch a lot of YouTube videos, go through the Internet and go through pictures to try to get ideas to see what’s out there. It’s improved my photography a lot,” said Baxter. “Landscape photography is really easy; it’s always there and doesn’t move … it’s fun to see what you can take pictures of and it’s a moment in time that maybe somebody else didn’t see when they looked at it.”
Baxter’s got a grasp of composition but said she’s still working out kinks with lighting and exposure. She’s also working to perfect indoor photography and working with studio lighting.
“I shoot pretty much everything. I just love taking pictures,” said Baxter. “I try to look at what’s around; try to not put certain things in the picture. I try to see what captures my eye.”
She started a Facebook page to share her photos called Tina Baxter Photography, which has 250 followers, and also donates artwork to not-for-profits like New York State Parks and the American Red Cross.
Peter T. Rossi of Slingerlands has been practicing photography as a hobby for about eight years. He shoots because he loves it but he enters contests to win.
“That’s what I do it for, the prize. It’s very flattering,” said Rossi. “I realize that everybody’s tastes are perhaps completely different than mine so when you win, it’s great but when you lose, you move on.”
His photo titled “Bateaux Lesson” took third place in the “For the Fun of It”’ category.
“It was taken at Mabee Farm and it was of someone giving three people a lesson on how to row a bateaux [a big wooden rowboat] on the Mohawk River,” said Rossi, who has been published in the Erie Canalway Heritage Corridor calendar twice before and won ribbons at other local art contests.
He said he’s drawn to landscapes and “semi-landscapes” like the Albany Tulip Festival because he strives to depict a scene.
“I like to compose it as I’m viewing it and in a way that someone else might appreciate it also,” said Rossi. “Then, if it’s something that’s very well known that I’m photographing, I try to take the photos from a different perspective.”
Now retired from a career in marketing where images abound, Rossi said he’s always been interested in photos and is relishing the chance to be on the other end of things.
“I enjoy the challenge of finding a scene and trying to make it into a permanent representation of a feeling; imparting a feeling,” said Rossi.
Rossi recently returned from a trip to Alaska. Of course, he brought along his camera.
“Some of the days, as you’ll find in Alaska, were overcast and rainy, but I still took photos and some came out quite well,” said Rossi.
Traveling the world shooting photos is what he hopes to continue doing.
“I don’t necessarily have a particular photographic target in mind but I would enjoy new and different challenges,” said Rossi.
Katrina van Tassel of Malta won second place for her photo, “All in a Row,” which shows a portion in Waterford. She said it was “perfect lighting” on the July 4 morning it was captured. She’s entered the contest for three years.
“It’s nice to validate that you’ve got an eye and can take decent pictures,” said van Tassel.
The twelve photos made for a striking calendar, but Mackay said they also serve an important purpose.
“In part, we wanted to raise awareness about the National Heritage Corridor and invite people to show us what they were seeing,” said Mackay. “And it’s nice to make the calendars available for free so people can see with a fresh set of eyes what’s right in their own backyard.”
A full list of winners and collection of images is available online at www.eriecanalway.org. Calendar locations will be posted online in November.