Nature and the night sky inspire Sudbury photographer

Nature and the night sky inspire Sudbury photographer

Pat Bedard to speak about his work to the Naturalists meeting on Jan. 9

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While it is almost always true that anyone – with a bit of training – can take good snaps, it is a unique skill to take great photographs. Pat Bedard of Sudbury is a superb photographer.

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On Jan. 9 at 7:30 p.m., plan on attending a showcase of images at the Living with Lakes Centre. Bedard will present a diversity of pictures, spanning topics from birds to the night sky.

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Bedard is calling the evening presentation “A closer look at some of nature’s hidden beauties” and you can be sure it will be a visual feast.

“You know, I will talk about a lot of things,” he says.

Nature’s feathered friends – birds – have been his muse.

There will be a shift after that to aurora and astrophotography. Bedard says he is fascinated by “how nature is very different at night.”

He says so much of the natural world is overlooked.

“How impossible it is for most to go out at night in the middle of the forest and do photography because of the inherent (or imagined) dangers,” he says.

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Then there is your ability to stay warm.

Turning back the clock, Bedard recalls photography first captivated him.

“I was 16 working at The Sudbury Star and (former Star photographer) John Lightfoot got me interested a long time ago. I’m 72 now.”

Photography was a very different world then. Light, though, is still the key to the science of the art. Back then, technology was chemistry-based and no one took thousands of images at a single event. We were much more cautious, as well. Unlike jpegs on your screen, each frame costs real money.

“Yes, I used film first. My first camera was an SP500 Pentax. I did have a home darkroom but I was able to use The Sudbury Star darkroom anytime I wanted to.

“I was working in the composing room then. I knew Gino (Donato) and John Lappa (The Star’s photo editor.) I actually shot Gino’s wedding. I sold cameras for many years was a darkroom tech a mini-lab operator. I learned everything from reading.

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“I was a professional photographer for years … worked for some of the photography studios in town, as well as Robert Brown’s camera department. One day I was printing some squiggly lines, not sure what that was about, so I asked the customer what that was. He said astrophotography. I thought to myself. ‘I could better’.”

He knows this can be solitary work.

“You can do basic astrophotography with a camera and tripod,” Bedard says. “It takes a great deal of commitment and determination to do it in the field. You’re always alone. It can be spooky and dangerous, always out of cell range.

“Each time you go out, you have to set up your gear (to) make sure your mount is polar aligned. This can take up to an hour. You need a plan of what you are going to try in the winter. I used to give talks at star parties. I have done a few at Science North and the Doran Planetarium.”

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Astronomical image-making is so specialized, but the results are spectacular. Some say all it takes is investment in equipment and time. Bedard disagrees and says there is no one who does what he does in the open forest in remote areas.

“Each night image requires different equipment. Wide field shots like the Milky Way can be done with just a tripod and a really fast lens. I use a 24mm f1.4 lens. Your exposure are limited to about 30 seconds. Longer will give you star trails.

“If I need to go longer, I use my equatorial mount. This is a very important part of your equipment for deep sky objects where exposure can range from 10 to 20 minutes.”

Bedard knows some of this is a little more complicated, but not all is intricate. “My talk will cover that as long as the crowd can stay awake,” he jokes.

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Bedard has donated many prints for charity and did some slideshows in provincial parks. When Science North had its polar bear exhibit, he displayed images from his time in Churchill, Man.

“I have driven up to Yellowknife in the winter and slept in my Honda Element to photograph auroras. You can’t actually drive to Churchill. You have to drive to Gillam and then take a 12-hour train ride to Churchill. To photograph polar bears … that was tough.”

The presentation will be at the Living with Lakes Centre on Ramsey Lake Road, but also available via Zoom. To receive a link, email [email protected].

The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government.

[email protected]

X: @SudburyStar

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