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Nancy MacPhee
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Red Sands Photography Club offers place for amateur shutterbugs to learn and share

SUMMERSIDE — If a picture’s worth a thousand words then the collective works of the Red Sands Photography Club could fill a bookcase.

This photo, entitled Hanging Out, is one of the many wildlife images captured by Paul Arsenault, co-founder of the Red Sands Photography Club.

The members, each with a passion for photography and a desire to learn and better their skills, share tips, secrets, dos and don’ts, along with their photographs, at monthly meetings or via the club’s Facebook page.

The club was started more than three years ago by co-workers, friends and amateur photographers, Paul Arsenault and Mike Gallant.

“I always wanted a good camera, as I call it,” Arsenault said about how he got into photography four years ago. “One day I came into a little extra money and I told my wife I’m going to buy one.”

He started snapping photos and chatting about photography with Gallant, who, at the time, was more interested in graphic design.

“I always felt there was an artistic part in there somewhere,” he added. “We got this really cheap, crappy point and shoot and I started playing with that. It just progressed.”

Once he bought his first digital single lens reflex camera four years ago, Gallant was bitten by the shutterbug.

“I started shooting a little bit. Paul, at the time, had done a project — one photo a day for 365 days of the year. The year after he did it I tried it as well,” added Gallant. “It made me a much better shooter and I was seeing things differently.”

It was after speaking with Leona Arsenault, another amateur photographer and current club member, that the two men started Red Sands Photography Club.

She started snapping pictures almost by accident more than six years ago.

“I wanted to capture my grandmother’s first day at the beach but I didn’t have a camera. I asked my sister if she had one and she said ‘all I have is a digital’,” said Arsenault. “I thought it was great because you could see the pictures right away. It took off from there.”

She parlayed that newfound passion into a business and has sold her work to countless tourists and captured images for a long list of clients.

“I am an emotional photographer,” she said, adding that the focus now is more on the technical side of photography. “I like to experiment. I have done a lot of landscape because I sell those quite a bit.”

The club has grown in its three years, from seven members at its first meeting to almost 50 paid members with varying degrees of experience.

At the monthly meetings, there are guest speakers, such as acclaimed P.E.I. photographer John Sylvester, presentations and sessions focusing on certain skills, monthly outings to practice those skills and even homework.

“We try to mix it up,” said Arsenault. “We want to make it interesting for everybody.”

Tastes in subjects and styles of photography are as varied as the club’s members.

For Arsenault, sports, notably the action on the court at Summerside Storm games, where he can usually be spotted on the sidelines, and wildlife are favourites.

For the father and husband, picking up his camera and heading out to a game or for a drive is a time to distress, his alone time.

“It’s my addiction. I’m always striving for a better image. I’m always looking to better what I did the day before. I’m trying to one up myself.”

Now, three cameras and tens of thousands of pictures after buying his first ‘real’ camera, Arsenault teaches photography at a Summerside community school and a seniors’ class at Holland College.

“The more you shoot and the more you get into it the more you look at things differently,” he said. “I was at Subway the other day and the lady who waited on me, I said to my wife that she has wicked eyes for a black and white picture.”

Gallant started out shooting landscape but his ‘focus’ is starting to change.

“I like connecting with my subject. I am gravitating towards more people portraits,” he added. “I find it’s different every time you go out. One family is totally different from the next. It’s unpredictable. That’s what keeps it fresh for me.”

He’s had an image of friend and biker, Jamie Palmer aka Big Palmer, published in Canadian Biker Magazine, a thrill for the amateur ‘photog’.

“The good thing to know about photography is the more you shoot the better you will get. You have to go out and shoot, shoot, shoot just to find that one little diamond,” said Gallant, before adding, “And make sure your batteries are charged and your card is reformatted.”

The key to becoming a better photographer, say the men, is to learn from mistakes made, be open to criticism and to try new things.

“You are always learning,” said Arseanult. “I still learn stuff when I’m teaching.”

For photography newcomer, Mike Gaudet, who is also a student of Arsenault’s, the $25 club membership has been well worth it.

“I got lots of useful information. In fact, it is too much information for my brain,” said the new member. “If anyone out there with a camera wants to learn photography they should join this club.”



-       Red Sands Photography Club meets the first Monday of the month

-       Meetings take place upstairs at the Silver Fox Curling and Yacht Club beginning at 6:30 p.m. and last one to two hours

-       Annual membership is $25 with a $2 fee for each meeting attended to pay from room rental

-       To find out more about the club or to view some of the member’s work, visit them on Facebook.




Organizations: Holland College, Red Sands Photography Club, Canadian Biker Magazine Silver Fox Curling and Yacht Club

Geographic location: Summerside

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