Kootenay photographer seeks transcendence

Colin Payne exhibiting work at the Nelson Public Library until end of October.

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Kootenay photographer Colin Payne was hiking through the wilderness in Valhalla Provincial Park when he came across the scraggly, rotting husk of an ancient tree overlooking Drinnon Pass. He knew instantly he’d discovered something special.

“The tree was standing at the edge of a precipice that was crumbling away. Its roots were sticking out and you could see the rocks crumbling underneath it, and then the pass was spread out beneath it,” he told the Star, describing how he captured one of the photos now on display at the Nelson Public Library.

“I said to myself ‘this is what I’ve been looking for.’ This tree has been clinging here for how long? And it’s been looking out over this pass for centuries.”

But it was more complicated than taking a quick snap.

“I chose my lens, I got my camera set up and my tripod, and I waited for the right light. The clouds are constantly changing and moving, the light always shifting, and I needed it to be exactly right.”

And it’s that patience, combined with sensitivity to his natural surrounding, that’s key to getting the shots he desires. Over the years he’s cultivated a receptivity to his surroundings, letting the landscape speak to him. He aims to find an intuitive response to his subjects in which “everything around me drops away and my mind is free to create.”

Payne’s love affair with photography began in his home province of Newfoundland, continued while he studied photojournalism at Thompson Rivers University, and came to fruition when he moved to the Kootenays and began working for the Nelson Daily News.

“I fell in love with both my wife and the place,” he said.

“My work is inspired by both the incredible raw beauty that surrounds me in the Pacific Northwest, as well as the countless impacts of humanity’s presence on the land.”

Payne’s exhibition at the library, which runs until the end of October, features seven images. It’s his first solo show in years, though he’s participated in Blue Night Arts Festival and displays his work locally at the Craft Connection.

His goal is to make people think.

“I want to make more than a pretty picture. I want something people can look at and think about, something more than a fleeting response like ‘that’s beautiful.’ I want to inspire thought and feeling, I want them to experience to some extent what I experienced.”

To learn more about Payne’s photography visit colinpaynephoto.com.