In a region packed with prodigious photographers, it might seem difficult to choose one eye that has captured the true essence of what it is to live in the Kootenays. Do a poll of those in the know, however, and one name will rise to the top of the list: David R. Gluns. From the coffee table staple Nelson, British Columbia to the scrumptious images in the Whitewater cookbooks to a raft of magazine images worldwide, Gluns has captured what is great about the people and geography of the place we call home.
This month, some of the best Gluns images are on display at the Nelson Public Library for public consumption. A retired research forest hydrologist, Gluns now spends his time wandering the mountains near and far with his trusty tools in a well worn backpack. From the Slocan to Nepal, he continues to pursue his zeal for capturing moments great and small. Nelson Star editor Bob Hall caught up to Gluns via email earlier this week while he was in Germany to ask him a few questions about life and his craft…
First time you picked up a camera?
Could have been when I was a young kid as my dad really liked to take pictures. Not sure if I pressed the button or not. He mostly shot transparency film and he would bore us to death with slideshows. It’s one thing I learned from him. Never bore your audience with images. I only got serious about taking pictures in high school. I think it was because I was no good at team sports and photography was a good way to integrate with everyone in the school. It was also a great way to make a little cash on the side and pay for new equipment. A short stint with a major newspaper after high school in the ‘70s made me realize photojournalism was not my calling. I needed a job that would pay the bills. It wasn’t till the early ‘90s that I picked up a camera seriously with the intention of making images that could be marketed. I still needed my day job but was able to provide images to tourism and related magazines showing off the Kootenays.
A photographer’s best day is…
… any day when the light is right for what you want to shoot. Photography is all about light. A best day is also when you shoot an assignment and find out that one of your images is chosen for the cover of the magazine.
Which world is better: film or digital?
Getting to be an old question. I laugh now when I get asked as there are photographers out there that have never shot film and wouldn’t have a clue. Nowadays it’s digital by far but I sometimes do have a moment when I look at one of my old transparencies on the light table and go “wow … those were the days”. Color was more vibrant than on a monitor. I must say digital has opened up photography to the masses. I got involved with it early. It was hard to convince magazines that this was the way to go. I was shooting mostly transparency film and would send them some digital files to compare. Back then it was nowhere near as good as it is now. I am still amazed as to how people get so taken up in the megapixel game with bigger is better. It depends on the end use and for most people it’s too big now…more than they ever need. The first cookbook I shot was with a four megapixel camera and when people look at it are very surprised. Cameras keep packing in more megapixels but unless you are making very large prints they are really not needed. I do like the digital world for archiving and sending images out to clients. With film it was always a back and forth with original images never knowing where they may end up. With digital you always have an original and if you have a system of backup it should be safe well into the future. I also like being able to play with images a lot more on the computer than in the old darkroom. It’s just a new world but film will always be there for the purists.
Can a photographer ever shut off seeing the world through a lens?
Some can and some can’t. For me it depends where I am and what I am seeing. If I know there is a market and a need for the image, then my vision is through a lens. I will create an image. If I am on holidays, I sometimes like to record and remember. Nothing created. It’s a big difference.
Most memorable photo shoot?
Lots! Nothing stands out as the one. The Galapagos is high on the list as is the Tatshenshini and the Nass rafting trips which were shot for several companies. Shooting a trip called “bears and whales” for Butterfield and Robinson was memorable. Eating some of the food for Whitewater Cooks series of cookbooks has memories whenever I view the images. And how could I forget the girls calendar shoot! Fact is whenever I see historical images I always remember the times shooting it and the fun involved. They all carry memories, none more so than others.
What photographer’s work do you most admire and why?
Lots of photographers but I have to admit the late Galen Rowell was my early inspiration. Having followed him for years in the early ‘90s he came to Nelson once to do a one-day workshop that was inspirational. I enjoy viewing most photographers’ work that are serious about their craft. Nelson has a large number of great image-makers and it’s always interesting to see how they view the world around them.
When does photography become art?
For the most part photography is an art form. Personally I don’t think it’s art when shooting to record the moment as one would do with friends etc but it evolves into art when you compose and pre visualize your image. Postproduction is now a big part of turning photography into an art form as there is so much more you can do digitally these days to bring out your vision.
One fact people need to know about Nepal?
It’s not difficult to take a good picture. There is an old saying that you can drop your camera and still make a good picture in Nepal. For the most part people are still friendly and off the beaten track they are more curious about you and where you are from than we would be of Nepalese walking down the streets of Nelson. Nepal is a place with endless opportunities for photography.
Location in the Kootenays that makes you happiest?
Another tough question, as I am happy just being in the Kootenays and living in Nelson. There is no one location. I do travel every year to Europe and Asia but there is something about being home. The fact that so many people are discovering Nelson and moving here says a lot about what it is and what it has to offer. I do have to say my happiest is in the mountains or on a deserted beach in the Koots with my squeeze ….. and not the Nikon variety!
Best camera you have ever owned?
One that takes pictures! Believe it or not, I have been on a backcountry shoot where the camera quits and my spare is in the vehicle kilometres away. I rarely work without a second body at hand but when weight is a consideration I opt for a lens over another body. Today’s pro cameras are pretty good and they don’t fail too often. I shoot Nikon mostly because of the old days being that is what I grew up with. It goes back and forth with Canon as to what is best but in the end you just have to pick what works for you. After all, it’s just a camera and it’s the person pressing the button that makes the image.