-Story by Nessa Pullman
It’s by following our curiosity that we find our true passions — by listening to that small, subtle voice inside, begging us to come a little closer. But not everyone hears that voice right away. And for Peninsula-based photographer Dave Hutchison, it took awhile to find the path to his passion.
But today, Dave has carved out a career niche with his love of photography, working for clients that range from BC Ferries to National Bank Financial, and producing images for over 20 calendars, books, thousands of art cards, tourism guides, magazines and more.
Recently, he’s had two images accepted into the PPOC (Professional Photographers of Canada) National Images Salon (competition) and received his second PPOC Accreditation in Scenic/Pictoral Photography from PPOC.
“I consider myself fortunate to have ventured into places that many others don’t visit,” he says on his website at davehutchison.ca. “The Great Bear Rainforest … has called me back repeatedly with the lure of grizzly and Spirit bears.”
He has also photographed whales, wolves and birds, landscapes and seascapes from all over North America and, recently, Europe. His images are breathtaking.
Growing up in St. Catharines, Ontario, Dave was drawn to the outdoors. Cycling, a cherished hobby, gave him the opportunity to be outside in nature — easily his favourite place to be. By 1993, Dave found himself on the West Coast of Canada in Vancouver, selling commercial exercise equipment to large corporations such as Telus, BC Hydro and Canada Post.
In 2002, Dave gravitated to the Saanich Peninsula in search of a quieter surrounding to call home. Still working for the company in Vancouver, Dave commuted from his home in Sidney to his workplace on the Lower Mainland every few days for two years.
“That back and forth lifestyle — it’s enough to burn anyone out. You start to feel like you don’t really live anywhere. I needed to find an outlet to offset that,” explains Dave.
As the owner of four Whippet dogs at the time, he began photographing dog racing around BC. What started out as a simple pastime, soon catapulted into a career in which he never thought he’d find himself.
“It was just very peaceful, being out in the field, no one else around except me and the dogs. To me it was very therapeutic after a long work week.”
Soon after that, Dave went on a trip to Yellowstone National Park with his friend and fellow photographer Shane McDermott.
“I remember being completely wowed by the abundance of wildlife — bison, pronghorns, elk — everywhere I looked. It was that connection to photography that I hadn’t yet experienced. It was the bait that lured me in,” he recalls, the memory still so tangible.
“It was an image I had taken on my trip to Yellowstone that was my first framed and sold piece of art. It was then that I realized this could become much more than just a pastime.”
|Wilderness and wildlife photographer Dave Hutchison photographed with a few of his images on display at the Picture Perfect Gallery in the University Heights Shopping Centre. Don Denton photography
As he launched his career in nature and wildlife photography, his home in the Saanich Peninsula provided an “excellent training ground to experiment and practise with landscape photography,” he says. “The Peninsula has these amazing sunsets … from Deep Cove to Moses Point.”
Dave approaches photography as a form of communication.
“What I love most about nature and wildlife photography is that I can communicate to others what is out there to preserve — what we have to cherish and keep. People buy artwork because they can connect to it, whatever it may be,” he explains. “There are so many different genres to communicate — whether it’s painting, music, or dance — it’s all the same in the sense that we are trying to communicate. For some reason photography happened for me — whether it came to me or I came to it.”
What especially draws Dave to his work is the way in which immerses him in nature.
“It’s a whole different life when you are out there in the wild with another being; it teaches you how to be present in an instant,” he says, adding, “When you’re alone with wildlife, you can only be fully there — nothing else matters. And that’s where the real teaching comes into place … it teaches you to stay calm, to breathe, but at the same time it magnifies itself into all areas of your life. Photography is just a medium — a portal — to reveal how you’re going to be in this world.”
Dave began conducting one-on-one photography workshops eight years ago.
“When I work with my students I don’t call it ‘photography,’ I call it ‘image making.’ I teach them how to create images, not to take snap shots — they already know how to do that.”
He soon expanded the personal sessions, and within a few years, he was hosting group workshops and photo tours around BC.
“For me, it’s about meeting the students where they’re at, not to be above or below them. We are all creative beings, it just sometimes takes something to bring it out in us. For me, it was much later in life.”
As I sit down with Dave on a late summer’s evening, I can feel his excitement as he tells me his plans for his upcoming international workshops in Italy, Colorado and the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary in Northern BC. Dave’s outlook on his craft may seem ordinary to some—but it’s his outlook on our role as creative beings and communicators of our earth, that seems imaginably exceptional.