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Barry Westhead marries

Art

By Wendy Soloduik

By Wendy Soloduik

A

rts Society King (ASK) member Barry Westhead doesn’t have to choose between his career as an industrial engineer and his passion for photography. In fact, by marrying technology to art, Barry has devised his own durable, true-to-life art form that Tapestry Magazine has dubbed the ‘Outdoor Giclée’. Recently, Barry sat with me in his home studio in Kleinberg to discuss his creative process. Here is what he told me... When I was a boy... Barry’s “exposure” to the world of photography began when he was a child. His father James was an avid photographer who enjoyed developing his own prints. “I was in the darkroom from a young age,” Barry told me. “Like my father, I developed a passion for black and white photography and darkroom techniques.” Moving toward his adolescent years, Barry’s fascination with photography was replaced by a love of technology. In fact, it would be some years before he got behind the lens again, as Barry focused on pursuing an education and eventual career as a professional engineer in the field of Industrial Automation and Electronics. The dawn of the ‘Digital Age’ Barry Westhead was a pioneer in the area of using digital imagery for the purpose of systems analysis. “I was one of the first to get a digital camera when they came out,” Barry confirms. “My company would use cameras to document systems we had evolved for manufacturing facilities. Using the images our cameras captured, we could diagnose what was happening on the manufacturing lines, and make the necessary adjustments.” The professional use of cameras reignited the passion for photography within Barry

with

Technology

as electronics and creativity collided. “My mentor, Ansel Adams, knew that the day would come when technology would replace the darkroom all together. In his 82nd year he said, ‘The time will come when you will be able to make the entire photograph electronically, with extremely high resolution and the enormous control you can get from electronics, the results will be fantastic. I wish I were young again’. Ansel had it right.” On the dusty trail In an effort to bring balance to his life, Barry Westhead is also an avid runner. The former marathoner uses his down time to run on trails throughout the forests and fields of the Humber River Watershed and Niagara Escarpment regions with his two border collies. “I find trail running very relaxing,” says Barry, also the former chair of the Humber Valley Heritage Trail Association. “It allows me to scout out locations to capture new images.” Although he carries a pointand-shoot camera on his person, Barry uses a GPS (Global Positioning System) to mark spots of interest. He then returns with his professional cameras to capture the image that caught his attention. In the eye of the beholder To take his blend of art and technology one step further, Barry uses something called High Dynamic Range (HDR) to capture some of his images. In laymen’s terms, this means he uses a tripod and a remote shutter to capture the image in various exposure levels. He then overlaps the images using a computer to create an image that recreates what is seen by the human eye. “When you take a picture of something, it never looks like what you are seeing with your eyes,” Barry explains. “By using HDR techniques, I can -4-

overlap the images – from very under exposed to very over exposed – on my computer to recreate the scene exactly as I saw, and felt it.” The HDR technique is ideal for photographing scenes in nature, Barry’s favorite genre, as shadow details that would normally be left in darkness by the camera (to highlight a focal point) are now revealed. “Your eyes adjust very quickly to the amount of light available when looking from one object to another,” explains Barry. “This allows you to see everything in full focus. When you are taking pictures, this cannot occur, unless you use HDR.” On Barry’s Web site, he further explains HDR technology: “The essence of HDR photography is to emulate with canvas and inks the secrets the Old Master and Renaissance painters developed centuries ago to achieve radiant colours and ‘glowing’ skin tones using just the available colour palette of the oil-based pigments of their day. Master Painters learned to use colour combinations and contrasts that would make our mind's eye see the paintings as if were viewing the actual scene. Picasso's assertion: ‘Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.’” Manipulation Barry Westhead shoots his images raw. This means the only thing fixed about the images he captures is the exposure and the recorded white balance. What this means is that the image can be manipulated using computer software to perfect the end result, even if HDR is not used. “I use a program called Light Room to catalogue, crop and adjust the light balance in my raw images. Once I’ve selected an image to work with, I then use Photoshop to sharpen the areas that need it. All I’m doing is bringing out the beauty that’s already there,” says the artist. “It’s amazing what you can find if you look for it. If the

details are there, you can find them.” Barry spends up to 20 hours on any particular image, making it appear true to life. “It (the image) has to be manipulated. The image is always manipulated – even by the camera itself,” says Barry. “Even ‘purists’ try to achieve a desired effect through preferred film selection and preferred development techniques.” Spray it, don’t say it With his image now perfected, Barry uses a specialized Epson Giclée printer, to control his creative process, even in the final steps. The $8,000 printer takes about $3,000 worth of ink (when fully charged) and uses an 11-colour process. It is the most advanced printer in history. “In the last hundred years, there have been only two advancements in printing, the laser printer and the Giclée printer,” Barry explains. Ironically, the 11 colour printing process is referred to by Epson as a High Dynamic Ink Range, mimicking the term used to describe Barry’s photographic technique. Barry explains why the 11colour process is so important: “Of the 11 colours, four of them are different shades of black. All of the details in a printed image are in the black ink and shades of gray are where the extreme details reside.” Barry uses different kinds of paper to alter the end product. His favorite paper is imported from Germany. The Giclée A Giclée print is created in a single spray pass (literally translated, the word Giclée is French for “to spray”. The word was originally derived by famous printmaker Jack Duganne from the French

Tapestry Fall 2011  
Tapestry Fall 2011  

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