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Developing a passionate eye

Much of David Hunsberger’s vast portfolio of photography will be on display at the Conrad Grebel Waterloo campus through April 30. Clockwise: A barn-raising, a horse and buggy on Church Street in Elmira, a woman draws a crowd at the Elmira fall fair and a group gathers for a pig sale in Elmira. [Submitted]

“I don’t ever leave home without my camera,” says Alma-based photographer Sharon Grose. “My kids tease me because any time we’re going anywhere, they always plan half an hour or 15 minutes extra, because you never know when mom’s going to run into something she wants to take a photo of.”

So, in a typical year, how many pho…

“Oh, tho-o-o-u-u-usands,” she interjects. “My husband keeps buying additional computer space for me.”

And over a lifetime?

“I can’t even count,” she laughs. “I shoot several hundred every time I go out.”

Sharon Grose started dabbling in photography when she was in high school, as a foreign exchange student in Germany, and developed her chops taking photos as a 4-H junior farmer. Today, she freelances for a range of agricultural industry magazines, and at the 2013 Canadian Farm Writers’ Federation Awards in Agassiz, BC, she went home with silver and bronze medals for her photography.

Grose took home two prizes for her photography at the 2013 Canadian Farm Writers’ Federation Awards in Agassiz, BC.[Submitted]
Grose took home two prizes for her photography at the 2013 Canadian Farm Writers’ Federation Awards in Agassiz, BC. [Submitted]
She didn’t go with any expectations, she says, but there was one picture she took this year that she knew struck a chord: “A woman driving her tractor home from the Stratford fall fair,” she says.

“I had been at the fair as well, and she drove past me in her tractor, and I thought, ‘Wow.’ It was one of those days, the leaves were colourful and she was smiling as she was driving – a carefree look. I just drove past her, stopped, took her picture, and then I had to follow her to find out who she was.”

She added, “Once it was published, I started to get people calling saying, ‘Wow, you really captured that woman, and that moment in time.’ …When the general public starts responding to you, then you realize you’re on to something.” This picture brought Grose the silver medal.

With the advent of digital turning everyone into a self-proclaimed photographer, it’s easy to lose sight of the artistry and craft a professional can bring. What are Grose’s tips and tricks for quality photography?

“For me, it’s having a rapport with people,” says Grose. “The first thing people will say is, ‘Oh, I don’t like having my picture taken.’ It’s important to build a rapport with the person you’re taking a picture of. With farmers, if you ask them about their favourite tractor, favourite livestock, ask them about their top producer, then they start to relax, and they forget that you’re there.”

For Grose, who often does wedding photography, it’s a matter of being invisible while also being present.

“I like to be like a fly on the wall – people know I’m there, but I’m not there,” she says. “I like to be aware of the background, and take close pictures. So many people snap pictures, and there’s so much in the picture, but it’s too much. Get a nice zoom lens.”

And while some purists bemoan the loss of film, Grose has seen the digital revolution only enhance her craft.

“I had a darkroom when we first got married at our farmhouse basement,” she remembers. “Then, you only took what you thought you absolutely had to take. Now, with digital, you can shoot, shoot, shoot and delete. Digital is so much easier.”

That’s good news for the aspiring photographer, but for any rural Diane Arbuses out there who gravitate towards agricultural subjects, Grose has some additional advice that may prove handy.

“Farming is a dangerous occupation, and taking photos on farms can be a dangerous occupation. You go to take pictures of newborn calfs, and cows can be very possessive of their offspring, so you have to be careful …”

And, referring to an unfortunate photographer who was thrown off a bull at the Royal Winter Fair: “I’ll never get in a bullring when somebody is bull-riding. That’s just too close! That’s why we have zoom lenses.”

Words to live by.

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