If there’s one thing Christine Westland has learned about nature and landscape photography over the years, it’s that having a zoom lens doesn’t necessarily guarantee you’ll end up with a stellar photo.
“You miss capturing the essence of a place in trying to get as close as possible,” Westland says. She should know. Inspired by her great-grandfather’s love of photography, Westland first picked up a Brownie when she was just a kid and has been shutterbugging her way through life ever since.
And although she didn’t take the art form seriously until moving from California to Washington in 1997—where she became enthused by the “rampant beauty and special quality of light” in the Pacific Northwest—taking pictures has always been something she’s enjoyed.
“I doubt I would ever have gotten into it as deeply in California as I did when moving to Washington,” Westland says. “The lush greenness and abundance of natural beauty inspired me. It felt like I had entered into a magical place—everything about Whatcom County seemed surreal. The light here is at a different angle and the air is much more clear, which seems to make a huge difference for me.”
Those who also find solace and motivation in the beauty of the region can check out Westland’s work when she joins dozens of regional artists and crafters for the second annual “Art at Birch Bay Square” exhibit happening Sat., Aug. 18. In addition to viewing her local landscapes and wildlife, those who stop by can also check out Westland’s photos of various travels—including shots from an African safari she took last year.
While you’re perusing the images, you may see a striking photo of one of the animals she encountered on that trip. Westland says it’s one of the most thrilling images she’s been lucky enough to capture.
“We were out on a drive in the Serengeti and we spotted a cheetah,” she says. “We drove up very close and stopped. She was calm and showed no fear, and I was able to stand up and get one fantastic photo of her standing at attention right before our eyes. That will remain my most exciting photo for a long time.”
As a photographer, Westland believes that fortitude is a virtue when it comes to making her art. She’s also aware there’s more than one factor to the creative equation. She knows she’s taken a perfect picture, she says, “when the photo reflects the true essence of the moment or place with good light. There are so many variables and things that get in the way of a good photo, so it’s usually a matter of extreme patience or being at the right place at the right time.”
Whether she’s staying close to home or capturing indelible images in places such as Alaska, Hawaii, Germany, Italy, and Bavaria, Westland says she’s always looking for new subject matter.
When asked if she thinks her great-grandfather would be proud of what she’s accomplished with her art, Westland answers in the affirmative.
“I think he would be excited to see the colors and the extent of what I’ve seen, because I live in such a special place.”
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