Nature photographer joins art gallery

Lee Oelke has brought his photos of Northwestern Ontario wildlife to the Fine Line Art Gallery here as the newest member of the local co-op.
Oelke, who previously had lived in Fort Frances from 1981-89 and just moved back from Thunder Bay, was an avid hobby photographer through the ’80s but then had given it up until two years ago.
“My analog equipment I had shelved, but with the introduction of digital, I rejuvenated my hobby,” he remarked.
And Oelke came back with a vengeance—now boasting a collection of literally thousands of photos of animals and landscapes.
“Ninety-five or better percent of the shots I’ve taken are in Northwestern Ontario or Rainy River District,” he noted. “Myself, I enjoy wildlife. I have some flowers and nature, but mostly they’re candid portraits of wildlife.”
Oelke said making the switch from traditional photography (or analog) to digital has been easy. And in fact, he’s been able to use his lenses from 25 years ago with digital SLR cameras.
“It also makes the darkroom a lot more user-friendly,” he joked.
On a more serious note, Oelke said digital photography is more environmentally-friendly—after all, no harsh chemicals are needed to develop the photos.
“Everything is done on the computer,” he stressed. “But other than that, it’s the same—the techniques are the same.”
Oelke also said he was thrilled to join the Fine Line Art Gallery co-op.
“I’m excited to be here,” he enthused. “I came in and introduced myself and showed them my work, and they asked me to join and exhibit.
“I think it’s great.
“I’ve got thousands of images and they just sit on my computer or albums at home,” he noted. “Now I have a chance for other people to see them.”
Oelke encouraged the public to drop by the gallery to see the new exhibit.
“Right now, I have animals that are in the wild, but surprisingly enough, a lot of my shots come right from within the urban surroundings.
“Everybody knows there’s deer in town, but what else is there? Where’s the owls? What about the songbirds when they come back?” he remarked. “If someone’s interested in wildlife, I plan on being here for a while, so drop by periodically.”
Due to the high number of photos he has, Oelke said he’ll be changing up his exhibit every once in a while so gallery patrons might just see something different each time they drop in.
He also will have an “electronic frame” up at the gallery to show a slideshow of some of the digital photos he’s taken beyond the framed prints on the walls.
Oelke added his works will be for sale.
Meanwhile, long-time Fine Line member Jean Richards said Oelke is a welcome addition to the co-op.
“We’re excited to have Lee on board, especially since he’s a photographer and we haven’t had photography here for a little while,” she remarked. “It’s wonderful. He’s got some great stuff.
“It’s great to have him around. Someone different and someone new.”
Richards, who’s known for her paintings of birds, said she’s been eyeing up some of Oelke’s photos and may end up adapting them into another artistic medium.
< *c>Art show
In other gallery news, the Fine Line has put out a call to artists to enter work in its annual spring art show, which this year follows the theme, “Think Green.”
The deadline for artists to submit their work—which may be in any medium (watercolour, oil, stained glass, sculpture, etc.)—is March 31 so gallery staff have time to set up the exhibition.
Organizers are planning to hold a “Music in the Gallery” open house on Saturday, April 5 to kick off the exhibit, which then will run until the end of that month.
The cost to enter is $10 (artists are limited to two works each). If the artist so desires, their piece(s) can be for sale.
Artists wanting to enter their work in the show should pick up an entry form at the Fine Line Art Gallery (529 Mowat Ave.)
For more information, drop by the gallery or call 274-2242.