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Young photographer gets Ottawa gig

Andrew Mitchell of Port McNeill sits with a computer display of his photo of Stubbs Island, which was chosen as one of 40 nationwide finalists in the National Capital Commission’s Eco Art contest. - Photo by J.R. Rardon
Andrew Mitchell of Port McNeill sits with a computer display of his photo of Stubbs Island, which was chosen as one of 40 nationwide finalists in the National Capital Commission’s Eco Art contest.
— image credit: Photo by J.R. Rardon

A local teen has parlayed a year-old gift into a prize-winning photograph and possible trip of a lifetime.

Andrew Mitchell, 15, is one of 40 young photographers from across Canada who will have their work displayed at the famed Rideau Canal Skateway in Ottawa beginning later this month.

His photo of a mist-shrouded Stubbs Island, taken last June during a boating outing with local biologist Jackie Hildering, was selected from nearly 300 entries in the National Capital Commission’s Eco Art contest. Mitchell was informed of his selection in early December.

“I got an e-mail from them a couple of weeks ago,” Mitchell said in a Christmas-week interview. “I was pretty excited when I saw that. I ran around showing everybody.”

Mitchell and his father, Scott, plan to travel to see the display this winter, though their itinerary has not been locked in.

“They’re planning on an opening ceremony January 15, but it depends on the weather and the ice condition,” Scott Mitchell said. “We’re absolutely going to go. It’s just a matter of when.”

The 40 finalists will have their photographs displayed on large, 8x8-foot boards in an exhibit to be erected where the Rideau Canal spills into Dows lake. The photos will be enlarged to 4.5 by 6.5-feet for the exhibit, which will greet skaters as they make their way from the canal to the lake on what the Guinness Book of World Records recognizes as the world’s largest skating rink.

Mitchell, a grade 10 student at North Island Secondary School, had dabbled in photography through his youth, but began to get more serious about it after receiving a DSLR camera for Christmas a year ago.

He entered his image after seeing an ad for the contest on his Facebook page.

“It sounded pretty interesting,” he said. “It took me a while to pick my photo, though. I talked to my mom and dad, then I picked a bunch and put them on Facebook and asked people to kind of go through and pick which ones they liked the best.

“I figured to get lots of opinions would work better.”

His final choice was a photo taken in the early morning hours and shows Stubbs Island framed by a pair of seaweed-covered rocks with a tide flowing in the foreground.

It is one of many images he has taken while boating with Hildering, who he first worked with during his years as a member of the Young Naturalists Club.

“After I got my camera she started inviting me on her boat to help with her humpback (whale) research,” said Mitchell. “I took pictures of that, too, obviously, and I got lots of other chances to take pictures of scenery, birds, all that kind of stuff.”

Mitchell said he settled on the Stubbs Island photo for his entry for a variety of reasons.

“I kind of liked how the whole mist thing worked, and how it was framed,” he said. “And I thought it represented the West Coast. When I was looking at some of the entries online most of them were Quebec-area things. I thought if it was the West Coast it would stand out more.”

His photo does stand out from the other 39 entries in its starkness. While many of the photos feature brilliant colours, the gray sky and water of Mitchell’s coastal image lends it an almost black-and-white appearance.

There is a chance for the image to be further honoured through the Eco Art contest. Several of the photos will be moved for continued display through the summer in various locations in Ottawa. And the top three in judging to take place later this month will win photo equipment prize packages from Henry’s Canada ranging from $1,100 to $1,800 in value.

It’s shaping up to be an interesting year for Andrew, who helps out as an assistant coach with his sister, Hannah, for the Port McNeill Minor Hockey peanut program. After the trip to Ottawa, he is scheduled to travel to Costa Rica with his mother Alison and his siblings.

In the meantime, he was hoping the recent Christmas holiday held some more photography presents in store, including photo editing software and a photography class.

Mitchell has not yet committed to a career behind the lens, but expects to remain active with the camera going forward.

“It’ll probably be a hobby,” he said. “Maybe it’ll be integrated into something else, but I don’t think I’d be like a full-on photographer. But you never know; you never know what’s gonna happen.”

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