Having spent her childhood years on a working farm, Ms. Shields values nature, whether wild or nurtured by the human hand. After a teaching career that included visual and media arts, Shields currently pursues her passion and chosen medium, art photography, frequently exhibiting her work in the GTA.
A photographer whose art often represents personal reflections about the natural world she experiences and explores, one of Ms. Shields’ favourite subjects is the study of trees. Shields’ photographic art includes tree portraits found in Riverdale, at Sunnyside and other Toronto neighbourhoods, along the Bruce Trail and in Group of Seven country.
Shields values trees for their many contribution to life and gives them praise:
Trees clean our air and produce much of the oxygen we breath; they provide shade from the sun and sources of food, medicine, and materials for building, cloth, paper and stories. They contribute much to the natural beauty around us and have inspired artists forever. Laboratory research has shown that visual exposure to settings with trees produces significant recovery from stress within minutes, as indicated by changes in one's blood pressure and muscle tension…truly amazing"!
Each tree has its own character which changes with the time of day and the seasons. Environmental factors determine the tree’s shape and structure contributing to its uniqueness. A tree’s backdrop can set the stage for a portrait, resulting in a compelling image. Shields’ collection includes urban trees that make our city spaces more livable. Even in winter, the lovely lines and elegant shape of a single tree softens the hard edges and grid-like qualities of a city-scape.
Shields’ photography has appeared in Toronto publications including Local Magazine, the Beach Metro News, The Beach 2011 and 2012 Calendars and Along the Shore (2013), a history of Toronto’s waterfront by author Jane Fairburn. Her work has supported ACT (Aids Committee of Toronto) in their annual prestigious juried SNAP auction and continues to help in the fight for the preservation of prime farmland in Ontario through organizations Food & Water First and Niagara’s PALS.
"I find it useful to work to a theme or subject area when going out on a photo shoot. Needless to say, of course, I capture images that I find interesting in every day life as well. Part of the practice is to shoot often to train the eye. As an artist, I’ve been most attracted to subjects concerning nature, the environment, rural life and macro photography.
When on a project, I shoot hundreds of digital images. They are downloaded unto computer and from those, I carefully select just a handful that most closely fit my theme, that are the most interesting and technically the most proficient. I show my work with a group of photographers in Toronto and we meet and critique our work collectively. This helps in the selection process, identifying strong images or culling out problematic ones. Sometimes you get too close to your own work and are not its best critic!
Each image is then examined for exposure, colour balance, sharpness, flaws and distractors and those are corrected/edited using software designed for this. I use Aperture and Photoshop for the basic edits.
Then creative decisions are made as to tightening composition or creating visual effects that help to emphasize a mood or communicate the intent for the image. In the digital world, the artist has considerable freedom to work on and manipulate an image, depending on their skill with editing software. I enjoy the creative challenge that this presents with some of my images.
The next step is printing the image. I do my own printing most of the time, giving me creative control over the final product. I use only archival quality papers and inks that contribute to the longevity of the printed photo and experiment with a variety of papers as to image outcome.
Finally, selecting framing to suit the image is also a part of the presentation process and plays a contributing role in the image’s visual impact. I usually show my work using either a black or silver frame, tending more toward a silver metal frame with a finish called Florentine Silver. I like its subtle sheen and find it works with most nature images. Black is effective for black and white photography but is also an acceptable standard for most photography, especially if the image benefits from a high contrast.
Sometimes, even after I’ve completed and shown an image, I’ll go back and revisit it at a later date, to change and improve some aspect of it. The beauty of working with digital format is that you can do that. An image can evolve creatively over time as long as you keep thinking about it and coming up with new ideas or different approaches".
Artist Website – www.nataliashieldsphotography.com