Retired from a career in radar, communications and computers, lifelong photographer George Cousins was born and raised in North Sydney, Nova Scotia, a small seaside town where his grandfather was a Grand Banks fisherman and his dad worked in the merchant marine corp. George grew up with a love for the sea, ships and nature. George wanted to work in electronics but the cost was out of his reach, and his parents couldn't help. “So I joined the RCAF with the intention of spending five years studying as hard as I could while being fed, housed, clothed and so on. I came out qualified in five trades."
The RCAF transferred George to 408 Squadron, a photographic unit at Rockcliffe (Ottawa), where he became friends with two avid photographers who “really knew what they were doing,” he says. “I learned a lot from them.”
George’s photographic hobby began when he was 10 with a Box Brownie, a camera “that didn’t even have a lens.” Occasionally, he was allowed to use his mother’s Vest Pocket Kodak, and the results were a little better. In the 1940s and early 1950s, photos were black and white.
In 1953, when the Air Force sent George to the Arctic to help survey for the early warning radar lines, his friends, who were into 35mm colour slide photography, insisted that he take a camera and get lots of pictures. For two weeks, the friends gave George a crash course in F. stops, depth of fields and light readings. He bought a tripod, light metre and as many rolls of film as he could afford. One of the friends loaned George a 35mm Voigtland camera, and insisted that George write down every camera setting detail for each photo he took including time of day and the exact order in which they were taken. After he finished each roll, George sent it back to Ottawa with his paperwork. When the film was developed, his friend returned the processed film together with a set of slides and a detailed analysis of every shot. “He was critical,” George says.
The lessons continued for a year before George’s friend decided it was safe for him to set out on his own.
George spent three years travelling over the Arctic and Sub-Arctic from Baffin Island to the Yukon and the Territories. He found the land of the midnight sun a fascinating place to work. “With a daytime temperature of 99 degrees Fahrenheit on the shore of the Arctic Ocean, summer comes with a blast and an unbelievable amount of mosquitoes.” The Inuit, George says, were “the salt of the earth.”
While he was in the Air Force, George purchased an Exakta Varex 35mm camera along with some filters and a 400mm telephoto lens. “That was my pride and joy until I finally went digital in 1996.” By the time George purchased his first digital camera, he had accumulated 5,000 colour slides, which he eventually digitized and now keeps on his PC and several back-up DVDs.
“Digital opens untold opportunities for us all,” says George. “No more agonizing about every frame because we can only get 20 or 36 photos on a roll, and we never knew what we really got until the lab processed them. Now, anyone can be a pretty good photographer.” After his formal training with the RCAF, George joined Canadian General Electric to work for the Air Force as a civilian contractor. The job took him all over Canada, California and Washington.
His next venture was in the computer industry. George started and managed several computer companies and finally opened a cable and networking company with his two sons.
“I was not cut out to stay in one job for long,” he says. In fact, photography is the only passion that has stuck with him since his childhood.
In the spring of 2009, George decided to enter the Fotex International Photography Circuit held in Dubai and Lucknow, and won the silver medal in the landscape division with a shot of the Rocky Mountains taken from a boat on Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park.
For George, who prefers the mountains, ocean, sky-scapes and ships, photography is a means of getting out into nature. Today, he uses a Sony DSC-F828 and hopes to move into a digital single-lens reflex.
With a happy marriage between camera and computer and investing in some “rather expensive peripherals,” George has set up galleries on three Internet photo sites, where he has sold a few pictures. George welcomes browsers whether they purchase his photos or not.
“Feel free to enjoy, laugh, groan, or whatever pleases you,” he says. For more information about George's photography, visit http://georgecousins.redbubble.com or www.redbubble.com/people/GeorgeCousins
NOVEMBER 2010 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE VANCOUVER ISLAND
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