Wednesday, 29 January 2014 15:49

Southwest prairies, ranching all contribute to newest member of the Southwest Quest

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Megan Blakley is the newest member of SW Quest. Megan Blakley is the newest member of SW Quest. photo by Heather FIsher

Southwest Quest has a new featured artist.

Consul’s Megan Blakley has been invited to be part of the southwest Saskatchewan arts group.
The group began in earnest in 2005 as the Southwest Quest Art and History tour by the operator of Robsart Art Works, Nancy-Jean Taylor. It includes artists from Eastend, Maple Creek, Shaunavon and Val Marie areas.
In 2013, Southwest Quest featured an art and history tour through the months of June, July and August where patrons could visit through a self-guided tour a variety of different artists’ studios and historical destinations. There was also an art and music festival last July. With such a wide range of talent and interesting stops/points of interest, Blakley is honoured and grateful to be included in Southwest Quest.
“The Southwest Quest was originally started down here in Consul by Nancy-Jean Taylor a few years ago so I knew about it from back then, but when Nancy-Jean ran it was just more of a self-guided tour. I had noticed over the last year that more and more events in the southwest were being put on by the Southwest Quest so I checked out their website and joined their Facebook page,” explains Blakley. “Shortly after I saw that they were inviting artists to join their membership so I signed up right away.
“I was so excited to be part of such a talented group of people. I have been taking pictures for a while but the fall of 2013 was the first time that I had put my pictures ‘out there’ for sale so I was honored be part of such a great group of artists when I was such a beginner.”
Blakley joins a group of talented southwest Saskatchewan artists who range from mixed media artists (Sharon Johnson, Shaunavon; Wes Olson, Val Marie); photographers (Johane Janelle, Val Marie; Dwayne Morvick, Eastend, Wanda Knoss, Rockglen); as well as artists Ken Christopher, Wymark; Diana Chabros, Val Marie; Trea Jensen and Bronwyn Schuster, Eastend, Tarryl Todd, Hazlet; Chris Attrell, Shaunavon to name a few.
For Blakley, she believes being part of the group will give more people an opportunity to see her work. She will be a featured artist at the Star Café in Maple Creek for three months following an artist’s reception Feb. 19.
“I wanted to join the Southwest Quest because it is such an amazing outlet for my work to be showcased,” explains Blakley. “As a photographer, it is not always easy to get your work out in the public eye to be seen and sold. Devin Beck and Southwest Quest have been great about providing opportunities and venues where artists of all types can show their work. The show at the Star Café and Grill is my first show with Southwest Quest and I am overwhelmed that I was one of the chosen artists to showcase my pictures in such an amazing establishment. I am truly honoured to have been selected.”
Blakley is originally from Kamloops and notes being from B.C. has made her appreciate the prairie landscape more than most people. She always enjoyed taking pictures, but her love of photography really grew in high school as her stepmom was an amateur photographer.
Blakley had the opportunity to use the equipment and experiment with different settings and subject matter. At that point she knew she loved it.
She is mostly a self-taught photographer with some help from books and magazines. This last year was the first time she took some official classes. The first course she took was an HDR course taught by Calgary’s Scott Dimond out of Calgary.
“I was a huge fan of his work so I learned his techniques and still enjoy playing around with some HDR although it is not my main focus right now,” she says. “I took an online course by Marc Koegel for Long Exposure Photography and fell in love with the style and movement that my photographs have. It is definitely where my passion lies right now and I am looking forward to taking more courses from him in the future to improve my technique and portfolio.”
She adds when she watched her photographs “come to life” in the developer tray it was the ultimate feeling for her and knew she would always have, at the very least, a keen interest. In the past five years, her pushing to do more really took hold.
She was taking action photographs at rodeos her husband was attending such as Consul’s Reno Rodeo. She would submit photos to area papers such as Prairie Post and the Maple Creek News.
“I love the challenge that freelance work gives me and I have learned to expand my skills of taking pictures in everything from football, hockey, curling, branding and just about everything in between,” explains Blakley. “It has helped me realize that there is always something new to learn and keeps me striving to get ‘the shot.’
“This last year is where I have really pushed myself to expand my horizons. I have started taking more courses on different techniques and I have been trying to improve my editing skills as well. I have a long way to go until I would consider myself a pro photographer, but I am enjoying improving my skills as I following my passion for photography.”
Blakley is excited for her photos to be viewed through the Southwest Quest. Patrons of the Star Café can also purchase some of her photos as well.
It’s all a major leap forward for Blakley and coming from B.C. it was an adjustment, but it’s one she’s been happy to make.
“When I first moved here I missed the mountains and the trees, but I started to notice all the other beautiful things that I never saw where I grew up. The sunsets and the sunrises, the way that the beautiful golden colour of the wheat waves in the wind, and the way old machinery can seem to tell a story with it’s rust and missing parts,” she explains.
“I guess having grown up with a different perspective of nature’s beauty enables me to look and find the small things here that are truly beautiful and worth capturing with my camera. I am also lucky to have such a strong base of good family and friends that support me, both in B.C. and here. My parents, in-laws, and siblings have been extremely supportive and helpful in everything from giving me time to go out and shoot my pictures, to business development and just plain old pats on the back.
“My husband and two boys are my biggest cheerleaders and critics, and have supported my photography journey all the way through. I am truly blessed to be surrounded by people that love me and help me to be a better photographer.”

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Ryan Dahlman

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