This photo by Qualicum Beach photographer Michael Van der Tol is one of 24 of his that will be on display as part of his first exhibition at TOSH from May 29 to June 24, showing two series of photos. — Courtesy Michael Van der Tol

Layering the years in photo exhibit

QB photographer showing for first time at TOSH

Qualicum Beach photographer Michael Van der Tol is holding his first exhibition at TOSH, and he’s going for a double dip.

He’ll have two series of photos in two galleries from May 29 to June 24, both featuring a digital layering technique that offers a unique atmosphere to the shots.

His first series is called The Charm of Fishing and features photos of ships from the Island and Alaska.

“I haven’t always lived on the Island, (so) coming to Qualicum Beach in 2010, I was kind of fascinated,” said Van der Tol of the local fishing industry. “There are some fairly impressive boats around here, and to see that they are still being used in a fairly traditional livelihood, it’s kind of impressive.”

Echoing that feeling of tradition, Van der Tol used his digital layering technique to add a sort of antique patina to the images.

To accomplish the look, Van der Tol takes other photos of things like tissue paper, wax paper or marble tile, and he layers those other photos over the ship image, giving parts of it a new tint and texture.

Van der Tol said the technique doesn’t suit all subjects, “but it really made a big difference in the way the fishing boats come alive in the pictures.”

His second photo series, called Forest of Lost Dreams, also makes use of the layering technique.

With images taken from the Ottawa Valley and elsewhere in Ontario during the spring, the photos give a bleak, pen-and-ink look to landscapes of snow, trees and fog.

“Sometimes in the spring when there is plenty of snow still on the ground, a day will warm up and fog will come off the snow and move up into the air,” explained Van der Tol. “And this sort of fog over snow actually creates a very interesting curtain for you to photograph through. It hides a lot of the detail that would otherwise be there, like power lines or anything else like that. You are left with skeletal images of trees, almost like a pen and ink drawing.”

To that, Van der Tol added layers of tissue and wax paper.

Having an interest in photography since childhood, Van der Tol said it wasn’t until 2004 that he started to work more seriously on the skill. Four years later he was named one of Canada’s emerging photographers by Photo Life Magazine, he said.

Though he does some commercial photo work, for his own projects he focuses on landscapes, urbanscapes and seascapes, saying that he enjoys hiking out to a vantage point and the solitude and focus that image-taking brings.

It was around 2006 that he developed his layering technique after seeing similar things done by other photographers. “Continuous playing around” with photoshop eventually yielded positive results, he said.

With 11 pieces for The Charm of Fishing and 14 for Forest of Lost Dreams, Van der Tol said he is excited to have his first exhibition at TOSH.

“Hopefully it (my photos) evoke something more than ‘it’s just a photograph,’ and it makes them (viewers) think ‘what am I really looking at?’”