Photographer captures the unseen

Photographer Charles Eklove exhibits water drops colliding as part of his exhibition, which is on until Feb. 10 in Montreal. (Heather Solomon photo)

Charles Eklove finds photographic wonder at Niagara Falls in -30 C weather. He also finds it in his own warm basement.

At the popular tourist site, a rainbow slices through the vapour of cascading water. At home, he works with food colouring and coloured gels covering his flash, a bowl of water and a valve that releases one drop of liquid, then another at the split second his camera is set to click its shutter.

The yellow water droplet hits the red pool below and a central column rising from the crater it makes collides with the second drop. The effect is like seeing an upside-down crystal pedestal dish shot through with ripples of gorgeous, transparent colour.

Eklove has produced a whole series of different ones in various hues, one of the themes in his exhibition of 35 images that’s on display until Feb. 10 at the Eleanor London Côte-St-Luc Public Library’s Community Art Space.

“Normally, when a drop of water falls into a pool, the naked eye can’t see anything except the ripples, but this is what’s there when you take the photo at one-20,000th of a second. It’s called a Worthington jet,” he says. “I colour it because if I left everything bland, it would blend into itself and you wouldn’t get the detail.”

His camera speed has to be just as fast to freeze the whirring wings of an emerald-backed hummingbird that beat 80 times a second. Eklove captured the image of the tiny flyer at a friend’s house in the Eastern Townships.

Then again, to photograph wild animals, he has to have the patience to sit for three hours almost without moving, with his camera on a tripod, ready to be tripped when a red fox freezes to stare at him, or a raccoon does a balancing act on a tree branch.

“I don’t have to travel very far for these,” he says of a series of animal photos. “Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue has an eco-museum 40 minutes from here. When I get these shots, I’m not really that close to the animals. I use a telephoto lens.”

Regardless, it gives the viewer the feeling of being up close and personal with a sleeping Arctic fox curled up on the snow, or an otter about to eat his fish dinner. “I’m on their schedule, they’re not on mine,” he says.

Eklove must also keep to the timetable of the International Balloon Festival in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, where he has captured the preparation and flight of a number of whimsical hot-air balloons in the shape of Tweety Bird, flying vegetables with catfish whiskers and even a giant lighthouse hauling its precious cargo of people. In one, a traditionally shaped airship flies in front of the setting sun surrounded by a glorious orange blaze.


Another festival he likes to attend is the Montreal International Fireworks Competition, which he captured over the shadow of the Jacques Cartier Bridge. “With these, I need the shutter open long enough so that you catch the arc of light,” he says.

More traditional, but no less beautiful, are his travel photos of the Kotel, Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue seen through the rays of the sun, Arizona cacti standing sentinel and one of his six grown children who was an exchange student in Israel at the time, posing with a sculpture of children on a bench.

Eklove uses more elaborate lenses to snap exotic flora at the Montreal Botanical Gardens.

He delights in the techniques used to make his art and in their sense of place, which are fuelled by his former career in engineering and his current one in real estate. “Ten years ago, I got a diploma in professional photography from Concordia University,” he says.

He passes on his knowledge at the Côte-St-Luc Men’s Club during weekly photography classes that he teaches and says, “I like the magic of it, studying a moment in time.”