On a frosty morning in October, Melissa Welsh wandered off the beaten path down to a river in California’s Yosemite National Park.
Everything was quiet and still. Holding her camera, Welsh envisioned the perfect shot — a person running through the river, their reflection glistening on the water.
But the 37-year-old was all by herself, prompting her to set up her tripod in the middle of the river and set a timer to take nine photos of herself in a row. After about a half hour of trial and error, Welsh finally got the shot she was looking for.
“It ended up being a good self portrait that I have of splashing through the river and honestly feeling like a kid,” said Welsh.
The Victoria West resident and national award-winning photographer was one of 11 people who signed up for the week-long retreat to Yosemite National Park the first week of October.
Each day, the group would rise in the darkness at 4:30 a.m., dress in layers, grab some breakfast and coffee, and jump into a van, driving for an hour and a half to a location for a shoot.
They’d hike through the woods until they found the photo they wanted to create, set up their gear, then patiently wait for the sun to rise. Welsh always tried to get away from the crowd and find her own special place.
“It was almost really moving and emotional for me. I just felt so privileged to be able to get to these places that most people don’t get to see in their life,” said Welsh, who came away from the trip with 822 photos.
She’s now getting set to reveal 12 photos from the retreat, marking her first photography exhibit in Victoria.
“I came back with this really lovely collection of imagery and instead of just putting it on my blog where only a handful of people would see it, I thought what a lovely way to share it with everybody.”
Welsh studied photography in London, Ontario and has since built a career in commercial, portrait and wedding photography — and her work hasn’t gone unnoticed. Her photograph, Wishing for Wind, scored an excellence in the 2013 Professional Photographers of Canada (PPOC) Image Competition and went on to win the best pictorial photograph in Canada. It was also accepted into the PPOC 2013 loan collection.
Welsh recently picked up another nod, being awarded for best couple’s portrait by the PPOC. Her work can also be found in private collections around the world as well as in regional, national and international publications.
A mother of two children under the age of five, Welsh hasn’t had a show like the one planned in Victoria since 2008 in Nelson, B.C. For her, the trip to Yosemite was a personal retreat that gave her permission to do things for her soul.
“Sometimes it’s hard to leave, it’s hard to do things for yourself…It’s realizing how important life balance is and that I’m probably a better mom and a better partner because I’ve taken the time to do something that I really need to do for me,” said Welsh, who hopes those that view the exihibit are inspired to get outside.
“We live in such a beautiful place but so many people get wrapped up in their day-to-day life that they forget to get out and explore.”
Yosemite: Seduced by a Landscape takes place Friday, Dec. 2 at 604 Yates St. in Victoria, starting at 5 p.m.