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Caught on camera: the thrill of a storm

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Life in a lens: photographer Susan Thomas, whose water photos can now be seen at the Bermuda Arts Centre at Dockyard until October 7 (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

If given a choice between a designer purse or a new camera lens, Susan Thomas would pick the lens every time.

A girl can never have enough camera equipment, in her opinion.

“In fact, I don’t own any designer purses,” she laughed. “But I own a lot of lenses.”

She particularly loves shooting crashing waves. The moment she hears a storm is passing, she rushes to the shore.

“When Hurricane Gaston passed by a few weeks ago, I was out shooting,” she said. “Sometimes, with all the water and spray in the air, it can be pretty harrowing.”

It’s not her own safety she worries about, but her cameras. She doesn’t have waterproof casing.

“On more than one occasion, I’ve come close to losing $1,000 worth of equipment,” she said.

Some of her water photos can now be seen at the Bermuda Arts Centre at Dockyard. Her show Ebb and Flow is on until October 7.

“Most of it was taken off the South Shore over the past two months,” she said. “I find the water this time of year so interesting.

“A lot of the storm activity churns up the water and turns it a milky blue.”

She’s an insurance broker by trade.

“I love my job but sometimes I feel like I am not producing anything tangible,” she said. “Photography is a way to fulfil the need to create something.”

She has always been a creative person.

“Sometimes I just think I am a frustrated painter,” she said. “I love painting, but I suck at it.”

So her main focus is photography.

“I never leave the house on a shoot without three cameras with me and multiple lenses,” she said. “I know that if I leave without a certain lens, that is the lens I will want to use.

“The animals know when I leave the house without the right lens, and that is when they choose to come out.”

When the waves aren’t crashing, she does a lot of macro photography, and will sometimes spend two to three hours laying in her garden shooting insects.

Ms Thomas, originally from New York, started photography in high school.

“I took a photography class in 11th grade,” she said. “My first camera was a Pentax K1000. I really enjoyed the class. We had a great teacher.

“Then I went on and took the second half of that class and entered some local shows. I did quite well. I carried on with it.”

She put it on hold in college, but picked it up again later.

“When I started seriously dating my husband, Jack Thomas, he was also interested in photography,” said Ms Thomas.

At first, she was a little doubtful of digital photography.

“At the time the technology wasn’t very good and I was a bit put off by it,” she said.

“But he would buy new digital cameras and equipment. Over time, technology started to get a lot better and I became more interested.”

She now uses a Canon EOS7D Mark II.

“It is not a full frame camera, but it is a good camera,” she said. “I am comfortable using it, but am always considering an upgrade.

“That said, I have shot great photos using a standard point-and-shoot Olympus. You shouldn’t feel you need to have an amazing camera to do good work.”

She said a lot of her friends try to convey a social message with their photography, but not her.

“I think there is a place for that and it is incredibly important,” she said. “It is just not something I enjoy shooting.

I don’t think you should create art with the intent of selling it, but I do. When I shoot, I think who is going to buy this? You might take a fabulous photo of a homeless person, spend hundreds printing it and hundreds framing it, but at the end of the day you’re going home with it.”

Ms Thomas has sold her work through the BSoA, the Dockyard Arts Gallery, and in several local cafés.

“The first photograph I sold was of Church Bay,” she said. “I remember when someone bought it I was like ‘oh, my God, someone bought that’. It was a great photo, but I was still surprised.”

She sold it through the annual art walk in St George.

She hopes people will come out to her photography exhibition and enjoy it.

“I think it is important to support our art community,” she said. “We have so many talented people.

“I have never regretted purchasing a piece of art. Don’t go to some big department store to buy a $20 print.

“Go to the Bermuda Arts Centre in Dockyard or some other local gallery. Support Bermuda’s artists. You’ll get something you love and it will look beautiful in your home.”

Capturing beauty: Susan Thomas photographing the surf at Church Bay