Recent History – 2001
Oct. 11 2001
By Mark Nielsen, Daily News Staff
Capturing in photographs the natural beauty of the Peace Region has been a passion of Don Pettit’s for 25 years — and the best of those images is now featured in a new coffee table book.
Called The Peace: An Exploration in Photographs, the 144-page book holds 120 full-colour and eight black and white images, culled from an archive of over 10,000 high quality transparencies.
However, even a collection that large covers only a small fraction of the entire Peace watershed. In particular, Pettit still needed photos of Williston Lake, where the Peace begins, and of Lake Athabasca, where it ends 1,900 kilometres away.
Getting those photographs meant a day of flying over Williston Lake and another day over the Peace-Athabasca Delta, in Wood Buffalo National Park.
Beyond that, Pettit was able to find enough quality photographs to capture the “nature essences” of a region that covers 35 million hectares, an area larger than California, reaching as far south as Mount Robson, where the Smoky River originates.
That didn’t mean he photographed the entire region inch-by-inch. Pettit’s subject matter is of the plants, animals and geographical features that are representative of the Peace watershed.
“I haven’t gone by places so much as I’ve tried to capture the look and the feel of the region,” he said.
The photos are grouped into four self-explanatory sections: sky, water, earth and life. It also includes 20 pages of text, with a detailed preface that describes the landscape, flora, fauna, climate and history, as well as a two-page map of the watershed. And there are extensive notes at the end that provide many tips and techniques for those interested in nature photography.
The fact that something like this has never been published before was a factor when Pettit decided more than three years ago to pursue the project. But there was more to his motivation than simply filling an obvious void.
“This is a special place, this Peace region, and this book kind of proves it,” he said. “It’s gorgeous. . . . It has all the seasons, it has wildlife, it has wildness, it has wide-open spaces and big skies, and room to move and lots of opportunity if you want to raise a family or start a business. It’s fantastic, it really is.”
Although he sought to do most of the work on his own, Pettit said he owes a large debt of gratitude to the many people who helped him in many ways to get the project completed.
From geographers to historians to botanists to biologists, Pettit relied on the advice and help of many. As well, community support was strong enough for about 400 copies of the book to be sold even before it was published, which helped Pettit pay many bills.
About 800 of the 3,000 copies available have been sold and in the days leading up to Christmas, Pettit will be touring the entire Peace promoting the book.
The official launch will be held this Friday evening at the Dawson Creek Art Gallery, 7-9 p.m. There will be a slide show, wine and cheese, music courtesy of Inroads blues band, and a book signing.
“It’s a party for Dawson Creek, really in gratitude for this work, because really the people of Dawson Creek have made this thing possible,” he said. “It’s been amazing.”