On assignment
  Phil Norton

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Photographer's bio

updated 2012

Phil Norton at Lyon Mountain, N.Y. shooting
for Adirondack Life Magazine (self-portrait 1996).
The Year 2012 marked the 40th anniversary of my life in photography. I purchased my first 35mm camera, a Pentax Spotmatic, at the age of 15. Growing up in Mars, Pennsylvania, my subjects were family members, pets and wildflowers. Summer vacations to New England provided more spectacular scenery. Several of these shots sold while I was still in high school. And some are even selling now from my stock photo files.

At Penn State University I got my first taste of working in photography as a staff shooter for the Daily Collegian newspaper. It also gave me the opportunity to write text and design photo pages on subjects that interested me such as winter camping, trout fishing, and maple syrup making.

Upon graduation with an environmental science degree, I set off on a 10,000-kilometer (7,500-mile) bicycle-camping expedition which introduced me to new countrysides and cultures between Nova Scotia and Texas.

Daughter Gabrielle and
chickadee in 1997 pose.

After immigrating to Canada in 1981, my first journalistic position came as editor of the bilingual weekly newspaper, The Gleaner, which has served Huntingdon County, Québec (Lower Canada) since 1863. I worked there until 1993 with occasional freelance contracts for Canadian Geographic, Harrowsmith, and other magazines.

Two investigative writing/photography pieces on a mysterious dieback of sugar maples (1983, 1985) earned National Magazine Awards and helped trigger an international debate on the forest effects of acid rain. In 1986, I toured central Europe to document a similar phenomenon known as "Waldsterben". Many of these images were marketed through Valan Photo Agency which I joined in 1987.

Another article, one which exposed the smuggling of illegal immigrants between the USA and Canada, won the annual award of the Quebec Community Newspaper Association. The border was again my subject for a 1992 Canadian Geographic assignment, honored by the National Press Photographers Association. I then covered the USA-Mexico line, photographing night arrests by the US Border Patrol and poverty in Tijuana.

Two years were spent as photojournalist for another French-English weekly, Le Soleil, in my present hometown of Chateauguay, Québec. From 1996-2002, I worked at Montreal's English language daily, The Gazette, as sales administrator of the photo archives. This involved research for outside publishers and film producers. During those years delivery of images went from traditional film/print/Fedex means to completely digital/Internet.

As a personal project to mark the millennium, I produced a full-color Year 2000 calendar of Chateauguay Valley scenes which raised $3,000 for charities.

Reverend Lynne Donovan
at Maplewood Presbyterian Church 1996.

Like all professional photographers and stock photo agencies, I tried to keep up with the revolutionary merging of photography and computers. In 1996 I purchased my first Windows PC and in 1998 a Macintosh G3. That same year I made my first attempt to design parts of this web site to exhibit my work on the Internet.

All of my images were at very low resolution (average 65K) for quick viewing on dial-up connections and security from theft. I originally used the free Netscape Composer software for PC. Now I work with Adobe Dreamweaver on Mac. From 1998 to 2005 my "digital darkroom" consisted of Photoshop on the G3 with Nikon LS-2000 film scanner. Then, on a G4 Powerbook laptop with 3 external 500 GB LaCie hard drives, Nikon D200 SLR and Coolpix 8400 digital cameras and a Super Coolscan 5000. In 2008 I added Adobe Lightroom software and upgraded the Powerbook to a Mac Pro plus another LaCie 750 GB external drive.

For the Year 2000 I achieved my original goal to have 10,000 slides and negatives scanned to CD-ROM's and archived digitally.  Most are Kodachrome 64 transparencies. I am now up to approximately 50,000 scanned slides, prints and negatives and shooting 25,000 digital camera images each year. Over the years I have hired students to help scan prints and add keywords to the image archive. As I have been saying for 6 years, the next step is to put this searchable database on-line. These photographs and many more in my personal files are available on greeting cards and as high resolution scans which may be purchased for commercial or editorial use.

In 1989 I switched from my trusty, manual Pentax MX and K1000 to Nikon FM2 and FE2 and used them until they were stolen in 1999. In 2002 I dropped another FM2 in a river along with a 80-200mm lens. The insurance money from that loss went towards my first digital SLR, a Nikon D100, to supplement my film camera, a Nikon F-100 and a Nikon Coolpix 5000 digital camera that I bought in 2001 that I carried with me everywhere. Now the 8 megapixel 8400 is my carry-everywhere camera and the 10 megapixel Nikon D200, and now the full-frame sensor D700 for journalism assignments.

Although the digital workflow has taken over, Velvia slide film is still a pleasure to shoot. However, with delays and incompetence in film processing, hassles at airport security, and time-consuming scanning, I think I have left film forever (2008).

First son: Cole Alexander Norton 1997
Y2K project: Luke Donovan Norton 2000

  Photos copyright by Phil Norton
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