Hummingbird by Dennis Ariza, 16 x 20 inches, installed on canvas. (Contributed photo/Dennis Ariza)
Photographers talk about “capturing light,” as the legendary Ansel Adams did in his famous photo of the Sierra Nevada.
Fairfield photographer Dennis Ariza got it.
“To me, capturing light means capturing everything,” said Ariza, an award-winning photographer who, as president of the Fairfield-Raysun Visual Arts Association, organized the group at the Solano Town Center Gallery Recent exhibition “Selection”.
The Fairfield Mall exhibit, which runs through Aug. 5, includes not only a dozen of Ariza’s wildlife and landscape photographs, but works by other artists in many other mediums. A gallery reception will be held on Saturday from 4-6 pm, during which FSVAA members will be poets, reading poems they have written about the artwork in the exhibit. (The gallery is located on the second floor, next to the AT&T store.)
To illustrate his point that photography is all about light, or gradients of light, Ariza, 69, a graduate of Vacaville High School, cites a photo of his Pigeon Lighting Station at the Santa Cruz North Historic Park.
He took pictures of the lighthouse in bright sunlight and as an October Pacific storm began to push its way up the coast. The monument he knew so well began to look strange under the clear sky, and gray, damp clouds billowed overhead, and a ray of light broke through the clouds and shone on the lighthouse.
“I used this image on my business card,” Ariza said in a phone interview Tuesday, suggesting that he might, like Adams, transform an object or geographic reality into a sublime emotional experience.
He grew up in Vacaville and started capturing light in a biology class at Will Wood High School. His mentor promised to teach students how to take pictures through a microscope — at a time when photographers were still using film, processing images in chemical solutions and using enlargers to print them — but Ariza recalls “a whole semester in the darkroom.”
“I didn’t learn much about biology,” he quipped. “The teacher had all this darkroom equipment. He let me borrow a megaphone.” During those months, he said, he used “these cardboard cameras” to photograph the scenery and people in downtown Vacaville. Not surprisingly, he spent his summers in the darkroom.
“I ended up doing some yearbook work too,” Ariza said in high school, adding, “I got an A in biology; but when the teacher told us about photography, I never took biology again.” class. I’ve been in the darkroom.”
Since then, the now retired Ariza has worked hard to communicate the desire “for people to see what’s around us” during his primary and continuing photography hobby, which included 36 years working in the Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District. “
“Not everyone spends their time outside like I do,” he said. “I’ve been to the West Coast and into Nevada. A lot of people don’t know what’s in the Eastern Sierras… Bodie, what’s in Death Valley, so I took pictures. I try to share that with my family and friends.”
Of course, technology has transformed photography over the last generation, “from film to digital,” Ariza said. “It used to be that you had to wait five days (if you sent film to be processed and printed). Now, when you pick it up, you can see it on the (smartphone or laptop) screen. I carry two cameras. I carry my laptop with me and download the images. It’s instant.”
Professional photographers also think of composition as a way of seeing and arranging visual elements in the camera frame, but Ariza, an alumnus of the New York Institute of Photography and Solano Community College, defines composition as “finding the point of interest in an image.”
“You can do a big landscape, but that landscape has a point that draws you in,” he said. “For example, Yosemite Falls in the distance…I give the audience a point of view, some key items. There must be one key item that grabs your attention.”
He says his interest in photography took a serious turn when he opened his studio.
“I did weddings and portraits…but I hated it,” recalls Ariza, who was the “focus” artist during the FSVAA gallery show. “A customer might say, ‘I want to retake this photo because I don’t like my hair.’ I’ve always been interested in outdoor, wildlife and landscape photography. I don’t have to worry about anyone’s hair being out of order.”
Ariza’s photographs have won numerous awards over the years and have appeared in periodicals, online, Outdoor Living Magazine and www.PetaPixel.com. A member of the Vacaville Art League’s Yolo Arts, he joined FSVAA in 2013 and has exhibited his art in several different exhibitions over the years and participated in many of the group’s events, including Art and wine festivals like Art on the Vine, The Crush and more.
His photographs have won first prizes at the Dixon May Fair, Solano County Fair and Yolo County Fair. Ariza donated to KVIE-TV Ch. a photo titled “The Cross” taken at Anza-Boreggo Desert State Park. 6 auctions.
if you go
What: “Selection” FSVAA Art Exhibition
As of August 5
Where: Solano Town Center Gallery,
Solano Town Center,
1508-B Travis Blvd., Fairfield
notes: Saturday 4pm-6pm reception with appetizers, drinks and BackRoad Vines