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About Me

Peter koppenaal

Mine is not a story of Art School, Gallery shows, and Magazine Publications.  I'm just a guy who fell in love with photography early on in my life and now try to share some of the visual stories I've captured with other people. There's a story behind every image that I share,  but what I love about photography is that every person brings their own stories when viewing an image, and those intersect with my images in fascinating ways. I love to share my stories with people and hear what theirs are. That's what makes life interesting. My story has shaped my art and everything you see on this site.  Here's the short version....

My roots: I was born in Montreal to academic parents (I am a dual US-Canadian citizen, and I spend time in Canada every year). I remember as a young child traversing the vast open spaces of Canada in the back of my parents' station wagon, from Montreal to Vancouver and back, often camping along the way in newly opened Canadian Provincial parks carved from the edge of the wilderness.

Left: My mother and I in front of our family station Wagon. (my Dad taking the photo)  

Right: My older brother, Ross, and I in our tent. Ross walked into the woods shortly after this picture was taken, telling my parents "I'm going to go find a bear."

From the vast northern forests passing by the windows of our station wagon to the towering peaks of the Rocky Mountains looming overhead at night as my brother and I lay in our sleeping bags in back, to the vast expanse of prairies in between; I have always been awed by the visual impact of the natural world. I've returned to many of those places over the years, as evidenced in my galleries here. 

Moving to New York City with my family as a young child at the age of 8 had a huge impact on my life. Growing up in Greenwich Village with its diversity of people, cultures, food, art, architecture was an amazing experience. Over the next thirty years I developed an appreciation of urban spaces, in addition to the natural spaces I have always loved. I don't live in New York anymore, but periodically go back to visit and record some of my favorite places, often with a new perspective after being absent for a while.

In my twenties, while living and working in New York, I began going solo backpacking into remote wilderness areas in the US and Canada, often for weeks at a time. Out there, you were on your own, long before the days of satellite phones or GPS. 

Left: Jackass Pass, Wind River Range.       Right: Kolob Canyon region, Utah


Those experiences deepened my love of and respect for the natural world, and were in many ways transformative experiences for me. I was taking a camera with me on every trip, although at the time I had little idea of how to capture the stories I wanted to tell.  Over the years I have learned that it takes practice and experience to do that.  

Fast forward a decade: I met and married my soul mate, and we had two children. 

         

Maureen was not initially at home in the outdoors, but she quickly took to it and grew to love hiking and exploring wild places. We have always shared a love of traveling, and specifically, road trips; meeting new people and exploring small towns and discovering different ways of life.  One of the first places we explored together before we were married was Sanibel Island on the gulf coast of Florida. We have returned many times, and you'll see the influences of Sanibel in my work on this website.






About twenty years ago we were drawn to the Gulf Islands region of Canada by family ties. Nestled between the western coast of the Canadian mainland and the eastern coast of Vancouver Island, it is a magically beautiful place - actually a collection of very unique places. Over the years we acquired a cabin on one of the small islands in the chain, and established a homestead there. We have also explored the wild Pacific Ocean beaches on the west coast of Vancouver island, and visit the little pacific coast town of Tofino often.

During that time I began a new career teaching high school Physics and Astronomy. With half the summers free (after summer-school duties), we would sometimes drive across the continent, exploring as we went. 

In 2013 I almost lost Maureen to cancer. A saying she had repeated to me many times in the past suddenly resonated: "Tomorrow is promised to no one."  That was the end of my teaching summer school, and the beginning of our extended explorations each summer.  We've found so many wonderful places to explore out west in Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Washington State and British Columbia, as well as along the Gulf Coast of Florida. I've captured some of my favorite images in those places, and on the roads less traveled in the small towns and waypoints in between.  We have enjoyed tent camping for years in some beautiful State and National Parks, however we've been limited at times by the weather. This past summer we bought a special Western Edition Jayco travel trailer to extend our seasonal camping range - freezing temperatures in the Grand Tetons or pouring rain in the upper Michigan penninsula won't hinder our stays in the future.  


It has extra insulation and thermal reflective panels, a sealed and insulated undercarriage, high clearance suspension system with extra-large tires, super-size fresh water tanks, and Solar Power so we can be comfortable in sub freezing weather and go for extended periods in back-country locations with no electric or water hookups. We have an exciting trip planned this summer, exploring with our new home base on the road!  In the next year or two, after I retire from teaching, we'll expand our travels and I'll devote full time to finding new locations and more stories to tell with my camera.

The images I share on these pages reflect all of the influences above; natural places, big cities and small towns. Each space and instant in time with its own story to tell, if you stop to listen. I hope you find some stories here that speak to you. I'd love to hear your thoughts on them, and share mine with you.



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