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home : arts & entertainment : arts & entertainment May 26, 2018

4/3/2018 1:29:00 PM
Viewing Sisters through camera lens
Conrad Weiler’s photographs are on display at Sisters Library. photo by Helen Schmidling
+ click to enlarge
Conrad Weiler’s photographs are on display at Sisters Library. photo by Helen Schmidling

By Helen Schmidling

Photographer Conrad Weiler is prolific. He heads outdoors with camera in hand nearly every day. After a short walk, a longer drive, or a kayak paddle, he returns to his home in Camp Sherman to harvest that day's crop of images. Some get posted on his Facebook account. Others he mails to friends. The best he has printed and framed. Many of these are on display throughout the month of April at Sisters Library, in the entryway and community room.

Weiler's favorite subject matter is right at his doorstep. The rivers, lakes, and mountains around his Camp Sherman home change their colors day by day, and sometimes hour by hour. The collection in the library is representative of Weiler's favorite scenes, with a few birds, flowers, horses, apples, and abstracts sprinkled in for fun.

Born in New York City in 1933, Weiler grew up mostly in New Jersey, and served three years in the U.S. Marine Corps. Two of those years were spent at Atsugi Naval Air Station in Japan, and for a year he was also an instructor in atomic, chemical and biological warfare. Out of the service, Weiler studied biology at Fairleigh Dickenson University in Rutherford, New Jersey, where he met his lifelong partner, the former Joan Schneider, in a microbiology class. They were married in her hometown of Suffern, New York, 59 years ago this June.

Moving to the West, he embarked on a teaching career, moving rather quickly from Pasadena City College, to Glendale College, and Rio Hondo College in Whittier, California. As the youngest faculty, he was recruited to do a TV show (just one show) on genetics, because no one else was willing to perform. That appearance impressed the president of Santa Barbara City College, who called and offered him a position. Weiler taught there for 30 years until retiring in the early 1990s. While teaching at Santa Barbara City College, he had a sabbatical year (1976) working at Freiburg University in Germany, in the genetics field.

As a biology teacher, Conrad often took his class outdoors for fieldwork.

"It was very pretty there in the California hills, in the 1960s," he said. That's when he started taking photographs, using a 35mm film camera. He and Joan moved to Camp Sherman in 1993, settling in a spot that's just as pretty, and has barely changed in 25 years.

"I keep watching other cities - Bend, and even Sisters - keep growing. In Camp Sherman, it's so quiet, and in the winter, when a lot of people go south for warmer weather, the (Camp Sherman) Store is closed except for weekends. It's nice for people who like to cross-country ski and snowshoe. It's so close to the lakes - Suttle, Big, and Clear Lake, Scout Lake (which is great for kids), Dark Lake..."

His surroundings haven't changed much, but Weiler is a crusader for keeping up with technology.

"In 1995, I went to a seminar put on by the Macintosh people," he said. "They showed something called 'digital,' and I was hooked. My first digital camera was a Nikon, three or five megapixel. Now I shoot with a Canon single-lens reflex (SLR), and a number of different lenses, and I have other (small) cameras on phones, tablets, and such.

"A lot of people laugh at smartphone cameras, but you can do a lot of interesting, quick photographs using small cameras," he said, "especially when you are shooting (photographs of) people. And I would never take my single-lens-reflex camera out in the kayak. That's what the smaller cameras are for."

This pioneer, along with Sisters residents Tom Davis and Sue Anderson, began the Sisters Area Photography Club (SAPC). Next month, when Conrad's library show comes down, SAPC will put up its annual show in the library. As an early user of Apple products (which he still refers to as Macintosh), Conrad also formed the local Macintosh Users Group (MUG), which continues to help those new to technology to overcome hurdles. He often "plays" with his photographs, adding special effects and turning ordinary shots into somewhat extraordinary artistic renditions that bear only faint resemblance to the originals.

At 84, Weiler attributes his stamina, in part, to his routine - which includes fitness workouts at Sisters Athletic Club five days a week. He still loves to explore new places. Conrad's very favorite spot is the cinder pit near Camp Sherman. Lots of locals know where it is, but he's careful not to give out directions. Suffice to say that from the top, you have about a 320-degree view of the North Oregon Cascades.

More than half of the large collection of Conrad Weiler's photographs on display in the library are for sale. A portion of each sale goes to Friends of the Sisters Library (FOSL).

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