North Strabane photographer shoots across America

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Robert Agnew begins each presentation of his photo story by airing the “Pains of Photography,” which includes a list of common inconveniences for photographers.


One entry reads, “Getting up before sunrise in total darkness and trying to find your location.” While Agnew has not captured every sunrise with his Nikon D80, he has harnessed the split-second splendor of a perfectly timed shot.


In his digital photo story titled “Things Learned Along the Way,” Agnew showcases his 30-year transformation from a photographic hobbyist to shutterbug aficionado by illustrating his past work and mentors.


He presented the photo story for Washington Camera Club, Western Pennsylvania Lensshooters and plans to the display it at Mt. Lebanon Recreation Center before the Photographic Section of The Academy of Science and Art of Pittsburgh in the spring.


Agnew, a North Strabane Township resident who is semiretired after working as an accountant at Union Electric Steel, holds numerous awards for his photography, including first and third place finishes in the Pittsburgh Press and Three Rivers Regatta photo contests.


Agnew served as president of the Photographic Section of the Academy of Science and Art of Pittsburgh, the only remaining section in the nonprofit confederation of technical and artistic groups, from 2006 to 2009. Membership doubled during his term, and in 2011 he became president of the academy.


Fine-tuning his shooting techniques, Agnew attended workshops hosted by acclaimed landscape photographers John Shaw and Tony Sweet, as well as classes instructed by the Observer-Reporter’s Jim McNutt.


Agnew said his passion was kindled while en route to Hershey and Gettysburg. The Agnew family made an impromptu stop to Kmart in Belle Vernon. Agnew left with a Canon AE1 – the camera responsible for three decades of photographic endeavors.


“I brought the camera back to the car, gave it to my wife and got the instruction book out,” Agnew said. “While we’re going down the turnpike, I said, ‘Read these instructions and tell me how this thing works.’”


Today, instead of grabbing a camera because of an upcoming trip, Agnew plans travels around his Nikon D80 and Nikon D7000 cameras.


Throughout his digital portfolio, Agnew displays myriad images of cross-country locations he has captured – from the wispy clouds reflected off Paradise Pond in Colorado to pebbles of white water tumbling off Undine Falls at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.


“I’ve been from coast to coast for photography destinations,” Agnew said.


Amidst Agnew’s international portfolio are local shots. He swings by Phipps Conservatory in time to shoot the blooming purple-flowered lily pads each spring.


His photo story is always a work in progress.


“It’s just ongoing. A little here, a little there,” Agnew said. “I couldn’t tell you how long it would take.”


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