Herald JournalHerald Journal, April 19, 2004

Capturing the world with the lens of her camera: Petie Littfin

By Lynda Jensen

Few things can escape the shutter of Petie Littfin’s camera – whether it’s gentle fog in the Winsted countryside or even Diana, the late Princess of Wales, visiting a friend in London.

Littfin has snapped literally thousands of pictures of people and scenery, developing most of them in her darkroom as black and white photos, or more recently taking color pictures of her subjects.

Her subjects include everything from stately, fog-shrouded mountains located hundreds of miles away, to roses in her own garden a few feet from her house.

She can take something everyday and familiar such as the Winsted Lake, and change it into a night scene with beautiful lights at dusk.

Her sense of timing is striking, as she manages to take photos that would be the envy of any professional photographer.

She remembers the Diana picture well, which she took about 10 years ago, after the British couple separated.

A “bobby” (British police officer) helped Littfin to get a close shot of the princess, she said, with the result being a casual photo – complete with the bobby (see picture).

She also takes candid photos of children well. One photo she snapped was of her daughter’s obviously hungry nephew waiting for Thanksgiving supper with his arms folded on the kitchen counter, seeming to say “When are we going to eat?”

Another photo is a natural stone arch in Utah with red rock that the planet Mars would be proud of, with her husband Jack standing below it as a one-inch speck.

She notes the wide differences between color and black and white photos, with the range of contrast being so crucial to a good black and white photo.

Color is also tricky, with the range of colors working together in the right picture.

She does not recommend using one-hour photo processing places, since the result can vary greatly.

Slide film is very true to color, she added.

Littfin takes a lot of pictures, and keeps a realistic, keen eye on her results, ready to discard ones that don’t meet her standards. “I burn up a lot of film,” she said.

She may be her worst critic, being very frank and concise with each picture she takes.

“You get to be a critic of yourself,” she said.

Some photos are affixed upon the walls of her Winsted home, along with other works of art . . . the product of a lifetime of pursuing photography “off and on,” she said.

Her interest in photography started early in her life, although girls in that day and age were encouraged to go into nursing or teaching while attending college, she said.

“At that age, you believe whatever a professor says,” she commented.

Unfortunately, taking up photography was out of the question for her then.

Nevertheless, she has taken night classes at the Institute of Art and Design in Minneapolis, online classes at the University of San Francisco, and more recently, adult education classes in Wayzata.

Her interest was initially sparked by her father Clarence Sterner, who liked photography, but was mainly interested in hunting subjects.

She’s earned two honors for her photos.

One honor is for a color picture of a little fellow at the Winsted kiddie parade about six years ago, which earned her a finalist position in the children’s division in the International Amateur Photography competition – one out of 70,000 photos.

Interestingly enough, she didn’t learn the name of the boy in the photo.

The second photo is a black and white lily photo, placing in the top 10 out of 100 students at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

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