Shawn McDonald Blance, Photographer

By: Susan W. Smith

Volume 16, Issue 2, February 2021

You've probably heard the one, “ A guy walks into a bar and . . .  " Well, Shawn McDonald Blance has heard them all – why? He's been a North Country bartender for a couple of decades. But what you may not have heard is the simple fact that these days you can find Shawn quenching another thirst – one on Facebook in the form of sharing amazing photographs.

I met Shawn this past December, when he entered our TI Life Photo Contest. Luckily for me, Shawn sent far too many photos to enter, and I had the chance to meet him through messages asking him to choose only three. What was I to do with the others? I had better find out more about this photographer,” I said.

Photograph shared in the January TI Life issue. [Photo by Shawn McDonald Blance ©2021]

Shawn grew up in Watertown, and yes, he does have an arts background, having attended Boston University School of Fine Arts and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts School. Still, he made me laugh when he told me of the many shenanigans he got into rather than gaining an academic or arts degree. He also told me about one of his profs who complimented him on his paintings. Why? “Because I am color blind and evidently, that allowed me to choose complementary colors, something I never realized.”

It was only 16 or 17 years ago that Shawn picked up a basic camera, and only in the last couple of years, he realized that he had become fascinated with digital photography. When I asked him how he achieved his amazing nighttime photographs, he said, "Susie, I follow the famous photographer Ansel Adams, who said, “It is in the dark room when the magic begins.”

The tree Shawn found in Clayton, NY. [Photo by Shawn McDonald Blance ©2021]

Shawn, like so many good photographers, has patience galore. I loved one of his photographs of a Christmas tree and then he told me his story.  He had driven all over Clayton to find the perfect tree. When he did find it, he parked his car, got his camera, and began circling the tree because it was dark.  Suddenly a man opened the door of the house with, “ What are you doing in my yard?  Shawn decided it was best to leave, not thinking the gentleman would appreciate his “finding the perfect tree story.”

So, we have photography, painting, and even doodling or line drawing of his to enjoy. The drawing story involved one night when he and a friend were sitting at a bar table in Clayton. Shawn was doodling on a piece of paper, “lines and squares, and so forth.” When he got up to leave the table for a few minutes saying, “Hey,… why don’t you take over? You are an artist too.” When he got back to the table, the piece was finished.  His friend’s birds, etc. were perfect.  And the best part of this story is that Shawn shared the finished product with me!

So I'm pleased please to meet Shawn McDonald Blance and to introduce him to  you!

Our TI Life header photograph on TI Life News in January '21 article. [Photo by Shawn McDonald Blance ©2021]
Boldt Castle [Photo by Shawn McDonald Blance ©2021]
This one got many "Likes" on 1000 Islands River Rats Now and Then Facebook page. [Photo by Shawn McDonald Blance ©2021]
A line drawing Shawn started but completed by the head sous chef at the Chateau. [Photo by Shawn McDonald Blance ©2021]
Painting by Shawn McDonald Blance

By Susan W. Smith,

Posted in: Volume 16, Issue 2, February 2021, Photography, People, Artists

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