Vail Daily column: Picture this |

Vail Daily column: Picture this

Butch Mazzuca
Butch Mazzuca |

I’ve never been a “joiner” per se. In fact, given my druthers my preference is to be alone; or when I do spend time with people, I much prefer small groups or one-on-one situations. While many see me as gregarious, I usually don’t seek out unfamiliar settings with large groups of people.

So when local photographers Rick Spitzer and Rachel Brockey of the Vail Valley Arts Guild — Photography invited me to tag along on a photo shoot to Rifle Falls State Park, I was hesitant because the thought of taking pictures with 15 or 20 other people milling about doesn’t float my boat. But photography is a very important part of my life, so I decided to take a flyer and join the group, at least for the day.

To my surprise the entire experience exceeded my expectations. The subject matter and conditions weren’t ideal i.e., waterfalls at less than full flow, cold weather and less than optimal light. But that became academic when I realized I was in the company of a delightful and welcoming group of people enjoying them selves and sharing an experience.

I once read that being nice is contagious. And come to think about it, when people are genuinely pleasant, those around them are so much happier. People deliver better service, they are more considerate, and best of all, they transfer this feeling to others. I also recall reading that as a behavior, being nice is akin to a virus, i.e., it spreads.

Because the outing was so enjoyable, I contacted Rick Spitzer the next day and asked for more information about the Vail Valley Arts Guild — Photography . Considering that I conduct photo workshops at the Alpine Arts Center in Edwards, I hoped the Vail Valley Arts Guild — Photography might be a good venue to recommend to the participants in my workshops who are interested in furthering their photographic educations.

The Vail Valley Arts Guild — Photography supports photographers and the photographic arts. Local photographers Raymond Bleesz and Rick Spitzer coordinated with JoAnn Carhart Levy, a founding member and vice president of the Vail Valley Arts Guild, to incorporate a photographic component into the guild. Last February, the Vail Valley Arts Guild — Photography had their first meeting.

The mission of the Vail Valley Arts Guild — Photography , under the umbrella of the Vail Valley Arts Guild (a 501c3 nonprofit organization) is to promote and foster artistic and technical growth and build awareness of the visual arts in Eagle County by creating exhibition and educational opportunities for local photographers.

Consequently, local photo enthusiasts of all skill levels, students and hobbyists now have a means to improve their skills. These aspiring photographers will have access to competitions, expert critiques, educational activities (taught by both professional and semi-professional photographers), seminars, workshops and group photo shoots to assist in developing skills while enjoying the camaraderie of fellow shutter bugs.

Brockey, a nationally recognized photographer who moved to the valley last March, organizes photographic field trips to Ouray, Antelope Canyon, the Maroon Bells and many other exciting photographic locations. But she’s not the only one conducting such outings — other professional photographers will conduct field trips this year as well.

Organizations are only as successful as the general membership allows itself to be — and judging from a few up-close-and-personal experiences I’ve had with this organization, I believe these folks are professional, organized and just plain nice — a sure recipe for success.

While I was duly impressed with this organization this commentary isn’t an ad for the Vail Valley Arts Guild — Photography , although I believe photo enthusiasts could benefit from membership — rather its an illustration of how just being nice can capture the interest of even a semi-loner such as myself. So if photography is one of your interests, you might want to consider a Vail Valley Arts Guild — Photography membership (

However, if you’re one of the thousands in the valley who could not care less about taking pictures, then allow my experience with a most agreeable group of people illustrate how the simple action of being pleasant or being just plain nice to those around you can have a very positive effect.

Butch Mazzuca, of Edwards, writes regularly for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at

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