BY SHERI TRUSTY
Each summer, thousands of people visit Ottawa County to enjoy summer on the lake, but many don’t know what Greg Peiffer knows, that the lake is just as beautiful in the winter. Thanks to him, they’re learning.
Peiffer is a Catawba Island photographer with the unique ability to recognize and capture with his camera the exquisite moments of Lake Erie wearing its winter cloak.
“Winter is the best time to take pictures,” he said. “The leaves are down, and the view opens up. You have the ability to see more.”
With his camera, Peiffer shows the world that the sun is still glamorous, and gray can be glorious in winter. The wind-blown sand is just as comforting under boots as it is under flipflops, eagles captured against a gray winter sky are more majestic, and sunsets spill a different grandeur of gold onto the water in winter.
Peiffer first picked up a camera as a sophomore at St. Wendelin High School in Fostoria when his journalism teacher, Jonnie Myers-Debbink, asked him to be the yearbook photographer. Myers-Debbink is a popular local artist and community theatre veteran who recently gained local acclaim for writing and directing Playmakers Civic Theatre’s production of “A Christmas Carol.”
“So we kind of came full-circle,” Peiffer said.
As a teen, Peiffer became so skilled with a camera that he became a school sports photographer and was offered a photography job for Fostoria Review Times while still a student at St. Wendelin. When a Coast Guard recruiter offered him the opportunity to become a military photographer, he jumped at the chance – and quickly hung up his camera.
“After basic training, I was told there were no photography positions open. I was sent to Marblehead and became an office administrator. I never did get to take a picture,” he said.
Peiffer, who owns WPCR and WPIB online radio stations, entered the radio business 44 years ago.
For most of that time, he never touched a camera, but the beauty of the lake drew him back.
“Five years ago, I picked up my camera again,” he said. “There were so many things to photograph.”
Many of Peiffer’s neighbors are weekend residents, and they miss much on the days they are away. Peiffer decided to capture those moments for them.
“They don’t get to see all these things, so I decided to document them and share them on social media. My neighbors loved it,” he said.
So did many other people. He has hundreds of followers on social media.
“They want to see life at the lake,” he said.
Now, his followers are learning that life at the lake is magical, even in winter.
“I photograph anything that has to do with the lake, and every time I go out, I find something,” he said.
Photography changed Peiffer’s perception of life, and now he’s changing people’s perceptions of Lake Erie in winter. Through his photos, people see the beauty they assumed was covered in muted gray all winter long.
“Photography changes how you look at things around you. It’s pretty amazing, actually. I find my wife, Linda, has been more in tune, too, now that I’m taking pictures,” Peiffer said. “You don’t need big equipment. You look at light. You look at composition. You look at color. It all comes together. It’s all about developing that eye.”
And now, thanks to Peiffer, hundreds of people are developing an eye for the beauty of winter in Ottawa County.