Quebec City photographer's shot of Ground Zero chosen out of thousands for publication by National Geographic

Photo: Jay Ouellet

This haunting photograph of New York City's Ground Zero by local photographer Jay Ouellet will be featured in a new National Geographic publication in June.

Capturing a haunting night time scene at New York City's Ground Zero during a weekend visit has earned local photographer Jay Ouellet a place in a new publication from National Geographic.

The photograph was recently chosen to be published in the internationally renowned science and culture magazine's first special print edition from its Your Shot website in June.

"It's a fantastic honour to have my photograph published by the magazine," said Ouellet from his home in Sillery.

"National Geographic is the reference for magazines around the world."

"Of the 850 photos, I took that weekend, I knew this one was special," said Ouellet.

Ouellet, 54, an accomplished astronomical photographer by night and a chiropractor by day, travelled to New York City in April 2006, two weeks after launching his architectural photography book Quebec by Night.

While working on that book, he turned his lens from the cosmos to the ground for the first time.

"The idea of using astrophotography techniques to capture Ground Zero at night soon became the focus of the trip to New York," said Ouellet.

"Because of so many spotlights at the Ground Zero site, which normally would have the effect of blotting out everything that falls outside of the source of light, taking an astronomical photo was a technical challenge," said Ouellet.

There was also the challenge of making a statement as a person and an artist.

"I wanted to register my feelings about 9/11," said Ouellet, describing the place where 3,000 people perished during the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre towers on Sept. 11, 2001, as both "haunting" and "humbling."

"Capturing a great picture is about how you feel about it," said Ouellet.

"Capturing the mood, that's what it's all about," he added. "What's important is the impact it has on the viewer."

Susan Welchman, photography editor at National Geographic, agreed with Ouellet.

"I don't pick a lot of scenics, but this photo has resonance and meaning," said Welchman of Ouellet's Ground Zero photo.

"Your eye leads you to the woman sitting in front looking at the hole, so you (the observer) look into the hole."

Welchman said Ouellet's photo, first submitted and accepted to the Your Shot section on National Geographic's website in August 2006, was chosen for publication in the magazine this past March out of thousands of entries since the section was created two years ago.

Your Shot solicits photographs from readers and fans of the magazine who might be professional or amateur photographers for a Daily Dozen feature of photos posted to the website every day, 365 days a year.

Ouellet said being published in National Geographic is the second great milestone in a photography career that began when he started to take pictures of the night sky at the age of 15.

His first accomplishment came 10 years ago when a photograph of an eclipse of the sun and the moon he called 'Tango for Two' made the cover of Astronomy in 1999.

Ouellet, meanwhile, believes he has captured what he called another "magical photo" during the Red Bull Crashed Ice event this past January.

The picture, however, has nothing to do with the downhill skating event.

Called L'arbre qui parle (The Tree That Speaks), the photograph shows a frosty tree in Place d'Armes specially lit up for the night time event and contrasted against the Château Frontenac. 

"The Château Frontenac might be one of the most photographed buildings in the world," said Ouellet.

"But this tree, which has stood just as long as the Château, has probably never been the focus of a photograph before."