Photographer makes lasting impression

No medium is safe when confronted by artistic Renaissance woman Barb Lyter.

In less than two years, the owner of Oak Harbor’s Lyter Photography/Design has watched her business take off. Success for the affable and highly talented artist was inevitable, as her potential is limited only by her imagination, which itself is limitless.

Lyter and her husband Pete Pehl moved from Long Beach, Calif., in March of 2005, leaving behind a market saturated with artists and graphic designers. The move has paid huge dividends both professionally and in the quality of life for the couple.

“We sold a waterfront condo, took the money and ran,” she said. “We had looked all over Washington State and the minute we got off the ferry in Clinton, I said, ‘Call off the dogs, this is it.’”

Lyter set up shop in her Oak Harbor home, creating a sleek workspace that would make any technology aficionado salivate. Her husband, a retired naval officer, uses a different room in the house to run the management portion of his successful diving business.

“We love the island,” she said. “I am absolutely shocked at the success. I knew it was going to take time, but this is an incredibly supportive community and I can’t say enough about the chamber. Any business in Oak Harbor that isn’t a member of the chamber should be. They were certainly instrumental in my success as far as referrals. I’m very in awe of the whole thing.”

The Greater Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce — a client of Lyter’s — is equally in awe of her. She was recently named April’s Business of the Month, the first time the honor has gone to a home-based business.

“I was so surprised,” she said. “I thought only the big guys won that.”

Lyter turned a gorgeous panoramic photo she took of Oak Harbor’s Fourth of July fireworks show last year into 200 posters. The idea was hatched when she first saw the picture and knew this year’s show would need funding. She will donate a percentage of the sales to the chamber to help pay for the display.

“I thought this is a good way to make this year’s fireworks show even better and bigger than last year’s,” she said. The posters are available for purchase for $20 apiece today and tomorrow at the Dutch Tent during Holland Happening.

“I want to give something back,” she said.

Although it’s only Lyter and her staff of three friendly felines working out of her office, she has already found her niche. She has completed design work for C. Johnson Construction, Tradewinds Insurance, the Coupeville Farmer’s Market and Deception Pass State Park’s publication, “Currents.” She is currently designing trail maps for the county and will redesign the kiosks at Fort Casey State Park.

Many of Lyter’s clients are in the Oak Harbor area, but her presence can be felt as far south as Greenbank where her prints are displayed at the Artworks Gallery.

“I think Oak Harbor’s wide open,” she said. “I think there’s a lot of possibilities here. There’s certainly a lot of possibilities for commerce and expansion. I can’t wait to see what the downtown’s going to look like.”

Her services on the photography side range from executive portraits, to calendars, to greeting cards, to photo restorations. In terms of graphic design, she handles posters, banners, logo design, and a host of other services.

Lyter eventually plans to open a gallery and studio in the downtown area. The potential in Oak Harbor is one of the primary reasons she and her husband relocated to Whidbey Island.

“I think we have nowhere to go but up,” she said.

The artist began her professional education at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts where she explored the different mediums. In addition to photography and graphic design, Lyter is equally comfortable at the canvas.

“I’ve actually decided to branch out,” she said. “I’m going to start painting again.”

One of her prints was recently accepted into a juried art show in Vancouver, Wash., called “Driven to Abstraction.” Based on Dante’s Inferno, the striking red picture is absorbing.

“It’s all digital and Photoshopped,” she said. Lyter is a member of the National Associations of Photoshop Professionals as well as the American Society of Media Photographers in Seattle.

Lyter worked for the L.A. County Museum of Art for 15 years in the publications department and cut her teeth as a stringer at the Philadelphia Enquirer and York Dispatch. She also undertook a one-year project at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center where she documented the experience with powerful black and white photos. The pictures can be viewed on her Web site.

After meeting Lyter, one gets the distinct feeling that she is in her perfect environment doing exactly what she loves.

“We made the right choice moving here,” she said. “I can’t imagine being anywhere else. They’d have to carry us out feet first.”

Lyter can be contacted by phone at 240-1202 or by e-mail at A full list of her services is available on her Web site at

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