The scenic wonder of Idaho portrayed in professional landscape images.

Interview

 
A photographer interview conducted by Shaun Compton, Surry Community College -Oct. 15th 2009

Q. Specifically, where do you like to shoot the most?
 
 A. I love the Northwest region of the United States. I live in Idaho, so my heaviest concentration of images is from here. I named my business to capitalize upon image needs of this area. The Pacific Northwest has a very diverse landscape. From coniferous forests to wheat fields, rugged mountains, rainforests, seashore, freshwater lakes, grasslands, whitewater rivers, lava flows and desert canyons. Specifically.... I would have to say I like to shoot waterscapes, or anyplace that is new to me. 

Q. What inspires you to take pictures the way you do?

A. I live in a tourist town that is portrayed to the world as a world class resort destination. I was born here and have lived here most of my life. To me it is so much more than the sunny day beach shots that are so often used to represent it. I am inspired to show the beauty of my home through all weather and seasons, and long after the tourists leave. I love my town and my state and I hope to do justice to its beauty through my photography.

 

Q. What inspired you when you were younger to pursue photography as a profession? 

A. I don't know if I ever planned on it being my profession. I knew I loved photography, so I decided to study it in college. There was never any expectation in my family for the girls to be anything other than "stay at home" moms, and I did that for 17 years. I can remember saying I was going to be a photographer, but I don't think I had any idea what that meant.

Q. Which photography do you prefer: digital or film?       
A. There are things about film that I believe may never be matched in image quality with digital, but I choose digital now for convenience, file delivery to clients and agencies and reduction in cost. Of course I like the instant feedback of knowing whether my exposure was right while I'm still on location. Digital came along after my schooling. Everything about post-processing and the differences between shooting film or digital I have had to teach myself. The conversion has been hard work, but I do like digital more.

Q. What is your favorite object or subject to shoot?            

A. I love water...to capture its flowing beauty and reflections, but my favorite would have to be atmospheric scenes. Conditions change so rapidly when trying to shoot a foggy landscape as the sun burns through it. There is a huge adrenaline rush to have a beautiful scene before you and the challenge of capturing it just right...before it is gone.  It is usually completely silent and peaceful and is totally therapeutic for the soul. I think you can feel this in many of my images.

Q.  How much time and effort do you put into photography in your professional and personal life?        

A. My photography business and personal life are completely intertwined. I work full time at my business, Shooting 2-3 days a week, countless hours editing, captioning and keywording, then uploading to various agencies. On top of that I am trying to find time to market my art on a local level. I also handle a various amount of image licenses myself. On a personal level, nothing makes me happier than to go shoot again. Which in turn creates more work for myself.  Vacations, even walking the dog, tends to involve photography. In the evenings, if I get bored or can't sleep at night...I sit at the computer and work some more.

 

Q.  If I was trying to become a professional photographer, what advice would you give me?                    

A. Do what you love and it will show in your work. I can honestly say there are a lot of professional photographers out there who are not "in love" with their work, and sadly it shows in their work. Also, be honest with yourself. Landscape photography is not going to pay the bills unless you are very, very, good at it and at marketing yourself.

Q.  If you had one specific picture of your own that you would consider your favorite, what would it be and why?
 
A. My favorite image to date was taken on a foggy November morning. It was freezing cold out and it was the first time I ever went out on my own just to shoot. The sun was burning through the mist over the lake and it was a nice scenic shot with beautiful morning light. Unexpectedly, a tugboat appeared out of the fog. I had literally 5-10 seconds to shoot it, leaving little time for camera adjustment. It was exhilarating to be in that moment. Tugboats have a long history on the local lakes and rivers transporting logs to the lumber mills. The last lumber mill on the lake shut down within a year of this shot, bringing an end to the local tugboat era. I was alone with my thoughts as I'm sure the tugboat captain was also. In that instant, in that solitude, I felt connected, and at the same time gained an independence as it related to my photography. Since that day, I shoot alone whenever I can.  I find that my best images are produced on these shoots. This image has a lot of meaning to me, and has sold repeatedly.
 
 
Q. Who is/was your favorite photographer and why/how did they inspire you?
 
 A. I have the utmost respect for the work of a photographer named Leland Howard. I do not know him personally but hope to meet him someday. He shoots here in Idaho mostly and has been very successful with his work. I think his style and subject matter is similar to my own, but he shoots with large format cameras as far as I know. We used large format in college, so I know the challenges that presents. When you can manage that in the backcountry locations that he travels to.....consistently producing beautiful images....that is impressive.

Q.  Where did you attend college and what degree did you obtain?
 
A. I attended Spokane Falls Community College (SFCC) in Spokane, Washington, USA. At the time (late 1980's) their photography program was ranked 2nd in the nation behind the famous Brooks Institute.  I got married during my first year of school and my first child followed shortly thereafter. I dropped out to protect my unborn baby from the chemicals. Very little of what I learned in college applies to my work today. Because of this, I consider myself self-taught.
 
Q. Did you always want to be a photographer, if not, what did you want to “be” before you “settled” for photography?
 
 A. I fell in love with photography when I was about 13. My college experience was rather disillusioning, and actually destroyed my enthusiasm for a time. When my children were in high school and the whole world was going digital, I rediscovered my passion and I am proud of what I have accomplished in such a short time. It is a constant progression and I know I will be learning forever. I think 17 years of repressing my photographic desires has enabled me to re-enter the field with a determination to make up for lost time. Composition comes extremely naturally to me.  I think everyone is good at something, but it might be hard to figure out what that is. Anyone who is "settling" on photography should find a different line of work. I never wanted to be anything else.

Q.  Has there ever been a dangerous moment during a photography assignment? If so explain.
 
A. I am extremely scared of heights...and there have been a couple of times while shooting waterfalls near the edges of cliffs...when I became very dizzy and was too scared to retrace my steps to safety, requiring assistance. I did an assignment shooting grizzly bear habitat, and had to take bear spray...but thankfully saw no bears. I have fallen a couple of times with camera in hand, and always managed to sacrifice the body and save the camera. Most close calls have come in the form of bad drivers going too fast and on the wrong side of a winding mountain road, or me feeling like my lungs are going to explode from hiking a trail beyond my capabilities.
Update: I have actually had a bear encounter. When shooting in Glacier National Park, (July 2010), a black bear wandered out of the trees about 10 feet away. I had bear spray , but was able to shew him away. Now that makes your heart pound!

Q.  How long have you been a professional photographer?
 
A. 3 1/2 years now. (2009)
 
Q.  What kind of camera do you use?
 
 A. I have used many cameras over the years from 35mm film to 4x5 view. My main body for landscape work is currently a mid-range Canon DSLR, with a variety of different lenses and landscape filters. 

Q.  In your opinion, Is there ever a better time to use a "point and shoot" camera rather then a high dollar camera? 
 
 A. I know photographers who carry a P&S with them at all times, just in case. I don't, because I prefer not to let myself get too lazy to set up the real gear and employ creative techniques. I can see the advantage if you don't want to attract attention to yourself in certain situations. I have considered getting a nice point and shoot, but since they have been doing away with viewfinders, I have not found one I want.

Q.  Does music inspire your work? If so what kind inspires you the most?

A. I like music, I even played a trumpet allthrough my high school years, but it has no connection to my photography. I like the silence while shooting...just being alone with my thoughts. This is when I do my best work...when I am "in tune" with nature...as corny as that sounds. I seldom even listen to music while doing computer work.

Q.  Is photography the only form of art you make/like?
 
 A. During my 17 year hiatus from serious photography, I did a lot of craft painting and designing wood patterns. While I was pretty good at it, it did not give me the satisfaction that photography does. 
 
Q.  Can a photographer have a “photography block”  like a writer has “writers block”?
 
 A. I imagine some photographers do get a creative block....particularly if they are in the business of inventing photos (like conceptual stock or shooting for an ad campaign) rather than searching them out. For me it is more that I occasionally get bored with my local surroundings. Part of the fun is in the exploration. I study maps, find a road I've never been down. If I can get away for a weekend to somewhere new or even have a change of weather patterns I am usually re-inspired. Occasional the weather can become un-inspiring. If there is a slower time to my work, it is late winter to early spring, when the snow is no longer fresh and foliage and flowers have not yet awakened.
 
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FAQ
 
The most commonly asked question I get is "What kind of camera do you use?"
 
At first I didn't know what to think of this question. (Brand?             Film or Digital?          Point and Shoot, SLR, Medium or Large format, D-SLR?           Number of Mega pixels? )
 
I answered this question in a variety of different ways, but I could tell by some of the resulting bewildered looks, that I was not answering the question the way some people wanted. One day while doing an art show, a young twenties something woman asked the typical question after gazing at one of my personal favorite images for a long time. I gave her one of my canned answers explaining that I have used many types of cameras. After a long pause she pointed to the image she had been looking at and said "But what kind of camera takes a photo like that?"
 
This is when it occurred to me. So many people think it is the equipment. A camera is just a tool. A camera does not compose, scout locations, wait for lighting conditions, or set selective depth of field, shutter speed, white balance, ISO appropriate for the conditions, and most importantly it doesn't see the photograph for you.
 
To those who truly want to better their own photo skills, let me say this. There is a lot that can and should be learned about photography that can be accomplished without a high end camera. The camera will not solve composition or lighting issues, and many consumers that buy a D-SLR will never take it off automatic, or understand what it can do. Once you have gained these skills you will know when a better camera will make a difference for your photography.

 

 

 

 

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