“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” -Ansel Adams

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

February 2012 Featured Photographer


Flickr Member since October 2006

Visit Sally's photostream: Wessysmom

wessysmom - View my most interesting photos on Flickriver

Do you remember buying your first camera? What did you get, and why?

I bought a Pentax 35mm in college, for my photography courses. That was my only SLR for many years. Many years of point-and-shoot in between!

My first DSLR was a Canon Rebel Xti, per the suggestion of my sister. At the time, I needed it only for taking reference photos of artwork I was doing for a previous business. I used it only on auto for several months.

Has photography changed you?
Learning about light, and composition, and how to apply the various elements of design in the photographic medium, has helped me to appreciate what is around me and see beauty almost anywhere. Colors seem more vibrant after the rain, cloudy days reveal a soft, soothing light I never appreciated before. Snow is a wonderful reflector and can produce stunning images. Photography has also strengthened my ability to establish and recognize human connection, especially with children.

What was the most challenging thing for you to learn, when you were just starting out?
Learning how to master post-processing has been a major undertaking and will continue to pose new (good, but difficult) challenges. In the beginning, especially, it was especially difficult to keep a running mental checklist in my head when out shooting human subjects - check background, check composition, don’t chop joints, where is the light?, check your exposure, eye contact, pose, is there any distortion, etc, etc. It seemed overwhelming to have to think of so many things before taking an intentional portrait, as opposed to a snapshot.

Has anyone ever said anything that helped you take better pictures? 

All the time! I belong to multiple critique groups and rely on their input to help me grow. The most consistent criticism I’ve received is that I too often neglect the details of a picture. I like “real” and “lifestyle” portraiture, but just because the posing is relaxed, doesn’t mean that that unnecessary element in the background is not distracting to the viewer, for instance. I am becoming more conscious of the “big picture” before I start snapping now, and do my best to avoid adding things in the frame which do not add to the story or the strength of the image.

Why do you think portraiture appeals to you, over other forms of photography? 

I am a people person, and have always been drawn to faces, to emotions and connections, and I am addicted to the rush I get when I feel like I got a sneak peek into the essence of the families I’m with. I feel honored to be welcomed into those lives. I’m kind of addicted to seeking out the core of a person. 

Do you have any photographs that you feel lucky to have captured a fleeting moment? 

IMG_4678bwI have a couple. 

I love how the teenage siblings in the first picture are genuinely enjoying and connecting to one other through their music. 

circle kiss
In the second, I felt honored to be a part of this shoot, because this young family’s life had been scarred with a lot of pain and struggle, and yet they loved their pictures because when they saw them, they forgot their sorrow and saw only a happy, loving threesome without a care in the world, just as it should be.

Have you ever shot film?

I shot and developed black and white film with my Pentax in college, and I really liked it, 
but there were so many years in between when I wasn’t focused on photography. I jumped back in after digital was well established, so it made sense to stick with digital.

Do you have any "tricks" or tips for people just starting out?

It’s a lot of information. Take it slowly. But the first things you should learn are: 1- exposure. Know how to expose properly in all sorts of different scenarios. 2 - learn how to read light. Read books, take webinars, workshops, anything. The better you understand light, the easier it will be to rock an image and the less time you will spend in the editing process. Proper exposure and good light makes the post-processing of an image surprisingly easy.

If you had to pick one of your own images that you are most proud of, which would it be, and why?

sun kissed

Probably this one, because it was one of the rare moments when I actually planned a shot beforehand and executed it exactly as I saw it in my head. I wanted glitter, and didn’t have any, so I used wheat bran to pull it off, which makes me feel more proud, ha ha.

If you had the opportunity to go anywhere and photograph anything, what would you choose?

Somewhere like Greece would be awesome. I love the architecture there. Tuscany would work, too, but I would love to do seaside work. Of course, any location would involve human subjects in some spectacular setting.

wessysmom - View my recent photos on FlickriverA note from the interviewer:

Sally was also awarded the Members Choice Photographer award from her peers at SEMIDP.  It was well deserved; her portraits capture essential emotion, and her use of natural light is outstanding.  Congratulations, Sally!

Be sure to check back for news regarding the Southeast Michigan Digital Photography Group and their monthly featured photographers.