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I’m a fine art and nature photographer based in the north east United States. I try to capture my wonder, and enthusiasm for nature, in my photographs. Once in a while I branch out and photograph subjects other than those that nature provides. I enjoy the way photography gives me the ability to impart my perspective on the viewer.
When did you first become interested in art, in general?
From early childhood I’ve been interested in music and visual arts. As a child, I tended more toward music… studying Guitar and Saxophone, and dabbling with any instrument I got my hands on. Visual arts were more a spectator sport for me until I took up a serious interest in photography about 5 years ago.
When did you first become interested in photography, specifically?
My love for the great outdoors spurred my interest in photography. I spend as much time as possible hunting, fishing, and hiking, when you’re outdoors like that you see a lot of really incredible things. Throughout the 90′s I entertained the idea of getting an SLR camera and a telephoto lens, but I had reservations about investing money in equipment that I may not get very good results without years of practice. Once digital cameras came into the picture (pun intended), and I could see instant results, I progressed to where I’m at now. I have no reservations about investing money in camera equipment now…just ask my wife!
In what other forms of art do you also work, if any?
Capturing and editing photos definitely takes up most of my creative energies. As far as visual arts, photography is it for me. I do still noodle around on the guitar a fair amount.
On which style(s) of photography do you specialize?
I prefer nature and landscape photography, mostly because I enjoy being in quiet natural places. I do enjoy photographing other scenes and subjects, but nature photography is by far my favorite.
Has your style changed from when you first began? If so, why?
My style has definitely changed from when I first began…mostly because I got better! (LOL) In the beginning I was more concerned about creating an interesting composition, and learning how to tastefully use and control photographic techniques like depth of field, long exposures, and lighting. Now I’m much more fussy about the overall quality of my finished product, and I’m much quicker to scrap a photo and go re-shoot it, than to talk my self into being happy with it. In the past year or so, I’ve also started working with HDR techniques, it certainly adds a different dynamic to my portfolio.
What kind of equipment do you use
I’m strictly a digital photographer and I use Canon cameras. I primarily use my Canon 6D and Canon T3i DSLR cameras, and right now I lean much more toward the 6D. I’ve got a 50mm f/1.4 lens and 100mm f/2.8 macro that I use with the 6D.
Both of the aforementioned lenses work with my T3i and I also have the kit 18-55mm and a 55-250mm that I can use with it. I use ND filters for long exposures, and a focusing rail and extensions tubes to help out with macro shots. Every photographer needs a good sturdy tripod too, so I’m always lugging that thing around with me. I also have a compact point and shoot, Canon S90. I don’t use the S90 that much to produce my art now that I have the DSLRs but the S90 lets me produce RAW files and gives a lot of creative options and control over exposure. It was the first serious camera I bought before I took the SLR plunge.
When it comes to computers and software, I’m strictly a PC user. No Macs for me! I’d rather spend my hard earned money on lenses and camera equipment than chic, over priced computers. I use Adobe Lightroom 4 to process my RAW files and any edits I can’t make with that get done in Photoshop CS2. I use Photomatix Essentials to merge photos into HDR images. I may upgrade to the pro version at some point, but so far I’ve been able to do everything I want with Essentials.
What made you choose that equipment?
I use Canon cameras, because the first serious camera I bought, (the S90) was a Canon. I was pleased with it’s quality and performance, and already had a lot of hours invested in learning Canon’s terminology and camera menus. It just made sense to stick with them. I’m in pretty deep now… I’d say they own me!
As far as the software goes…I started out working with things that are the industry standard in their particular domains. It makes it easier to learn from free online tutorials, and it makes it a lot easier for my images to compete in a very crowded arena.
Are you a specialist photographer?
I don’t know if I’d call myself a specialist. As I mentioned before, I focus on nature photography because I love the locations so much. I am prone to following flights of fancy, not just with photography, but life in general. I think if I specialized on any one aspect of photography I’d get stale and bored.
Do you have favourite times of the days to take shots in?
One of the first things you learn when studying photography, when it comes to natural light, is to shoot during the “golden hour” which is the first and last hour of sunlight during the day. I stretch that out a bit and like to shoot the edges of night. Anywhere from pre-dawn to a few hours after sunrise…and on the other side of the day…a few hours before sunset into twilight. Twilight produces some very nice images. I also love to take advantage of bright but cloudy days. The soft even light that cloud cover provides is a pleasure to work with.
Not so much a time of day, but I like wind free days for shooting still water. I love the calm mirror like effect that ponds, tidal basins, and vernal pools have when wind does not ripple their surface.
Are you a patient photographer, waiting for the right moment, or do you tend to just shoot and hope for the best?
Most times I’m patient. I’ll wait for the right moment, or even go back another day. If I’m on vacation, or something spectacular is happening right in front of me, I have to make the most of it and do what I can. If it works out I have bragging rights, and if not it won’t make it into my portfolio. Part of being an accomplished photographer, is knowing which images to share and which ones to delete.
How often do you go out just to photograph or, do you have your camera ready at all times, even shopping?
I try to get out at least twice a week to do nature photography. I’ll work on still life photos at home on a whim, anytime a good idea strikes me. If I go on vacation I carry my camera with me at all times. I don’t want to miss opportunities that may come up.
Do you edit in Photoshop or another programme? Or do you outsource to someone else?
I do all my own edits. I would never outsource because in my opinion, how you edit a digital photo becomes part of your style. If I outsourced my edits, I’d feel like the finished product wasn’t totally mine.
How much time (on average) does it take to edit a work?
That really varies. It can take me as little as 10 minutes for some photos and some I edit off and on for days. Most of my photos take me at least 15-30 minutes to edit, though.
How do you know when a piece is finished? Is it easy to walk away?
Again it varies. Some just need a couple of quick tweaks and they are done. The ones that I feel need a little more work, are sometimes difficult for me to judge when they are done.
What do you do to overcome a ‘block’?
For me, the joy I find in photography is about exploration. Most of the photographs I capture are something interesting that I saw while exploring. I’m not really subject to getting a ‘block’ because, if I look long enough, or dig deep enough into the details around me, I’ll find something to capture. Most times, the excitement of discovering something interesting or beautiful is enough to inspire me.
If I were trying to produce still life photos on a regular basis I may have some issues and need to get past a block or two, but I only shoot still life when I cook up a good enough idea.
How well do you take criticism and how do you make use of it?
Taking criticism into account is the only way to truly progress and grow as an artist. Sometimes a critique can make you aware of something that detracts from your work and can easily be fixed. It’s foolish not to learn through the eyes and opinions of others. I do try to keep in mind, as all artists should, that a big part of criticism is merely opinion. Sometimes you have to find your voice and stick to your guns and see your vision through. I guess the balance comes in determining if someone’s criticism is a matter of difference in tastes or points to a fundamental flaw in your work.
Who is your favourite photographer?
I don’t know if I could point to a favorite photographer. I enjoy looking at great photographs of many different photographers and many different subjects and styles. I enjoy viewing great photography, no matter who was behind the lens. Some famous names that come to mind are Peter Lik, Trevor Watson, Mike Moats, Man Ray, George Brassai. That may give you an idea of the scope of my tastes as a viewer.
Which one of your photographs is your favourite?
Tough question! Like the weather in New England, it’s likely to change if you wait a minute. All the photos included in this interview are currently topping my list, though.
Have you exhibited any of your work in galleries?
I haven’t exhibited in any galleries, but I’ve had one photo exhibited in a local show.
I’m planning on submitting something to the Little Compton Spring Photography Show in Little Compton RI. The show runs from May 24-27.
What are your plans for the future?
I’d like to do more wildlife photography. I just need to purchase a longer lens and set aside some time to pursue wary quarry. The investment of time spent sitting and waiting is what holds me back. Right now I like to try and produce at least an image or two on each outing, although I know that won’t be the case if I focus on wildlife. It does seem very rewarding though.
What advice do you have for budding photographers?
It’s been said before but there is no substitute….practice, practice, practice!
Have you done any courses to help you?
I took 3 or 4 continuing ed type courses online, that really helped me get started. I think the biggest way they helped was by causing me to look at what I was shooting with a more critical eye. Most of that didn’t come from the course so much as interacting with the other students and critiquing each other’s work in the chat room.
What do you do to market your work?
I keep an email list that I encourage people who enjoy my work to sign up for. I send out one or two email newsletters a month to everyone on the list to keep them up to date on what I’m doing. I’ll probably mention this interview in one of my mailings! Anyone interested in getting on my mailing list can visit my website and click on subscribe. I promise I won’t abuse the privilege of getting into your mailbox. I occasionally run craiglist ads, and keep a decent presence on a few social networks. I really need to focus more effort on brick and mortar, real world marketing though.
Do you enter your work in contests?
I enter online contests through Fine Art America. I’ve been starting to enter more local contests, because I think there may be a greater market among people who are familiar with the area most my photographs are taken.
Do you use social networking in your day to day life?
Yes, I’m out there on quite a few social networks! Here’s a couple….
Are you available for work (commissions)?
I’m not going to photograph anyone’s wedding or anything like that. Way too much pressure! I take on certain commissions though. If someone asks and I think I can provide a quality product I’ll do it. If I don’t think I’m the best person for the job I’ll always decline.
Have you got hobbies?
I have way too many hobbies! Fishing, hunting, canoeing, and I play guitar.
Where are you based?
I’m based out of the north east United States…more specifically Rhode Island
© 2013, Isabella Francesca Abigail Shores. All rights reserved.