interviewed by Juanita Canzoneri
So what is it that you do?
How is that different from what our other member, Teri Rowan, does?
I do landscape, wildlife, nature photography, and it’s not digitally enhanced in any way. So I just try to capture the image as my eye sees it. The only enhancement I do is so that I can match the finished image with what my eyes saw when I took it.
You’re working with a digital camera, so, in essence, all photography today, unless it’s film, is digital.
When did you start doing photography?
When we lived in Indiana, I started taking pictures of barns, trees, and some of the landscape. This was in the late 1990’s. I didn’t know what I was getting into, but I knew I liked it. And when we moved to Colorado in 2004, I was completely inspired by the scenery here. We had an RV so we did a lot of camping and hiking and we would go to these amazing places and I really had an interest in trying to capture those images.
So, on my 40th birthday my husband bought me a “real camera”.
What did you have up to that point?
Just little point and shoots that I’d been using. But he got me a digital SLR Sony camera. So I started taking pictures like crazy. And for me, I’m entirely self-taught with photography. I’ve taken a few classes here and there since I’ve done this professionally with art shows, but for me it’s been a lot of trial and error. I had one grizzly bear in the Tetons I took over 500 pictures of and probably only saved a couple of them. But it’s been a matter of me learning how to set my camera settings, an my aperture setting speed and how do those work together, and what are the effects I get when I change those things to take an image. I still take a lot of shots of everything I shoot because the lighting is different in every second.
Because I take so many photos, I tend to spend a lot of time editing and I do see that as part of the art of this process. Sometimes what my eye sees and what I take in through the lens, when I pull it up on my computer it doesn’t look like what I thought I saw. So that’s part of the image manipulation in a slight way, not overworked. I don’t want to work my images so much that the become not what you would see in nature. My ultimate goal is for it to look real and I want to capture images in nature that other people might not be able, or privileged, to see.
I’ve learned a lot along the way how to work the camera to get the image that you want.
What is this camera you have here?
This is a Canon EOS 5D. It’s my first full-frame camera. A full frame allows me to take a very large image.
How many lenses do you have?
For the 2 Sony’s I have interchangeable lenses. I probably have 8 lenses for them. For this Canon I have 3 that I work with primarily. Mostly I shoot with my 50mm-80mm for landscapes. I have another that allows me to do extreme closeups for wildlife and a macro that I use for closeup images.
And I have tripods and remote-control devices.
When did you move from hobbyist to professional?
Shortly after my husband gave me the “real camera”, which was about 10 years ago, I put my images on zenfolio which is a formatted website for photographers. I thought I would throw some images up there and see what responses I got from people—and not just my mom who loves everything I do.
So I put the website together and put it out to everyone I knew on social media and the responses I got back were somewhat overwhelming. I thought people would say, “oh, these are nice.” But the adjectives people were using to describe the images floored me. In some cases, it almost brought me to tears. And I thought, “well, maybe I can do something with this.”
My first attempt at doing something was thinking “I have to get a tent if I’m going to do shows and I need to get panels to hang the pieces on.” And I found a lady who had 4 pro panels, which are usually $120 each, and she was selling them all for $100. I thought that seemed like a sign.
I got a tent for a good price and everything started to click. But the first thing I did was an art show in Woodland Park at the high school, a craft show, and I was in the cafetorium and the gentleman across from me was selling bed sheets and I quickly realized I was in the wrong place.
I sold some things there and my first official art show was at America the Beautiful park in a 3-day show with torrential rains. In those 3 days I had $1,200 in sales and I was over the moon. Reinforced by that experience I signed up for a few more shows and it’s just continued on. This will be my 8th summer doing art shows.
How many do you typically do a year?
Since I work full-time, I was doing 7-8 a summer and now I do about 5. It’s hard to work all week, do an art show, work a full week, and do another art show. So, this summer I’ve cut back to the fewest I’ve done and part of that is having the opportunity to be in Commonwheel. This is a new avenue for me and it’s been great.
The work you would store up and sell in a festival you’re putting out and selling all year long.
I was in some galleries apart from Commonwheel. I’m part of the Colorado Creative Co-op in Old Colorado City. I’ve been there for years. I also had work in various places in Woodland Park when we lived up there and I’m still part of the Mountain Arts group up there.
And I still have my website. It has changed over the years and I have to go take photos off every so often because I have so many. It gets refreshed because I realized it’s not good to have thousands of images for people to pick from, that’s too overwhelming.
You put your images on a variety of formats—plaques, metal, canvas, matted prints, coasters, and cards.
On the web site I tell people to go look and then tell me what they want, what size, and I can customize what people are looking for.
I outsource the printing of my images because I believe printing is, in itself, an art form. I will do some printing of my matted prints, but I even outsource a lot of those. And to have the size printers you need for a large format is a huge investment.
You’ve started putting images in salvaged windows. Tell me about that.
For a long time I had the idea stirring in my head. It would be so cool to get an image that was like looking through a window. I didn’t want to carry glass around, so I looked at getting the images printed on plexiglass but didn’t like the look.
When I had some down time this past winter, I did some research and found a bunch of antique windows on Craigslist and Marketplace. I picked up a few initially. I wanted them to have a distressed look and what was fun about that whole process was that it was something different for me. I’m taking wood and sanding it, painting it, sealing it, and trying to figure out what to do with the hardware. It became a whole new aesthetic for me. For the image itself I still have it outsourced but when it comes back, I need to mount it into the window.
I custom size the images based on the windows. I take the glass out of all of them along with the glazing and the glazer’s points. It’s been interesting and fun. And now I have so many windows and my husband is thinking I may have gone overboard with them. I have 15 finished now and they’ll go to art shows with me this summer if they don’t make it into Commonwheel.
You mentioned that you work full time. What do you do?
I support a project management software. It allows me to work from home so the dogs are happy, and I can usually swing my schedule to take off early on Fridays in the summer to go set up for art shows. My photography is the opposite of what I do for work, so it is a release for me. And this is the thing that I know is my passion—shooting the photos—because I can lose all sense of time, surroundings, and space entirely when I do this. It feeds my soul.
I named my business “His Beautiful Canvas.” I’ve had a lot of people ask why not “her beautiful canvas” since I’m a woman, and I explain that the canvas is God’s. I believe God paints this picture, this image, and I’m privileged to take it in and share it. And sometimes I share it with people who can’t ever see those places. There’s something about it that’s special.
There have been a lot of art shows where a customer and I are both in tears because of what they see in my photo and tell me about how it affects them. When it came time to name my business, I was jogging by myself while we were camping at Lake Granby and I heard the name while I was praying. It’s been wonderfully rewarding connecting with others around these images.
You joined Commonwheel when?
It’s been a year now, and it has been wonderful to connect with others who understand the idea of “feeding your soul”, even though we do it in different ways. It’s nice to be with others who get that.