photo credit: Kristen Ryan
At FOTO, we are committed to helping our fellow creatives flourish no matter the season. In our Q&A style blog series, Coffee with Creatives, we highlight the unique expertise of some of our favorite professionals, sharing tips and information on relevant topics to bring you some practical insight and inspiration for the important work you do. Today is no different as we delve into a subject we can all try as we continue to socially distance and appreciate the stillness of time and beauty surrounding us.
We are talking with professional photographer, Emily Hamson of Lavender Lime Photography, to discuss her secrets on mastering nature photography!
First things first, how do you take your coffee? (And if you are not a coffee drinker, what is your go-to beverage for fuel?)
Emily: I know this sounds super lame and boring, but I am a water drinker, and not much else! On cold winter mornings, I opt for a hot chocolate, and I do drink a fruit-filled protein smoothie after my workouts. But other than that, it's water! Bragging moment: I haven't had a soda since 1995!
Can you share a bit yourself & how you got into photography?
Emily: I loved photography from a young age and I can't remember not loving it really! My dad was a photography teacher at the local high school, and I remember visiting his classroom and being excited to go into the dark room. And yes, I did take photography in high school with my dad as my teacher!
We had a subscription to National Geographic when I was growing up, and I loved looking through those magazines, dreaming of being able to go photograph in far away lands! When it came time for choosing a college major, I was interested in either pursuing elementary education or photography. When I saw all the art class requirements for photography, I got scared and chose elementary education instead because I can't draw a stick figure worth anything. My photography ended up on the back burner for many years. I taught kindergarten for a couple of years, but quit when I became a mom.
When my oldest son was a baby, I did some "amazing" photoshoots every month, but other than that, I didn't pick up my camera very often. When my third and fourth boys were born (they're twins), I started having the desire to pick up my camera again, and I did, but my limited time with four young boys made it hard to do a lot with it. It was about five years ago that I really got back into photographing regularly.
Tell us about Lavender Lime Photography. How did you pick that name?!
Emily: When I decided to start a business, I knew I needed a name, but I thought Emily Hamson Photography sounded dumb. I talked with my sister-in-law about how she got the name for her business and she encouraged me to make a list of some of my favorite things. From that list, I started putting two items together, then I'd look online to see if anyone else had that name. It took some trial and error, but I liked Lavender Lime together - lavender for my favorite flower and lime for my favorite color - and it was unique, so I took it and ran with it!
Your nature photography is breathtaking. Why do you enjoy shooting outdoors so much? What are you looking to capture?
Emily: Aw, thank you! That always makes me blush! I have always loved nature and being outside. We went on many camping and hiking trips when I was growing up, and I fell in love with being in the beautiful scenery so easily found in Utah! Nature soothes my soul in a way that nothing else can, and I find if I go too long without getting outside, I get anxious! Being outdoors is my zen!
When I'm outside looking for something to shoot, I usually start with pretty light, then look for beautiful landscapes or scenery. I tend to look with my heart as well as my eyes, because I want to feel something when I look at my pictures. To do this, I take a deep breath in and just look for what inspires me most about an area, then I try to make that feeling with my camera.
How does living in Utah influence your work? Favorite time of year to shoot there?
Emily: Because there is so much variety here, I never get bored of one type of scenery! I can go from mountains, to salt flats, to red rocks, to desert, to rivers or lakes in a matter of hours! Just looking out my front window at the mountains inspires me to get out and go shoot! I also love seeing the world up close through my macro lens, and pretty much any flower, leaf, insect or blade of grass makes a good subject! It helps to live in such a beautiful place, because sometimes there's an amazing sunset, or the mountain has beautiful alpenglow, and I can just grab my camera, get a couple of quick shots in then get back to life!
I love that Utah has four distinct seasons, and I really don't think I can pick a favorite! I love the flowers and color of spring, the warmth and vibrancy of summer, the crisp, warm colors of fall leaves, and the serenity and purity of fresh snow. I really can get my camera out at any season and make good pictures.
Can you share two or three quick tips on getting that perfect wide angle landscape shot?
Emily: Look for light first! If your subject is in subpar light, then it won't be as pretty. The golden hour doesn't only apply to portrait photographers - the best time to shoot landscapes is also during golden hours of the morning and evening. (Plus that's when you get beautiful sunrises and sunsets to help make your landscapes really show off!) You can totally shoot any time of the day though, so don't be afraid to try on a bright blue sky or sunny day! Just be aware of the light and shadows, and make sure it enhances your subject in the camera lens. Remember that cameras don't have an optic nerve, so they won't differentiate between light and shadows as well as we can - the lights will be brighter and the shadows darker.
Include the foreground, mid-ground and background in your shots. So many people forget to include the foreground, and that's what really helps "ground" a landscape image! (pun intended!) Of course, rules are meant to be broken, so if you aren't including the foreground, make sure you do it with intention!
Try some different compositions too - like going lower to the ground, using trees or other organic material to frame a subject, and zooming in and out (landscapes don't always have to be wide-angle!). I always try at least three or four compositions for each scene!
And a fourth tip, even though you asked for three: make sure you stop down your aperture. You should shoot landscapes anywhere from f/11-f/22 if you want to have everything in focus. It doesn't matter quite as much if you have a super wide angle or are posting online only. But if you want to ever print your landscape images, this is important to have as much in focus as possible!
What about shooting macro? What makes a great macro shot?
Emily: I know every macro photographer is different, but I love my macro shots full of negative space and keeping the image super simple. I also apply a lot of people composition rules to my macro shots - like using rule of thirds, centering intentionally, and not cutting off important things (like an awkward leaf or stem chop). It's important to sweep your eyes around the whole frame as you take the pictures. Also, trying different compositions is important in macro, there are many times I've loved my third or fourth attempts more than the first ones I took. Light is also important here too. If you're starting out with macro, I suggest sticking to shade or even lighting to begin with, then move on to harsher light as you get more comfortable with it. Also, be aware of wind if you're outside - nothing ruins a macro shot faster than some wind!
What's the craziest outdoor adventure you've had to get a shot you wanted?
Emily: Oh that's a hard one! I'm usually pretty careful and nervous to go off the beaten path too much. I'd have to say the scariest thing I've done is gone out at night by myself in the mountains to get Milky Way pictures - every noise in the bushes made me think a mountain lion was stalking me! I did stay pretty close to my car and kept my keys in my pocket so I could sound my car alarm if needed! It sounds pretty sissy, but really it's nerve-wracking for me to be in the dark by myself, and my heart was going a million miles an hour the entire time I was out. I haven't done it since then if that tells you anything!
Any unexpected similarities in capturing nature photography and the family/children's photography you do?
Emily: I do take clients, and prefer to shoot them outdoors in nature - it feels more me! The biggest similarity is that lighting is important for both - be aware of how light is falling on your subject, whether they are human or not. But that's about where the similarities end...I know a lot of people are hesitant about taking landscape or macro photos, but landscapes and flowers don't cry, pout, make faces or pick their noses!
And lastly, what Fotostrap do you wear? Favorite thing about it?
Emily: I have the Classic Strap in Avocado (recently retired to introduce new styles). I love that it's a lime color and enhances my brand and makes my logo seen by others. I've been places shooting before and people have seen my strap and ask if I take clients, or where they can find my work. It really helps me stand out as a photographer amongst the crowds of plain black, standard issue straps. Also, I am completely in love with the shoulder strap! It's such a great thing to have when I am walking around with my huge 150-600 telephoto lens, or even when I've had my camera on me for awhile and it's getting heavy. I just love my strap!
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