With finding great joy through nature and wildlife, Canadian nature photographer Debbie Oppermann spends her days capturing breathtaking scenes. Debbie resides in Guelph, Ontario, Canada, which is known as “The Royal City,” where she finds inspiration for her work through her surroundings. With a skillful eye, Debbie creates an array of extraordinary pieces. As you browse through her works below, I think you will agree Debbie has a special talent for capturing the very essence of her subjects with her very own approach.
Debbie, it was a pleasure getting to know you and about your creative process. You are a remarkable artist and someone who is definitely worth following. Your work is quite remarkable and I hope to see more great things from you in the future!
Can you please tell the readers a bit about yourself? Where do you call home?
Hi, I’m Debbie Oppermann from Guelph, Ontario, Canada. I am married with two awesome kids and three wonderful grandchildren. I am blessed to live in a small city that has loads of nature trails, two rivers, and a lake, so of course, being a nature photographer, I am in heaven. Our vacations are primarily in northern Ontario where the Canadian Shield landscape is stunning, rocky, and remote. We take our boat so we can access areas that we would not ordinarily be able to hike to. Landscapes, plants, animals, especially birds, and abstracts both natural and man-made are mostly what I look for when out on my nature walks. I absolutely love finding abstracts in nature. Not everyone will notice the wonderful plants or tree bark or water and rock abstracts. When not with a camera in hand I love reading fiction novels and being creative with knitting, crocheting, and sewing. Being retired, I can spend my time doing what I love which is being in nature.
After browsing through your website, I see that you have built up an extensive collection of wonderful photography. When did you first become interested in photography and how long have you been involved with it?
My interest in photography started a very long time ago when we started travelling to other countries but my serious passion for photography started 12 years ago with my major purchase of a digital camera and a couple of lenses to start. I have a friend who actually started at the same time, we had the same camera and lens and we started meeting twice a week at the arboretum in Guelph. It then blossomed into going out several times a week on the trails sometimes by myself and sometimes with my friend.
Marketing is a crucial component for any professional photographer. How do you go about marketing yourself?
Marketing is hard. It is very time-consuming and not something you really want to do because it takes away time from actually being able to go out and get those great shots, but you know that you have to get your work seen by as many people as possible and it has to be daily. I spend a couple of hours each day promoting my work on social media. I use Twitter, Pinterest, Flickr, and Facebook although I am not a huge fan of Facebook. I also enter contests like Canadian Wildlife Federation and Canadian Geographic and am published frequently so that also helps with promotion. Locally, my marketing consists of handing out business cards and selling prints at a market store.
What has been the biggest source of inspiration in your work?
My biggest source of inspiration is my family, especially my husband. He is always encouraging me and he tells the truth. If he doesn’t like an image he will let me know that it doesn’t work. My kids and grandkids love seeing my work, especially in magazines. Being outside in nature and getting exercise is healthy not just for the body but also the mind and that is a powerful motivator as well.
How did you develop your style?
I don’t know if I really have a style or a niche as my photographic interests are varied. If you can call it a “style” I tend to love contrast and deep colors and high contrast, high key black and white.
What drives you to create; does it satisfy a need or passion?
What drives me to create? I have always been “crafty” so was always busy creating something whether from material or wool etc and when I was working with kids in an after-school program for about 20 years I was required to have a craft for them to do each day. These kids ranged in age from 5 – 12 years and that required me to come up with some pretty interesting craft ideas using lots of different materials to keep the kids engaged. Photography was a natural progression into creating something wonderful with the images captured in camera and I need to be outside each day so it all goes hand in hand.
How do you keep your photography fresh and how do you stay motivated to keep on learning?
I am constantly learning with photography. I consider myself a novice. You keep evolving, getting even more critical of your work, and when you look back at some of your earlier images, the first thing that comes out of your mouth is “what was I thinking, why did I ever think this was a good shot?”
What do you hope viewers take away from your images?
I really hope that my photography encourages viewers to spend more time in nature and less time on their phones for example. Take the time to “smell the roses” and embrace the clearing of the mind when out on nature walks. Take the time to look for the little things like a tiny mushroom, hear the birds singing, and maybe enjoy the sounds of the gurgling creeks or see the water rushing over the rocks. Sometimes you need to go by yourself and sometimes it would be wonderful to take the kids so they learn from a young age to appreciate everything nature has to offer.
Do you have any tips for new photographers who want to take better photographs?
New photographers need to have patience, loads of it. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Learn from others. The more you shoot the more you learn.
What type of camera(s) do you shoot with? What is your favorite lens?
I shoot with a Canon 80D and my very favorite lens is the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS II USM, it is quite versatile and will even do a macro shot in a pinch.
What is your favorite photography accessory?
My favorite accessory would be my harness, I cannot walk for long without it as the telephoto lens has some weight to it, the harness also allows my hands to be free which is a necessity when hiking cause you know that if you are looking up in the trees for birds you are going to trip on something and if you are looking down you will knock your head on a branch or whatever so if your hands are free you can stop yourself from possibly falling. My other accessory is the camera bag that I take with me on the trails as it has to hold extra memory cards, extra battery, rain sleeve for the lens, gloves, the macro lens, the walk-around lens, a giant clip to get branches or vines, etc out of the way of whatever I want to photograph and a few other things.
What piece of equipment would you most like to get but don’t have yet?
My next lens purchase will be a prime landscape lens, not sure which one yet as I am still researching, I already have the L macro lens.
How important is Photoshop or other image editing software in your final images?
I use Photoshop for mostly just the basics, like contrast, light, and shadow, sharpening, black and white – I just bought the Topaz DeNoise AI mostly for low light situations and am still learning the program.
Can you tell me about one of your favorite or most memorable photo sessions? What made it so great and why did you like it so much?
One of my favorite photo sessions was with a wild Red Fox. That made my week as I am forever looking for wild animals especially up north. We were at a cottage on the French River Ontario and we had just got settled in when I looked out and there on the deck was a Red Fox just sitting pretty. I managed to get it to move so I could get out of the cottage and then spent at least an hour with it taking pics, it was beautiful and so friendly. Thank goodness for the telephoto lens as I did not need to be too close to get amazing shots, therefore no harassing the fox. It allowed me to photograph it in many positions as it wandered around looking for food.
Do you have any projects that make you look back and shake your head? What made the experience so unpleasant?
One of my worst photographic experiences was because of a rookie mistake. We were camping In Killarney Provincial Park Ontario which is known to have a fair bit of bear activity. We spotted a mama bear and her two cubs along the shore and they were working their way towards us. I didn’t have a clear shot at that point so I waited until they came out in the open so I could get some shots fairly close but when I clicked there was nothing. It showed that my card was full. Smacking myself, I had just lost great shots because I never checked to see how many images I had left on the memory card or had changed it for a new one. I now carry multiple high-quality cards with a high capacity so I should never have that problem again especially when you don’t have time to run back to the campsite to get another card!
Where do you currently display your work? How can people purchase one or more of your pieces?
I sell on multiple POD sites and at a local market. Those interested can purchase from the POD sites listed on my Twitter account.
What do you think the future holds for you? Where do you see yourself in the next few years?
I plan on doing exactly what I am doing now in the next few years. There are so many places to explore that I haven’t been yet, just in my area alone and I plan to continue expanding my range and growing and learning. Also would love to get back to travelling to other countries but unfortunately, that will have to wait until we get well past the pandemic.