Today’s interview comes from Williamsburg, Virginia and features an extraordinarily talented Fine Art photographer named Rachel Morrison. Rachel draws inspiration for her photography from the love she has for the nature, people, and architecture of Colonial Williamsburg. Through Rachel’s work, she has the ability to capture all facets of beauty from her surroundings. Thank you, Rachel and it’s my pleasure to share your thoughts and experiences with my readers.
Can you please tell the readers a bit about yourself?
My name is Rachel Morrison and I am a fine art photographer residing in Williamsburg, Virginia.
Where is home?
Growing up around the United States and overseas with the foreign service I’ve called several places home, but the place I would always go back to was Cameron Park, California where I was born and where my family spent the majority of our summers.
I read the “About” page on your website and see that your photography involves nature, people, and architecture. What is it that led you toward these types of photography and how long have you been working in them?
Besides my innate love for these subjects, the beauties of Colonial Williamsburg with the colonial architecture, stunning gardens, and wonderful farm animals and wildlife, also with the character actors bringing life to and celebrating the story of this 18th Century city, all together inspired me to try a variety of themes in photography in order to tell the story of this place in pictures. I’ve been photographing Colonial Williamsburg intentionally since 2013.
What were you doing before you decided to jump into the world of photography?
I’ve dedicated a few years as a round-the-clock carer for my family members. As the needs have become less, I’ve immersed myself more into my work. It’s been a wonderful way to transition from one world into another.
What inspired you to be a photographer?
The photos! It’s very inspiring to me to be able to share somethings that mean so much to me with others and hopefully to spread love and happiness.
Is photography your full-time career or a hobby?
I am pursuing photography professionally.
Are you formally taught or self-taught? And what has been the best source of information along this journey (workshop, online forums, classroom, mentor, etc)?
I am largely self-taught. My dad started me off with an understanding of camera usage and some photography principles. My mom inspired me with her love of art. I got a lot out of my art classes in school as well as writing classes. I think story-telling has a lot to do with photography. Nowadays, when it comes to information, online searches bear lots of useful and practical advice.
Are you satisfied with your choice of getting involved with this industry? Is there anything else you would rather be doing?
It is really a dream come true. What I would like to do is to integrate drawing, creative writing, and photography soon.
What type of session do you look forward to the most vs what type of session you most often do?
I love early mornings in Colonial Williamsburg gardens especially in the spring and early summer. I am most often out at dawn or late-afternoon /evenings.
What has been your most memorable session and why?
There was one morning in June where a Colonial Garden was in full bloom and the most beautiful sparkling of dew made the sunrise rays sparkle. It had rained the night before so the effects of the water and light were incredible.
What has been the easiest part of learning about photography?
It’s so easy when you just go out and try things, lots of things, and see what comes out.
What has been the most challenging part of photography?
It is often hard waiting to go out again. It’s also hard if I have to sit out a marvelous scene, like mist or dramatic skies. Another challenge is the desire to travel for those special shots and at the same time not wanting to leave my loved ones at home.
How do you keep yourself motivated and your photography fresh?
The change of seasons is refreshing but sometimes sad because I enjoy each one so much. But it’s so much fun to do new things. Also, just going to a new location or trying out a different lens is very exciting.
Who or what inspires you in your personal life and work?
Love. I love the subjects, the creative process, being a part of this world, and sharing with others.
What’s the best part of being a photographer?
It’s a tie between the connection made with the subject at the time of the capture and the final product that is there to show for it.
What has been the best source of information along your photography journey (workshop, online forums, classroom, mentor, etc)?
The photos themselves tell me a lot, and so do the photos of others that I see many, many of through social networks. Anything I’m stumped on I can do a quick search for and there will be information out there: youtube, websites, blogs.
What industry sites and blogs do you read regularly? Would any stand out as particularly motivational or inspirational for someone who might be interested in learning about photography?
A shout out to Redski Redd Photography. I really enjoy his interviews of photographers and artists on his website as well as beautiful artist reels and instructional videos of how he produces his own work. It’s a great learning tool to see what other photographers are doing and their experiences.
Are there any photographers out there who motivate you? If so, who are they and what is it you like so much about them?
As a child, I loved Ranger Rick’s nature magazines and their photos. It was so fascinating. My wild birds photography books and horse books provided much inspiration as well.
What has been the biggest source of inspiration in your work?
When I was a pre-teen living in El Salvador I heard about digital cameras coming out. Wow…you could take many photos without running out of film… I was immediately inspired by the fact that I could try multiple angles, viewpoints, and strategies to lock-in that shot. The image that came to my mind was actually a curling green vine with a leaf, and I was zooming in and out trying for the best composition. I think back on that now when I’m doing that very thing many years later. I think it’s that desire to present something of beauty through picture form.
What is one piece of advice you would like to offer a new photographer just starting out?
Develop your art, you’re making a difference.
Share with us your favorite image and why.
One of my favorites is “Yellow Warbler.” It is of a yellow-rumped warbler bird in Colonial Williamsburg. I appreciate the feeling of being in this precious bird’s world.
Who is the most inspirational photographer in your life?
I’ve my inspiration from photographers I’ve never known. Those from my books, wildlife magazines, and just anywhere in the media where I’ve been awestruck by an image. They’ve shown me what’s out there. I also appreciate the portraits by Da Vinci and also the chiaroscuro technique by Rembrandt.
What type of cameras do you shoot with?
Right now I mainly use a MKIII and a MKII. I sometimes use a Panasonic GX8 and G5.
I love getting reach, so the Sigma 150-600 with the crop sensor gives me a lot of distance for wildlife. The Canon 70-200 paired with the full-frame can produce some beautiful results for details, portraits, and architecture. I usually walk about with these two pairs, with a wide-angle lens (street shots) and a macro (flowers) in my bag. This way I am prepared for what I find.
What is your favorite photography accessory, other than your camera?
A camera harness that holds two cameras. It’s a life-saver!
Do you use Lightroom, Photoshop, both or other?
Both. I also use Photo for Mac.
What piece of equipment would you most like to get but don’t have yet?
Right now I use the Sigma 150-600 Contemporary but would like to get the sport version which is weather sealed for more productivity.
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 sessions was the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona. I was blown away by the magnificence of color, sky, and rock, especially at sunset. It’s one of those places I would love to return to!
Do you have any projects that make you look back and shake your head? What made the experience so unpleasant?
I haven’t usually had unpleasant experiences except for a couple of sessions in extremely cold and hot temperatures. It’s pretty painful to have freezing fingers and wish you’d brought hand warmers. Burning up in the wrong outfit is also no fun at all. Although in both situations, I just toughed it out and survived, it was brutal!
Are there any areas of photography that you have yet to pick up on that you’d like to learn?
What do you think the future holds for you? Where do you see yourself in the next few years?
I see myself growing an inventory of images both in my local area and abroad. One of my goals is to go back and photograph some of the beautiful places in the Netherlands where I lived a couple of years in college.