Welcome to this month’s “Community Spotlight” where you get to know a little more about the talented photographers who are part of our 365 Picture Today Community. This month we introduce you to Lori Rowland who lives in Smithfield, Virginia, a rural area located in the southeastern portion of the state. She has the privilege of being near quite a few parks, beaches, and small waterways. The area is very rich in history, and the town is most famous for the production and curing of the Smithfield ham.
What made you start a 365 project?
I bought my first DSLR in 2017 from my son. I have always had an interest in photography, but had never explored it. As I was learning how to use my camera, I reached out to Garnett Hutchinson with lots of questions. I knew her through work, and knew she belonged to a 365 project (CY365). She was extremely helpful in answering my many questions, and she encouraged me to join the group. While that was kind of scary at the time, since I had no idea what I was doing, I decided to join. I was intimidated at first, but quickly felt part of that community and learned so much. When it was announced that CY365 would be ending, I knew that the continued discipline of a photograph a day would keep me focused, so I decided to continue my daily photo journey with 365 Picture Today.
What do you love best and what do you hate about taking a photo a day?
I love the discipline taking a photo a day instills but, if I’m being honest, it can sometimes feel like a burden. I mainly try to stay on prompt, but there have been days that has been a struggle for me, either due to my schedule or just not connecting with the prompt. On those days, I try to find something that I can do to learn a new technique, or just simply find something that interests me. I took a few days off earlier this year, and I have to say it felt really weird! What probably struck me the most was that people noticed, and they reached out to make sure I was okay. Those simple acts can mean so much at the times we need it.
What cameras do you have, and do you have a favourite lens?
I started out with a Nikon D7200, but upgraded to a Nikon D750 a year or two after I started my first 365 project. The starter camera was a crop-sensor camera, and I decided to upgrade to a full-frame camera with higher megapixels. My favorite lens is definitely my 105mm macro lens; I originally borrowed one from a friend and absolutely fell in love with it. I’ve bought a number of new lenses since starting my first 365 project, including a 200-500mm zoom lens, which is great for shooting the moon and the birds on my bird feeders, as well as 35 and 50mm prime lenses, and an 18-120mm zoom lens. Most of my lenses are Nikon, but I have also recently bought a Sigma 85mm. Aside from the camera body and lenses, my Manfrotto tripod is definitely an essential part of my photography gear.
What is your favourite subject and why?
Macro photography is my favorite type of photography. I love to explore all the tiny details of subjects, whether it be weeds, spices, flowers, etc. I’m a budget analyst by profession, so maybe it makes sense, since much of my job is looking at all the intricate details. I also like using my macro lens to make my toy cars larger than life, or capturing my miniature scenes for Christmas cards. My second favorite type of photography is nature and landscape. I’ve recently taken an interest in still-life photography, which I have been practicing quite a bit. I struggled with still-life photography for a long time, but through several courses and lots of practice, I’m slowly becoming much more comfortable with it. My next challenge is going to be food photography. Rhadonda Sedgewick introduced me to an introductory food photography course, which I am just starting. If I thought still-life was hard, food photography seems even more daunting to me!
What have you learnt by doing a 365 project and what advice would you give someone just starting out?
Doing several years of a 365 project has really helped me grow skills in both taking the photos, as well as editing them. The prompts from the previous CY365 group focused on many different composition techniques that I had never tried (or even heard of), so I definitely learned so much from them. I use Lightroom and Photoshop to process and edit my photos. I used several books to learn Lightroom, but have mostly learned Photoshop by playing around with it and watching lots of YouTube videos. Trust me, you can find just about anything you want to learn on YouTube. Another important thing about a 365 project is connecting with others; the interaction and encouragement from others is often what keeps us going when we don’t really feel like it.
My advice to someone starting out would be to not be so hard on yourself and don’t compare your photos to those of others. I know that is easier said than done, but just enjoy yourself. I still have to remind myself of that sometimes. If we focus on the negatives, we quickly become bogged down. Take it one day at a time. If the prompt doesn’t speak to you, find something else that does. Over the course of a period of time, look back at where you started, and I bet you see you’ve come farther than you thought.