Featured Photographer Janet McQueen: “Know your bone.”

Here’s another in our ongoing series of Featured Photographers, Janet McQueen. I’ve admired Janet’s work for quite some time now, and am pleased to bring Janet, her photography and her experiences to you. (Hover over Janet’s photos for more info on each).

  • Please tell us about yourself Janet.

My favourite self portrait, because it includes a loved one. Last Christmas, we set up a 'Photo Booth' in front of the Christmas tree, with my camera on a tripod, a few lights & a chair, & gave everyone instructions on how to use it. Then, throughout the day, everyone jumped in and out of the Photo Booth, snapping their own pictures with the remote.  It was loads of fun and we got some great family photos as well! (50 mm macro lens shot at F10 at 1/125 s., IS0 125)I live in the heart of the Canadian Prairies in a small town just north of Winnipeg, Manitoba, with my husband, Terry, and our very special dog, Bruno. We share 5 children who are all grown and relatively independent (3 are mine & 2 are Terry’s) and 2 lovely granddaughters, Mackenzie & Madison.

Four years ago I retired, after spending many years working in office management and bookkeeping, and for the last 23 years I organized, supervised and drove for our local rural Handivan Service, providing transportation to seniors and the mobility disadvantaged.

Retirement has given me the wonderful gift of time …. time to share with family & friends, time to spend working in the garden, enjoying our 6 acres of Native Prairie, traveling and camping in the RV and finally, after all these years… time to immerse myself in photography.

Although I’ve loved photography since my first Kodak Brownie at the age of 8, I have many other interests that I’ve explored over the years, including all things esoteric (astrology, numerology, Tarot, etc.) and several of the healing arts – I’m a Practioner of Reiki, Healing Touch & Reconnective Healing and was lucky enough to have my own small practice for several years. I also love yoga, reading, walking, bike riding, computers, and all varieties of animals, especially this particular dog, our Bruno….

Meet our wonderful companion, Bruno. This may not be the best shot of him that I've ever taken, but it is definitely the funniest.  I love it and I laugh every time I look at it. It might be difficult to tell, but he really does love riding in the boat & has his very own seat at the back. Sometimes he finds the driving a little disturbing, this may have been one of those moments... lol...!  12mm - 60mm lens at 20mm, F8 at 1/250s, ISO 200 using hand held flash, off camera on auto.

  • What attracted you to photography and how long have you been shooting?

I’ve been shooting for a very long time… so long, in fact, that I have no idea what attracted me as a child. All I can clearly remember is how much I loved to have that camera in my hands and how it always felt like my best friend.

Since then, through all the ups and downs, there’s always been a camera close beside me. My life would not have been the same without photography and I can’t really explain why – I just know it to be true.

Photography is my meditation, my grounding, my creative outlet. It’s my way of connecting with life as a visual experience and my attempt to catch those fleeting, emotional moments that are the essence of my own unique experience of Life.

This is my view from my deck....  Shot at sunrise on a bitterly cold January morning, as a 5 shot HDR.  (12mm - 60 mm lens, F5.6 at 1/3200s ISO 200)

  • How did you learn photography?

One of the most important influences on my photography has been the Daily Photos Community at SmugMug. By participating on a daily basis and having the opportunity to immerse myself in the extraordinary talent found there, it seems impossible not to improve and expand photographic knowledge and skills….. I think it happens almost by osmosis…!

Until the last 3 years, my knowledge of photography was rather limited, mostly learned by trial and error, a few evening courses and some time spent in darkrooms now and then. I was very much an amateur who was often disappointed with the results of my snapshots.

Now that I have the energy, the time and the internet, I am thoroughly enjoying taking online classes with some of the most amazing professionals. During the past 3 years, I’ve taken six classes at Bryan Peterson’s Picture Perfect School of Photography(PPSOP) and have benefitted from every one of them.

There are so many truly excellent books available for both instruction & inspiration. I am constantly buying them and expanding my skills, book by book… it’s a fascinating time to be involved in photography and there is SO much to learn

  • What camera equipment do you find yourself using most often and what are your go-to applications for post-processing?

My cameras are both Olympus DSLRs, the E3 and my older E300.

My favourite lenses are my Zuiko F2.8/12mm – 60 mm and my F2.0/50mm macro. They’re light, fast and will handle almost any situation well. I also love my F2.8/50mm – 200mm lens but it’s a bit heavier and usually requires a tripod.

I am using my flash more often now, especially off-camera and I try to have a tripod close at hand.

I use LightRoom for downloading and backing up, then switch to Photoshop CS5 for cropping, curves, sharpening, filters, etc. I sometimes use Topaz 2 and 4 for creative effects and have just discovered the free Pixel Bender filter….if it’s HDR, the processing is done in either Photomatix or FDR Tools

  • What is your single most important photographic accessory?

Great question! First response… my husband…! What would I do without him to carry my assorted bags, tripods and endless essential paraphernalia? He’s great at following directions, he’s always willing to offer encouragement & suggestions and all he really needs to sustain his energy and interest is a cold beer!

I would highly recommend that everyone try to invest in this indispensable accessory, although they’re not cheap and sometimes they’re unavoidably unavailable… Smile

Seriously though, a few months ago I would have said ‘my tripod’, now I think it would be my off-camera flash. Although I’m definitely at the novice stage, these new flashes and their TTL technology are opening up entirely new avenues of creative opportunity.

To quote Bryan Peterson: “Think of it as carrying another sun in your pocket – the possibilities are unlimited!”

My trusty assistant & also my most valuable photographic accessory...  This image was taken last summer at our Lake Manitoba camping spot, shot as an HDR, probably 5 shots, with several parts of the image painted in from the different exposures. If I remember correctly, it was very hot, we'd been wandering in search of photo ops for quite some time, and my assistant was beginning to lose interest ....  Shot at 11mm with my 11mm - 22mm lens, F5.6 at 1/400s, ISO 200

  • Janet, in looking at your website, I see a variety of subjects ranging from all-season scenics to still lives to portraits of a certain fellow in your life who goes by the name of “Bruno”! How do you decide what to shoot and why?

Thanks for spending time on my site, Ed… and yes, Bruno is usually my ‘main man’ when looking for a subject. He’s always close at hand and always looking good!

How do I decide what to shoot and why? Another very thought provoking question….

Often the ‘why’ is my commitment to a Daily Photo and because the standards in the community are so high, it simply cannot be just anyshot – which means I am constantly reaching for higher quality within my own images.

Almost everything I shoot is found within my daily routines and my surrounding area. I love these Prairies and our ever gorgeous, moody skies. Our constantly changing seasons offer endless photo opportunities.

We are lucky enough to own 6 acres of Short Grass Native Prairie and one of my goals is to photograph and catalogue all the species we find there.

And of course, I have my two beautiful granddaughters to photograph whenever I have the opportunity. They are growing up so fast that I sometimes feel I should catch them every day, just to keep up with the changes!

  • Which of your images are you the most proud of and why?

My mother's hands...  Of all the photographs I've ever taken, I think this one is my favourite.  I have always loved my mother's hands & this image reminds me of all the love those hands have shared.  Taken with 50mm lens, F4 at 1/40s, ISO 400

My mother’s hands…
Of all the photographs I’ve ever taken, I think this one is my favourite.
I have always loved my mother’s hands & this image reminds me of all the love those hands have shared.
Taken with 50mm lens, F4 at 1/40s, ISO 400

This pink water drop took 3 days to capture & the high stress levels probably took years off my life!  Even though I had the help of one of the most knowlegable, gifted & helpful folks from Daily Photos, known to most as Agilitypics, I simply could not figure out how to get a sharply focused water drop in the right light. This is really, really tricky and I have utmost respect for anyone who has mastered the art of capturing the water drop.  This was shot in the kitchen sink, with light from a north window & an off camera flash, in front of a pink plastic background, using my 50mm - 200mm lens at 200mm, on a tripod, F6.3 at 1/160s ISO 200This pink water drop took 3 days to capture & the high stress levels probably took years off my life!
Even though I had the help of one of the most knowlegable, gifted & helpful folks from Daily Photos, known to most as Agilitypics, I simply could not figure out how to get a sharply focused water drop in the right light. This is really, really tricky and I have utmost respect for anyone who has mastered the art of capturing the water drop.

This was shot in the kitchen sink, with light from a north window & an off camera flash, in front of a pink plastic background, using my 50mm – 200mm lens at 200mm, on a tripod, F6.3 at 1/160s ISO 200

.

The axe & the oak... this was one of the first shots for my Understanding Exposure class at PPSOP.  The assignment was to create a story telling image taken during the golden hour at sunrise or sunset.
Not so easily done in January in Manitoba... it was an incredibly frigid morning & the sun took forever to rise above the horizon, but so very worth it when it did!  Shot at 12mm, F22, 1/30s at ISO 400 using a tripod

The axe & the oak… this was one of the first shots for my Understanding Exposure class at PPSOP.
The assignment was to create a story telling image taken during the golden hour at sunrise or sunset.
Not so easily done in January in Manitoba… it was an incredibly frigid morning & the sun took forever to rise above the horizon, but so very worth it when it did!
Shot at 12mm, F22, 1/30s at ISO 400 using a tripod

This little guy gave me the biggest challenge of my photographic 'career'. He was my first portrait session and I dragged all my brand new lights and gear into his house without having a hot clue how to use them. When I arrived he was sick with a cold & couldn't stop crying, which might have been a good thing in the end because it gave me over an hour just to figure out where to put everything!  After bluffing my way through the entire session, packing up & hurrying home, I was thrilled to see I actually had some good shots... this is my favourite...  Lens - 12mm - 60 mm at 46mm, F8 at 1/200s, IS0 200

This little guy gave me the biggest challenge of my photographic ‘career’. He was my first portrait session and I dragged all my brand new lights and gear into his house without having a hot clue how to use them. When I arrived he was sick with a cold & couldn’t stop crying, which might have been a good thing in the end because it gave me over an hour just to figure out where to put everything!
After bluffing my way through the entire session, packing up & hurrying home, I was thrilled to see I actually had some good shots… this is my favourite…
Lens – 12mm – 60 mm at 46mm, F8 at 1/200s, IS0 200

  • Many photographers run into “dry spells”. How do you stay motivated to keep on shooting? What (or who) inspires you?

I really try to welcome those ‘dry spells’… their message is always that I am getting stuck in a rut and need to stretch myself in some direction.

And there are so many ways to stretch – take a course that seems challenging, tackle a difficult light situation, try street photography and approach total strangers, explore new computer techniques or software, walk into a store and offer cards or prints for sale …start a blog!!

There is literally no end of frightening and inspiring possibilities that seem well beyond our capabilities, but if/when we actually try them, the excitement and the anticipation flows back into our work and the dry spell is over …. for a little while, anyway…

Inspiration and motivation can always be found at SmugMug and in the Daily Photos.

My favourite little model is always my inspiration and my joy….

Here's a wonderful way to end a dry spell & feel inspiried.... find a child & ask them to jump! Always works for me & my sweetie. We shot this 3 years ago, but it's still one of my favourites.

  • What are your future plans, photographically speaking? (I.e. new gear, trying new techniques, visiting specific areas to shoot, etc…)

I was inspired after reading your interview with Judy Horton(FotoEffects Photography) when she shared her ideas about finding new photo ops and over the next few months I hope to use some of those ideas to broaden my horizons.

Street photography is definitely outside my comfort zone and I’d really like to give it a ‘shot’, especially after reading so many excellent articles here on 2 Guys Photo.

I would love to specialize in Pet Portraiture, shot in the pet’s own home where they are relaxed and comfortable. Mastering the off-camera flash might make this goal much more realistic and I’m hoping to give this a try very soon.

I would also like to get involved in stock photography someday. That’s a huge leap, very challenging, lots to learn and very different than the way I shoot now. I definitely need to master the art of shooting people first, as those are the most marketable shots.

My gear is adequate… for now… although you’d laugh if you saw my huge wish list at B & H Photo! My next purchase will probably be another remote flash and maybe a new camera bag – you can never have too many bags….lol!

  • What advice do you have for someone who is either just starting out in photography and/or wanting to improve their photographic skills?

I really think the best way to improve our skills is to take pictures every day, even when you don’t feel like it, even when there’s nothing inspiring in sight. Just do it anyway.

Watch the light…. all day long, whether you have your camera with you or not, always be aware of the light – where it is, where it isn’t – is it harsh & cold? Is it soft & gentle? Are there long shadows? Or no shadows? What colour is it?

Become very familiar with your camera and everything it can (and cannot) do. Also, if you have a DSLR, get to know each of your lenses intimately…. each one is surprisingly different and has its own unique point of view.

Take as many classes as you can. Online classes are terrific and fit in beautifully with our busy lives. They also give anyone the opportunity to connect with some of the best photographers in the world. Real life classes and workshops are wonderful as well, but they may be difficult to find and are often very expensive.

As I mentioned previously, I highly recommend ‘my’ online school, PPSOP and in particular, I would suggest you begin with two of the classes that Bryan Peterson teaches personally – “Understanding Exposure” and “The Art of Seeing”.

Buy books and write notes all over them ….

It’s impossible to have too many books. Here is a list of some of my favourites:

Scott Kelby’s Photoshop CS5 Book for Digital Photographers and his Adobe Lightroom 3 for Digital Photographers (or any of his previous Photoshop or Lightroom books)

Scott Kelby’s 7-Point System for Adobe Photoshop CS5

Learning to See Creatively & Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson

The Photographer’s Eye by Michael Freeman

For inspiration as well as instruction: A World in HDR by Trey Ratcliff, as well as his terrific website: Stuck in Customs at www.stuckincustoms.com/

Two of my favourite photographers who continue to uplift and inspire… Freeman Patterson & Courtney Milne.

PLUS …. the incredibly inspirational world of SmugMug… go there every day and hang out!

  • Janet, you’ve recently launched a new photo blog (congratulations!). Tell us what motivated you to start blogging and what we can expect from “My Prairie Photolog” in the future?

Link to Janet McQueens photoblog

Remember your question about ‘dry spells’? Well… the idea for my Photolog popped up in the middle of a dry spell.

Feeling uninspired and unmotivated, I decided it was time to seriously study composition if I hoped to improve the basic foundation of my photography and for some reason, I thought it would be fun to do this on a blog.

After 3 very long and frustrating/interesting/challenging days, My Prairie Photolog was launched. It’s called a Photo‘log’ simply because I missed the ‘b’ when I was naming it…..purely accidental, but I like it!

My original intention was to challenge myself to learn more about the most basic principles of good photography, beginning with composition. I think it could be fun if others want to join my ‘challenges’ by contributing shots and thoughts of their own and I really hope that some of the information might be of help to others.

Bruno & his 'Dad'.. they were in the midst of their own conversation when I caught them, just as the sun was setting. I love silouettes - they can become almost addictive!  Lens was 40mm - 150mm, shot at 71mm, F3.9 at 1/2000 s, ISO 100

I’ll leave you and your readers with one of my favourite quotes: “Do what you love. Know your own bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it and gnaw at it still.”Henry Thoreau

Sometimes it gets me ‘back in there’ when I don’t know what to do next….

* * *

Those are great words of wisdom Janet, and the right perspective for success , which is clearly working for you. Thanks so much for spending the time to bring us your wonderful photos and your perspective on this hobby that we all love.

Please visit Janet’s galleries to enjoy more of her beautiful work, and you can subscribe to her blog here. Janet has also offered her email address if you’d like to contact her directly: jbmcphoto@gmail.com

Posted by Ed

Technorati Tags: Janet McQueen,My Prairie Photolog,Featured Photographer,Olympus,Winnipeg,Manitoba

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About Ed Spadoni

www.2GuysPhoto.com "Thoughts and opinions, resources and experiences… for emerging photographers everywhere."
This entry was posted in Featured Photog, Images, Inspiration, Learning and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Featured Photographer Janet McQueen: “Know your bone.”

  1. kara says:

    I loved reading about Janet! Really good advice on things, great resources for improving skills and she is a super photographer – something for me to strive for!

  2. arthill says:

    Great interview with a lot of good advice.

  3. Dianne says:

    Great interview with Janet! great advice and recommendations especially regarding the online classes at PPSOP! I admire her work and now feel like I know her a great deal better!

  4. paula says:

    Wow….I so enjoyed reading about Janet and getting to really know her. So many words of wisdom and wonderful thoughts. Janet has a fantastic outlook and a real passion that shines through….thanks Janet & Ed :=)
    paula
    give bruno a bit hug ;=)

  5. 2guysphoto says:

    A great write up… I really enjoyed it. And, Janet – the photo of your mother’s hands is truly fantastic.

    Rey

  6. Sharkbayte says:

    Terrific interview, thoroughly enjoyed reading it and getting to know Janet better. I have been admiring her work since I joined the dailies at Smugmug and I really enjoy her new blog as well! Bonus I get to see a few extra shots of Bruno!! Great advice and information on both blogs!

  7. Awesome! I feel so privileged to view and enjoy Janet’s work each day on the SmugMug Dailies!

  8. Judy Horton says:

    What a wonderful interview! I’ve been an admirer of Janet’s photography on smugmug for some time and it was great to learn so much more about her and to see these fabulous images. She is so talented and creative and a real inspiration!

  9. Mark James says:

    Very nice interview and I enjoyed the photos very much. Hard to pick a favorite but I must say the Bruno shot is just too cute.

    I also want to try that water drop shot as well so that is now near the top of my must try list.

  10. Outstanding interview with Janet. I’ve been an admirer of hers on Smugmug and always look forward to her dailies of life on the prairies.

  11. Howard Hull says:

    What a great interview with Janet. I really find her work and knowledge inspiring, thanks for sharing!

  12. Prentis Drew says:

    Janet, your photo booth idea is brilliant. I plan to do the same thing this Christmas when the whole gang is here. Thanks for the tip.

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