by Alfred Forns
I would like to introduce our featured Senior Critic Darlene Hewson. Darlene joined the 1x Crew as a Manager for the Nature Group which she still runs successfully. After spending time managing the Group, she was asked to join the Senior Critics Crew. She answered the call and got onboard. She has all the attributes needed for being a Senior Critic, turns out excellent critiques, consistently contributing, making the Critique Forum what it is today. Her bubbling personality makes her most popular. We are fortunate in having such a person and her hard work is much appreciated.
Darlene, can you tell us about yourself, your hobbies and other jobs.
I’m a 54 year old, mother of four (two biological children; a 30 year old son and a 26 year old daughter), my two step-sons are 29 and 27. We are so close to becoming “empty nesters” – that we are giddy with the idea of walking around in our undies again. I married for the second time back in 2009 and my husband, Cal, and I, still feel like we’re on our honeymoon. For us, the second time around has been one adventure after another! We love to travel, hike and explore new places. Just recently, we met up with our eldest son in Cambodia and made our way up through Vietnam for three weeks. I’m still getting over the jet-lag! I’m a bookkeeper for a general contractor and am counting down the years until retirement. I love my job and the people I work for, but when retirement age is just around the corner, it’s hard not to get excited about it. Six more years!! I’m happiest when I’m outdoors with my hubby – camera in hand, of course.
What first attracted you to photography?
My father was a landscape photographer and although I wasn’t interested in his craft, I did own my very own camera. It was a Hanimex 126 film cartridge camera. I have fond memories of me standing beside my father and I would “snap” the same scene he was shooting, although he had a tripod, filters and seemed to take forever to get his shot. When I had my first child, I bought a Canon SLR and did a mighty-fine job with the camera set to “Auto”. I never touched a dial – just AUTO. The camera was merely used to document my children as they ate, walked and played with their toys and friends. It wasn’t until I got married in 2009, that I wanted to update my camera and I bought my first Digital SLR. For the first year, it was kept on that beautiful green “auto” button and then I decided to join a camera club, as friends and family said I was a great photographer, however, I thought that was funny because I had no clue as to how to compose a shot or even handle my camera settings. I not only joined a camera club, but I also signed up for a night photography course offered at a local college. By the time I started the night school, I had already self-taught myself what aperture, shutter speed and ISO meant. I thank my slow year at work for that and the internet access of course. It’s amazing what you can learn online – for free! I truly am happier when I’m out with my camera. In fact, I had to give up a night of shooting with a friend because I committed to do this interview and I’m starting to feel a little jealous about what he’s shooting right now.
Describe your overall photographic vision.
I really wish I could say I had a photographic vision. I don’t have a specific genre that I excel at and I get bored easily, thus the reason my portfolio is full of several genres. All I ever strive for is to make an image that I’m proud of, something that I can look at and say, “that’s mine – I took/did that”. When I hear flattering comments on my work, well, that is like the cherry on top of a beautiful ice-cream sundae!
Your work is very diversified, Darlene. Is there a reason for that?
I also wish I had a “style”. I’m always so amazed that there are so many photographers here on 1x who have such a distinct style, that when I see their work published on the front page, I know exactly who the photographer is. Perhaps one day, my work will be recognized, but I’m sure that will not happen until I settle down and select a genre. As of recently (approximately two years), I have become addicted to wildlife photography. However, with that said, while away in Vietnam, I fell in love with the idea of street photography. In the winter and the really cold days, I love to do portraits in a small studio I built in my basement. My lovely daughter, Nicole is my favourite model to call upon.
What is more important to you, the mood/story behind your images or the technical perfection?
I would have to say that the technical perfection is most important to me. I’m trying to change my thoughts on that actually. I believe the technical importance is due to the education I received, as well as the type of judging that occurs during my camera club competitions. I’ve tried to “shoot outside the box’ and the judges didn’t appreciate it. In my attempt at “street photography” in Cambodia and Vietnam, it became very evident that technical perfection can very easily get thrown out the window – as it is more about the story you’re trying to convey.
Do you prepare carefully the locations where you are intending to photograph?
Oh yes, most of the time I know ahead of time what I’m going to be shooting, where and the time. I’m a control freak, so it’s very hard and frustrating to go out to shoot wildlife. More often than not, I come home empty handed – well, not totally empty handed, as I can always find a Squirrel to shoot. The wildlife just doesn’t cooperate, even though I’ve researched what’s where and the best time, etc., etc. When it comes to portraits, well, that’s different, as my models are instructed about cosmetics, clothes, colours, jewellery, etc. I always have a vision before the shoot and once that has been shot, I allow myself to relax, have fun and try some different scenes.
What gear do you use (camera, lenses, bag)?
Right now, I’m using a Nikon D7100, however, I’m hoping to buy the new D500 when it arrives at my favourite store. Most of my female friends have favourite shoe stores, clothing stores, even handbag stores. Not me! My favourite store is a camera store! I have a Nikkor 80-400mm F4-F5.6, a Nikkor 70-200 F2.8, a Nikkor 10-24mm wide angle, a nifty fifty F1.4, a Nikkor 85mm and my “walking lens” is an 18-105mm. I do own a 1.4 tele-convertor, but I really don’t like the extra softness, so it sits at home collecting dust. As far as camera bags – well, I have four of them – doesn’t everyone have three or four? My poor husband just shakes his head when I tell him I NEED something new. My favourite bag is a canvas ProMaster bag. It’s rugged, yet light-weight and pretty much holds everything I need when I go on vacation. I’m not sure what bag to buy for next year’s trip to Africa. I need something to hold two big lenses!! I’m thinking of buying my husband a camera bag for Christmas this year – that way he’ll have something to carry my big lenses in, while I carry the other bag with the camera and other gear. What do you think? Good idea? By the way, my husband does not take pictures. He will snap one of me the odd time, but he has no interest in photography. It’s amazing what he’s learned though, just by listening to me when I talk photography.
What software do you use to process your images?
I try to keep my processing short and sweet. I don’t hate post-processing, but I do get bored with it, especially if I have a lot to process. Vacation pictures are the worst to process, as there are just too many to go through. I mainly use Lightroom and Photoshop CS6. I love Photoshop for my creative edits. I’m self-taught in processing, so I am sure there are many tricks out there that I have not come across yet.
What is your most important advice to a beginner in ... photography and how do you get started?
My first piece advice to any new photographer, is to “read your manual”! I’m always so surprised when people ask me to help them change a setting in their camera. I’m a Nikon user, so don’t hand me a Canon and expect me to know how to change settings. I know my model – and that’s it! After knowing how their camera model works, I would suggest that they just get out and shoot what makes them happy. I always tell people to really study their images and pick it apart. That’s how you learn – if you can find the faults in your image, you’re more apt to not duplicate the issue the next time. Not everyone who takes pictures are photographers. That’s ok! Sometimes, I don’t even consider myself a photographer – I just love taking pictures. Sometimes I produce strong images and other times, not. Producing strong images isn’t as important as the pleasure of holding a camera in your hands.
Who are your favorite photographers and more importantly, how has your appreciation of their work affected how you approach your own photography?
Since my genre right now is “wildlife”, I would have to say that I’m in awe of the work produced by Christopher Schlaf (christopherschlaf) – one of our 1x members. I find his wildlife images to be so intimate. It truly is just himself and the subject. I study his images, to get a sense as to his distance to the subject, is he laying down or hiding in the water and reeds? I sent him a message one day, as I just felt the need to tell him what an inspiration his work is to me and he was kind enough to give me a little tip. I went out one morning with his “tip” in mind and am very happy to report that 1x published my image!!!
Is there any specific photo taken by another photographer that has inspired you a big
deal and why?
This is a tough request. There are many extraordinary wildlife photographers on 1x and a LOT of exceptional photos. I’ve selected one image, taken by Christopher Schlaf, as it exudes all the elements for a great image. The light is exquisite, dreamy soft background, sharp front to back and I have to say, this guy must spend most of his time on his belly or waist deep in water to get the perspectives he records. I’m in awe of his dedication to get the shots he gets. I have yet to stand waist deep in water waiting for my opportunity. That’s why he excels the way he does – the effort that goes into his photography is very evident in his results.
Are there any specific directions that you would like to take your photography in the future or any specific goals that you wish to achieve?
Even though I have no specific genre that I mainly shoot, I am working harder at producing images that are what we call here, “front page material”. No matter what I’m shooting, I am always striving to produce something that I can be very proud of. More often than not, I AM very proud of what I produce and am getting better at accepting that it’s ok if it doesn’t make the front page. As long as I’m able to get out in the “great outdoors” with my husband and camera, I am a very happy camper!
Describe your favorite photograph taken by you and why it is special to you?
They’re all my favourites! LOL
Ok, just one……I select this one.
This is my daughter, Nicole. She’s my “go-to” model, as we work well together and I know I’m always going to come out with a “winner”. My camera club has a yearly competition, wherein we are given 10 different categories and we have to select five categories to photograph. The images are judged by three judges and the photographer with the highest score for the five images wins a big-ass trophy and plaque. I have won that competition three years in a row and not only did this image score very high in the competition, but it also won a People’s Choice Award. It’s special to me, because I had a vision for the category, which was “RED” and after a lot of planning and work, I had the image in about three takes. I love working with Nicole because I can see what the image is going to look like before she even arrives.
Are you enjoying your role as Senior Critic and why?
Absolutely! Belonging to the Senior Critic Group has given me the opportunity to meet some wonderful people from all over the world! We have a lot of fun together in the forums and everyone has a “different take” on certain issues – we’re a well-rounded group of individuals. I love to help people. That’s what I do and that’s who I am. I seem to be the “go-to” person for photography questions amongst my friends and camera club members. It really feels good to be able to help someone get better at their craft. I don’t always feel that I’m “technically” helping someone in the critic section, but I enjoy giving my “view” on their image. I enjoy the freedom of merely stating how the image makes me feel, how I perceive it when I first look at it and if I can give my “two-cents” and if it helps them; well – I did my job. We have such a huge diverse group of Senior Critics and when three or four of us chime in on a single image, it is pretty amazing at how everyone seems to have a different idea on how to improve it.
Is there anything else you wish to add and what do you think about 1X as a home base for your work?
I don’t have a web-site to showcase my work, so I share my images on Facebook and Flickr – that’s mainly for my friends and family, as they love to see what I’m shooting. I love 1x and use it to showcase my images in a more professional manner. I think the layout of the portfolio is exceptional and I especially love the fact that I can section off my images in albums. Since I have so many genres that I enjoy shooting, it’s an easy way to keep my work organized.