What made you attracted towards Photography? Could you tell us about the beginning of Photography in your life?
As a child I loved to see the photography in magazines such as National Geographic. I think photography represented to me the ability to see and go places I will never get to go. I also see it as a way to remember peoples, places and events that sometimes fade in our memory without us realizing it until we see the image again.
I didn't really get into photography though until I worked for the Visual Arts Department at Penn State. I would help process the portfolios for potential students, both undergraduate and graduate, and thought that I would love to be able to produce images like that. When I started taking classes I used my minors, art and comparative literature, to balance my major of biology. I personally found that the chemical development of film seemed easier for me with my science background than it did many of my fellow art students. For me, film photography is a great blend of science and art.
You have a unique gallery of black & white and color photography. What you like about black and white photography?
I like that you can focus on an object without color distracting you. I think that some of my work really is great with vibrant colors such
as the Monk's Mound photograph but in others the color just distracts. A perfect example is my black and white image Annulus, the first frame in my artistic journey. The leaves and trees were in a beautiful shade of late summer green but it would have distracted in
I love your picture "Creek Through Woods". It's an amazing shot taken on film. Do you still work with film? What are the advantages of film over digital medium according to you?
Thank you, I was tromping through the woods on a damp day in fall for that one.
I have not worked with film for several years and miss it. I had processed both my film and prints on my own and learned to use the
Zone System developed by Ansel Adams. Now that I have graduated I no longer have access to a darkroom.
One of the advantages of film over digital is that you have to know your equipment and know how to take your shot. It is far too easy to take a lot of photos and adjust with digital. I have a biology degree so I enjoy the combination of art and science that is found in the Zone system. I feel that when you process your film and prints you are demonstrating a skill that many do not have the patience to learn. I also have a bigger sense of accomplishment with film. I think that I get it because it is more hands on in that I am there to
see the film come out and to see the magic of the image appearing while in the developer.
Another advantage is that I have found that the light sensors seem, in my digital cameras, to attract a lot of dust spots that I never had with film. I also found my film camera, a used Pentax K1000 SE, to be a bit hardier than my digital equipment.
Does Photography affect your life? Is it a way of your life? Could you tell us your philosophy about Photography?
Photography does affect my life. When I go on vacation or to events I have to decide whether I want to be part of the event or to photograph it. I feel that if you try to both you don't enjoy the event as much as you could and you miss a lot of great photos.
Do you call yourself a Nature Photographer? Though you have some nice close ups in your gallery.
I really don't think of myself as a Nature Photographer. I take photographs of what inspires me. My husband and I hike quite a bit
and it is on these hikes that I find most of my subjects. We now are more likely to go to certain places at different times of the year
based on the likelihood of a photo opportunity. I have noticed since we had our son in 2006 I have begun doing more portraits.
What type of equipment you use for your work? Do you have any specific choice?
As I mentioned above I use a Pentax K1000 SE for my film photography. Unfortunately, like most schools, Penn State collapsed some of their art classes and color film was done away with before I could take it. Therefore, all my color work is digital. For that I have a Nikon D70 and a D70s. Of course, you have to have all the accessories that go along with it.
"Three Trees over pond" seems to be retouched. Do you retouch your pictures? Do you use plugins? Tell us your perspective about
As a rule I try to alter the image as little as possible. Most of my changes are color to black and white or adjusting the color a bit. I
do some retouching if I really love the image but one or two things are just too distracting. In this instance it was taken in color and
had a very ugly power line reflected in the water. I made it sepia and took the line out. There are so many times I have seen a great
shot but it has power lines across it.
I do have some images that I have heavily altered. I feel though if the image has been significantly changed it becomes more digital art or graphic design than photography. I have used plug-ins but I don't use them frequently and when I do I usually use them in a layered effect. The Soup poster has a very bad photo that I took of a shark that I used plug-ins to alter into some thing that I love.
I have no problem with retouching. I think, however, that there are cases in which if the photograph had been a little more planned and carefully taken perhaps so much post image work would not have been needed. I have seen several instances in which plug-ins were used to cover up sloppy photography. I guess I fall back on one of my teachers who allowed us to artistically alter an image but wanted a print that showed we took a good sharp image. It was a way of making sure we did the effect because we liked it not because it was the best we could do with a poor image.
What are the essential qualities you must have to become successful photographer?
I think that a successful photographer is a person that is able to take great images consistently. It takes talent, skill and a lot of
hard work. You don't have to have the most expensive equipment, let's face it; you can have the best equipment in the world and still take sloppy images. It is helpful to have a great support system, like my husband, but you have to have the patience and determination to persevere through bad lighting and uncooperative subjects. At the end of the day a successful photographer takes pictures of things that they love and inspire them to do more.
Shawna's photography and poetry has been recognized by the International Library of Photography and The Poetry Guild respectively. Her work in both black and white film and color digital photography has been recognized in various student art exhibits and contests by both her peers and professors. Her work has been characterized as uncanny and intimate. Shawna's photography never fails to draw out reflective discussion and at times touches upon the sensitive subjects of one's thoughts. She believes that her work should speak for itself and feels no conviction to explain the destination in her photography.