Michele James, Photographer, French Gulch, California, United States


EWW:  Michele, what photographer, past or present, has been an inspiration to you and your work?  Why?

Michele:  My all-time favorite is Ansel Adams of course!  I love his black and whites. The depth, the mood, the range of blacks and grays capture my attention.  Of course, the iconic places that he photographed are amazing too!

Current day photographers whose photography I embrace are Michael Shainblum and Darren White.  Michael takes the most amazing night shots.  I endeavor to take shots like his.  Of course, I will never come close.  The man is a master!  Darren also takes night shots but his water shots are what hypnotize me.  He has the knack.  I study those two photographers both by looking at their prints and any articles or YouTube tutorials I can find on them.

EWW: Excluding subject matter, are there themes that consistently run from one work to the other such as colors, perspective, lighting, movement, style, etc.?

Michele: When I first started photographing all I would photograph was waterfalls.  I was just in love with anything water as long as it was in nature.  The girl that I used to hike with finally quit hiking with me because every hike we ever went on had to have a waterfall at the end of it.  I was absolutely devastated.  I did see her point and have tried to branch out into different things.  I have tried to see everything with an open mind.

I also had this preconceived notion that I had to capture the point of interest as a whole.  I felt that I couldn’t portray to an audience the story unless they could see the whole thing.  Unfortunately, I was missing so many of the details.  Since then, I have become okay with not being able to show the “whole picture” and breaking things down.  They can sometimes be more interesting.

As far as color or black and white, I don’t have a preference.  I love my water images in color.  There are times when I feel black and white is more appropriate.  One of those times is my Faery Falls photo.  It was taken in the winter; the trees were all bare.  Somehow, black and white fit the mood of that photograph much better than color ever could have!  I shoot a lot of old ghost towns and mines and I feel black and white serves them better than color does.  Black and white were classic to their era.

The perspective of a photograph – Let’s just say I have discovered that a lower perspective brings a whole different angle to things!  I love shooting down low.  This can be observed in my Dog Creek Bridge and Pulga Train Track photos.

Click Here to enlarge it.

EWW:  What do you look for in deciding on what to shoot?  Do you have a subject matter that you enjoy shooting more than the others?

Michele: I have no one thing that captures my attention more than others right now!  I love historical, unusual, hard to get to and out of the way places!  I love going off the grid to photograph.  My husband and I recently did a week in Death Valley and a week at Red Rock Canyon State Park, Fossil Falls, and Hot Creek Geothermal Area.  Thank god he likes exploring as much as I do!  He is a god send when it comes to route finding!


EWW: If someone was asked to make a comment about your work as a whole, what do you think they would say?  What would you say about your work?

Michele:  I think the comment that most people would make about my work is that it makes them feel that they are there or it makes them want to get out and explore.  I have always wanted to bring different places back, in the form of photographs, for just this purpose.


EWW:  Your work seems to shift from color to black and white.  How do you decide when to use black and white versus color?  Is it subject matter or what mood or emotion you want to project?  Which is more impactful, in your opinion?

Michele:  I think there are certain subjects or points of interest that require either color or black and white.  Sometimes it depends on the mood I am in!  I find that I love black and white with the ghost towns and mines.  Sometimes I have to try both to see what works.  An example of this is Thor’s Well.  Our intent was to photograph Thor’s Well at sunset.  I had done all the research to line up high tide with sunset.  We went a couple of days early so I could practice shooting the Well.  I knew the effect I wanted and I wanted to dial my settings in.  The day that we went was the tail end of a storm and the skies were very moody.  The color version of the shot just didn’t do it for me but that was okay.  Remember, this was a “practice” shot.  I turned the photo into black and white and made some adjustments and it is one of my favorite EVER photographs!  The sunset one doesn’t hold a candle to my practice shot!


EWW:  What do you see, or have experienced, as the most effective way for you to market and promote you and your work?

Michele: I have been all over the board with trying to market my photography.  I have it loaded on several print on demand sites.  I get a few sales here and there.  Not many.  I’m not sure if I will make more by doing this but I have turned to the local market.  I have found a wonderful online gallery in my area that is wonderful.  They love what the artist does, takes an interest in where we are being shown and promotes us.  I love being able to display in a local shop and have friends see my photos.  I love the interaction that I establish with others by going local.  It has been more fulfilling to me than the print on demand sites.


EWW:  From what I can gather, you do use social media platforms.  Which social media platform do you find to be the most successful for you?

Michele: As we all know, social media is the way to go as far as promoting your skill and/or business.  There are positives to all of them.  I am not a social media guru but I will share with you what I have found!

Click image to enlarge it.


Facebook seems to change the way your posts go out and who they go out to.  I love being able to schedule my posts so that I don’t inundate people with a million posts at once.  I just don’t feel that they reach all my followers.  I know this has something to do with people not interacting with a certain post.  Twitter seem to drive the most traffic to my print on demand sites.  I’m not really sure that it matters since sales don’t seem to be going up!  Instagram is my favorite next to my blog.  I love the interaction of my Instagram people.  They just seem to care more and it is more personalized that 8k of twitters in a day.


EWW:  Just to wrap up this interview, do you have any final thoughts about you and your work, that you think would be important for others to know about?

Michele:  I know several photographers that are getting frustrated because they aren’t selling anything or they feel the need to compete against another photographer.  Let all that go.  Photograph because you love it.  Once you come to peace with that everything else seems to fall into place.  It may not be the sale of an image.  It might be in another business venture or just self-fulfillment.

I recently went through a bout of self-doubt.  The same friend that stopped hiking with me sent me a little saying.  I keep it in my head at all times.


If you compete with others you become bitter.

If you compete with yourself you become better


A lot of people think that they need the best camera or a bigger lens than the next person.  It’s all skill and knowledge.  Try and better your yourself.  Just try and be better today than you were yesterday.  Everything falls into place when it’s supposed to.


Website: http://www.michelejamesphotography.com/

Blog: http://www.michelejamesphotography.com/blog


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