Photo Mentor Artist of the Month - February 2022

artist of the month Mar 26, 2022
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Photo Mentor Academy
Photo Mentor Artist of the Month - February 2022
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February’s Artist of the Month, Alethea Wilson (Aly to us), brings a rare mix of wonderment, curiosity, contemplation, and appreciation to her photography work. 

She relishes in the wonders of nature and the opportunity to slow down and notice the teeny-tiniest of creatures, the birds on a wing, and the vast vastness of the skies above at the most silent of times. 

All of this and more are caught through the eye of Aly’s camera lens and by keen and careful observation. “Patience,” Aly says, “is one of the most important things photography has taught me.” 

Although photography is a passion, not a career so far, Aly discloses in our interview that working as a National Geographic photographer sounds like a dream come true. Her favorite genre to shoot is Wildlife— she loves photographing birds, noting they are each different and unique, even if of the same species. 

Obsessing about how to catch a bug in the right light or an insect at the precise moment before it takes flight is the kind of challenge that intrigues Aly with her many macro projects. Hmm, that does take patience! 

But, her love of the outdoors and nature probably began much earlier with camping trips shared with her dad as a young girl, enjoying the beauty of the woods and tranquil peace there.  

You see, for Aly, photography is an exploration, an extension of her curiosity to learn about the world and the natural wonders all around us. But it’s also an opportunity to deliver the magic of those wonders back to people, taking us via her photos to a quieter place and unseen miracles of the minute. Or for a closer glimpse at the often overlooked beauty of unnoticed everyday miracles.

Photo Artist Alethea Wilson and Daughter Taylor

Why Aly Why?

A Kodak camera to start at 10, dropped through her teens, and reunited with photography via a Nikon camera gift from her husband (for a trip and event) brings Aly to today’s passion for snap capturing moments. 

It’s shocking to hear she’s been at this photography thing seriously for only a couple of years now. 

But, Aly is a valuable part of the Photo Mentor Community and is a Founding Academy Member. Her generous spirit, willingness to try things, zestful urgency to learn, and genuine inquisitiveness about the world shine through in all of Aly’s group interactions. 

Photo Mentor, Lee Love, is the sole decision-maker for this new PMA award for hard-working photographer artists, yet both the criteria and talent pool are endless! He’s looking, he explains, for someone he feels represents the potential to be a great artist. 

{Besides acclaim and adoration, Aly Wilson also gets a $100 Amazon Gift Card and a one-on-one coaching session with Lee!}

Here's some of what Lee reveals in selecting Aly as this month’s winner:

Aly is being recognized this month because she’s shown me and others her passion, humor, curiosity, creativity, and determination. Any challenge I throw at her, she takes with both hands and is willing to give it her all.

But one of the other reasons I want to give her this award is to recognize how quickly she’s improving. Every month I see that determination rewarded with better and better images. Images that start to tell a story, not just pretty pixels.”

Published in the 2022 Grand Birds calendar for Blissful Birder, Aly calls this "Don't Lose Your Head"

Zoom In and Out With Aly

“I see photography as an exit from everyday life; it makes ME slow down as well. That’s one of the things I love about macro. It’s quick, so it’s always challenging; no two things are the same. Not like with people where you can tell them to stand there or look this way.” 

Instead, Aly continues, “It’s always so unpredictable and makes you think, ‘this little bug here…he’s about to fly away, which way is he going, when will he fly away, what’s the best vantage point for the shot, which way do I want to get it, where’s the light coming in?’ and then to do all that and also figure out all your camera settings and it all happens in the fraction of a second to make all those things happen! So, I really love how macro challenges you to think and make all of those quick decisions.” 

Besides an emphasis on catching nature’s beauty through the study of macro photography, Aly aspires to shoot more astrophotography. Interestingly, I just discovered the term astrophotography for the first time, and it’s pretty intriguing. 

Opposite of her macro photos, Aly says of astrophotography, “It doesn’t make you think so much, it’s just there. And it’s just so peaceful with no one else there at two o’clock in the morning. It’s completely dark, and all of a sudden, there’s light on the back of your camera and all the stars shining, and it’s just this other peaceful side.” 

This genre perfectly fits the theme running throughout Aly’s work and how she explains her desire for her photographs to give people a pause to take in and appreciate the world around them. To slow down and notice what’s out there, off the screen, and to relish, literally, in the little things in life. But also to gasp at the spacious mysteries above. 

Observing Littlest Creatures is a Fav for Aly Wilson

The Theme: Appreciating Nature 

Aly tries to capture the kind of moments you may never otherwise notice, especially in the macro work she does. She talks about how awesome it would be to capture something in the wild that may someday no longer exist. To, essentially, document history or a species. 

Just imagine your photo capturing something you can never see again— she gives the example of the Tasmanian Tiger — gone a hundred years. “Imagine taking one picture, and it preserves a little piece of history, something that no longer exists,” says Aly. 

I love the higher meaning she shares in this philosophy for her approach to her photo art. I love how she sees photography as a way to share a piece of our bigger world with the ability to see things you otherwise may never get to see.  

The Lee Love Factor

The biggest thing I’ve learned from Lee is to challenge the way I look and see things before I photograph them. It's not just about the composition, but to actually think, is this the best angle, is this the best way, can I do it better?” explains Aly.

She continues, “It’s more about seeing first…a lot of my photos are unedited… I have to learn about editing, lighting… but for now, I’m still enjoying looking at things from a different angle, seeing them in a different way.” 

(And here’s where Lee drops over in happiness!)

Aly concludes, “Not just to look at the scene, but to SEE the scene. So it’s more about seeing first.

Another Beach Perspective by Alethea Wilson

The funny thing is, Lee’s influence about learning to SEE like an artist is precisely the explanation Aly gives in capturing the shot Lee selects to announce her win! 

It struck her, for example, that the grass on the beach doesn’t quite belong there and how, therefore, it may make an interesting shot. She also talks about the possible angles for the shot, the beautiful colors on the beach and in the sky, and the magic of the water tumbling in. She talks about getting the perfect tilt up from the camera and the awkwardness to hold it in place. (See the photo above in the title visual on this post.) And P.S. Aly calls this just a “lucky shot.” I don’t think so! 

Aly’s advice to photographers from what she’s learning? “Just get out there and shoot. Don’t have expectations. Just get out there and have fun.” She continues, “Sometimes you might not get anything; other times, even five minutes, you can get the most beautiful thing.” 

Exploration Through Photography 

To sum up this part of a great conversation, I totally love how Aly wants to remind people to acknowledge and notice the simplest of things around us. And to remember to try to see things from a new or interesting perspective. Also, to find joy in the wonderful things you can see, feel, and learn through simple discovery. 

But, of course, don’t forget to have your camera in hand. Remember, the most incredible photo ever happens in a quick snap in time. 

An excellent suggestion from Aly to remind yourself of your journey to becoming a better photographer is to look at the pictures you shot in the past. Sometimes she says, you’ll surprise yourself to see how far you’ve come. 

(Maybe as you learn more about post-processing and editing, you can find and improve an old gem you didn’t even notice before!) 

One goal Aly suggests she’s chasing right now is consistency. What she means is the ability to achieve a quality picture more often. On purpose, in a way, and not just a potluck shot. She laughs, saying, “Instead of 37,000 crappy photos on your laptop, you have 15,000 good ones.” 

This also speaks to the idea that less postprocessing is always better. A good goal to have is the ability to catch what you want in the frame. But consistent quality in the frame takes a lot of crappy shots, practice, learning, and skill over time. It means experimenting.

Aly’s take is in complete agreement with Lee. She feels strongly about the concept of learning to SEE as a highly significant aspect of creating winning photographs. 

Photography is More Than a Camera

Even if you are standing there among a group of photographers, no one will use the same settings or get the same picture, no matter what! That’s how Aly puts it, and it truly does topple the discussion from what camera, lens, or settings are you using right back to Lee’s learn to SEE like an artist mantra. 

“Happy snapping,” says Aly.

by Sue-Ann Bubacz

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