This week’s Featured Photographer is:
Ashley Hallmark Photography
Areas of the world you Serve:
Upstate South Carolina
Tell us a little bit about yourself:
I was born into a family of storytellers in the Ozarks, where heritage, myths, and folklore were passed down like family heirlooms. Because of this, I developed a love of documenting and words and visual stories and collected them like the rocks I stuffed in my pockets. I found that visual storytelling had a profound way of connecting people and I have become driven (and somewhat obsessive) with creating art that elicits an emotional response. I now live in beautiful Upstate South Carolina on the side of a gentle mountain with my husband, three big, goofy dogs, and one fat cat.
How did you get started in photography?
My PaPa has been a huge influence in my life and he was our unofficial family historian, documenting countless memories and moments in our family. He always had a camera with him and I grew up watching him document the things that were important to him and I think his love of storytelling was then passed on to my mother and then to me. My parents encouraged my artistic pursuits and bought countless rolls of Kodak film for my point and shoot camera over the years. As I got older, it frustrated me that I couldn’t bring the images in my head to life the way I wanted and I realized that to do that, I would need to learn how to shoot manually. So, while out for a run with a dear friend of mine, she suggested a photography course that was being offered on the local technical college and I enrolled. I’ll never forget the moment it “clicked” for me – my class was outside shooting and my photography teacher was showing us how to change our ISO and that was the moment I started to comprehend the power of manual photography. I’ve been obsessive about shooting and documenting and learning ever since.
What genre do you shoot?
I am a natural light photographer and I shoot primarily Senior sessions, portraits, and family sessions.
Who or what inspires you?
My husband and family, the work of author Mary Oliver, Nature, my friend Christina of Shaw Photography Co. (she is a keeper!), an incredible network of women, and my students.
What kind of camera bag do you carry and what’s in it?
I carry the Filson’s Photographer’s Backpack. My husband got it for me for our anniversary several years ago and it is perfect for me because most of my shoots are off the beaten path and I need something that I can carry through wilderness areas that feels secure and keeps my gear safe. It also allows me to stash snacks, water, sunscreen, and other essentials. I carry two Sony camera bodies (my a99, which I adore and my very first DSLR, a Sony a300), and my 3 favorite lenses – Sony 50mm Prime (which stays on my camera the majority of the time), Sony 85mm, and Sony 18-70mm.
What are some of your favorite photography products?
I am a pretty low-key and minimalistic photographer, so I pretty much just love the basics – my Sony a99, my Sony lenses, and some creative tools. I love using a prism I ordered off Amazon and I also carry around a brass nut I dug out of our garage to create flare/ring of fire in some of my shots. I don’t know if this really counts as a “product,” but I love the website, keh.com, because I can find gently used gear in excellent condition at a fraction of the cost of new equipment. I bought my Sony 50mm Prime during their online Black Friday sale and saved a lot of money.
Three random things about yourself:
I am a high school teacher by day and love working with teenagers (although I tease them and routinely tell them that they are making me rethink my life choices); my days with them are never dull. The songs of whippoorwills are one of my favorite sounds on the planet and make me nostalgic for home, and I aspire to be a beekeeper one day.
Best piece of advice you’ve received?
The desires of your heart are there for a reason, so honor them. And I live by Brene Brown’s, “Connection is why we are here.” It’s all about that.
Any advice you’d like to share?
Take on a project that scares you/pushes your boundaries (I did a 365 project last year and grew so much from it), take time to talk to your clients at the beginning of a session to give them time to acclimate and get comfortable before getting out your camera, keep learning and educating yourself, be gentle with yourself and the creative process, be kind, be supportive of and generous with other artists, find your kindred spirits, and don’t let photography become the one facet of your life..enrich it with other activities. Go outside – at least once a day. Put the camera down sometimes and be fully present and make sure to read as much Mary Oliver as possible. And trust your intuition.
Mac or PC? Photoshop or Lightroom?
PC just because it’s what I currently have and I use LR more than PS since switching to RAW. I don’t do a lot of post-processing and it’s one of the things I really pride myself on…I want my photographs to be very true to the moment. Plus, I just don’t like to sit and edit for long amounts of time.
Where else can we find you on the web?