LeeAnne Emrick is a nature photographer from Seattle. While growing up in West Virginia, she enjoyed shooting the waterfalls, wildlife, forests and other natural beauty in her state. She first began taking pictures as a hobby but then it eventually turned into a full-on passion. Now based in the Pacific Northwest, LeeAnne follows that same passion by capturing the abundant natural beauty in Seattle and the surrounding area. LeeAnne speaks to atlas this week about why she loves shooting waterfalls and nature and how she thinks more women can break into photography. (Editor’s Note: In this profound week in our nation’s history, we wanted to hone in on our nation’s natural beauty which LeeAnne Emrick captures so wonderfully. Enjoy!)
How did you first get started in photography?
LeeAnne Emrick: I began taking photos with a compact digital camera that I bought in anticipation of my son’s birth. Like any new mom, I took tons of photographs of my baby. I then became creative with lighting, posing, and clothing. That was eight years ago. It was not a glamorous beginning.
What do you look for in terms of composition when you are capturing an image?
Connection. I could give you a long list of technical aspects and rules that probably also go into my composition, but ultimately it is about connection. I need to feel connected to my subject. This is true of people, waterfalls, mountains, wildlife, the forest or the city. I need to see and feel something flowing from what’s in front of me into the lens, connecting us. There’s legitimately a little flutter in my chest when I know it has happened.
Your work covers more than one genre. Which genre do you enjoy shooting the most and why?
Having grown up in West Virginia, I was fortunate to be surrounded by some of the most beautiful forests and oldest mountains in the country. Those mountains also happened to be full of waterfalls, which I began exploring shortly after the birth of my son. Initially, going to the waterfalls served as a metamorphical cleansing when I needed to clear my head and just breathe. Over time, though, I have explored many genres from portraits to landscapes; however, the waterfalls remain my constant, my go-to destination for photography. I love the solitude, not being able to hear anything or anyone and getting lost in the moment.
Are there any photographers who inspire you? If so, who?
My boyfriend, Addam, inspires me the most. We have learned so much together over the years, frequently taking turns being each other’s teachers and inspiration. It has been a tremendous symbiotic relationship in terms of creativity, especially during those times when one of us has been in a slump. Watching my boyfriend’s progression fueled my own progression — not out of competition, but out of inspiration.
While there are growing numbers of women now, photography has been a historically male-dominated field. Do you have any thoughts about why that is so? What can be done to encourage more female photographers to break into the field, if anything?
In the past eight years, I have only had two female shooting partners in contrast to the many men with whom I have shot. I have come up with my own theories as to why photography is so male-dominated. I always felt somehow slighted by this, having had this conversation with a couple of different photographers and feeling jealous of the relative ease with which they gained on-line and real life recognition. I do not know if it is because men are more naturally competitive and just make a more concerted effort to be seen or if there is some other reason for it but there is no denying its existence.
I think the most important thing women can do to break into the field and be a permanent fixture is to be true to themselves. Do not follow the trends and do what everyone else is doing. There are already enough people tripping all over one another trying to get one up on the last person to get that shot. One of the first things I do when I get to a shooting location is just sit and take it all in. Let what is in front of you guide you and then you will feel what you are supposed to do. In addition, I think it is important to step back from photography social media sites. It is easy to get caught up in the rat race and lose sight of why we are doing this in the first place. Be inspired by it. However, the moment it ceases to be inspiring and becomes anything else, that is when it is time to take a break, pick up your camera, and shoot.
Are you self-taught or did you take formal photography classes?
I am self-taught. I read books, blogs, magazines and my camera’s user manual. I also had some great teachers. I looked at other people’s work and learned a tremendous amount about what worked and what did not work. I talked to my father a lot who dabbled in film photography while I was a teenager. Once I got the hang of the technical aspect of what the camera and the lenses could do, I let myself go and focused on what I could feel in terms of the images I was trying to create.
How do you see your work evolving over the next few years? Are you working on any new projects?
I am a full-time high school teacher and a mom to a rambunctious eight-year-old boy. Unfortunately, I do not have the luxury of planning projects when it comes to photography. My best work has usually happened without any prior planning on my part. I just get lucky with the small slivers of time on the weekends or in the summer. “Sage Sunset” (the first image at top) was a spur-of-the-moment opportunity I was able to seize.
For more information about LeeAnne, visit her website. All images © LeeAnne Emrick.