S J BROWN
- WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHER -
Welcome to an interview with S J Brown, a wildlife photographer.
1. TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR PHOTOGRAPHIC JOURNEY.
I began totally on a whim after watching a program about wildlife photographers on a Public Broadcasting Station. The more images I captured the more I wanted to capture. I started in my backyard, but quickly moved onto other locations. To date I have photographed critters in twenty-two states, Washington DC and in Canada. With each excursion I learn something new about my subjects or myself.
2. WERE YOU INTERESTED IN PHOTOGRAPHY AS A KID?
No, not really
3. WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST CAMERA?
I don't remember my first camera, but I do remember one I was very sad to let go. It was a Fuji 110 camera that took spectacular pictures.
4. WHAT EQUIPMENT DO YOU PREFER TO USE NOW?
I use Cannon Rebels, I have 3, two of them are always packed and ready to go. I also pack lots of Fuji Film. Of course I have a variety of lens . My favorite is my 300. It is small enough to take into any situation, and doesn't require a tripod.
5. WHY DO YOU USE YOUR INITIALS.
Early in my career I noticed my submissions to publishers were being returned unopened. They just assumed a woman couldn't get the images they were looking for.
Once I began using my initials my submissions were being opened. Yes, some of my work was still getting rejected, but they were at least looking at the images.
Today most submissions are done over the internet or through the mail. The majority of publishers assume I am a man and I have even received checks made out to Mr. S. J. Brown.
My gender isn't really the issue. It is the images that matter. So I happily cash those checks. When a publisher learns that I am a woman they are usually surprised, and they have learned something.
6. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB?
The encounters with wildlife. The camera is an excuse to get just a little closer and a way to share those experiences.
7. WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A PHOTOGRAPHER?
Days when I can't locate my desired subject really suck. It is actually harder than it looks, The weather and terrain can make me really work for my images sometimes. Not all critters are co operative.
Marketing my work isn't much fun either. I find it hard to sit in my office and concentrate.
8. DO YOU WORK FOR YOURSELF, OTHERS OR BOTH?
I totally freelance. I shoot what I want, when I want. Then I find a market for the images.
9. WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME INVOLVED IN PHOTOGRAPHY?
I owned a ceramic shop for many years. My first photographic sales were in that shop. Next to ceramic figurines of animals I would place framed photographs for sale.
I have also been a waitress, a clerk at a convenience store, and a department store. I have worked in a dry cleaners, a pharmacy, and on a blueberry farm. I met my husband when we were both working in a grocery store. Over the years I would work where ever I could to pay the bills.
Today I am fortunate that I only work part time as a merchandiser. Basically I play with makeup about 12 hours a week. That leaves me plenty of time to photograph critters and write.
10. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT?
I don't believe I've had a “Greatest Achievement. “ I have had several really good ones and I am working toward a few more.
11. WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
I am collaborating on a memoir with one of my sisters. I am also working on another book about photographing wildlife, and of course I am planning out my next photo trip.
12. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE SUBJECT?
Wildlife or critters as I call them. Doesn't matter if they are large or small. If they will hold still for just a second I will capture them on film.
13. WHAT INSPIRES YOU? THINGS? PEOPLE?
Nature mostly. Being away from people and civilization, just enjoying the wild areas I visit.
14. DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR EMERGING PHOTOGRAPHERS?
Get out there an shoot. Keep shooting until your find your subject, then shoot some more.
If you are going to share your work on social media sites make sure your name is on it. Protect your work, people can and will steal your images.
Do the work when you get the images. You are a photographer, not a computer geek. To much digital editing retracts from the image.
Before you sign any contract read every word, even if it's 7 pages long.
15. WHAT IS THE MOST EXOTIC DESTINATION IN WHICH YOU HAVE WORKED?
I don't consider my destinations exotic. They are more out of the way, off the beaten path locations.
16. DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED SCHEDULE?
Up early and in the field by sunrise. Shoot for a few hours, then take a break, get something to eat, then shoot some more.
17. DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE PLACE OR TIME TO PHOTOGRAPH?
My favorite place is where ever I am. It could be a Park, a Refuge, Preserve, Management area or back road. The peak times for wildlife are at sunrise and sunset.
18. HAVE YOU DONE COMMERCIALS?
I did a commercial for my ceramic shop once. It was a 30 second commercial that took 3 hours to film.
I have also done a video for my Book Close Ups & Close Encounters. It is a series of clips from various locations set to music.
19. WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED?
This pictures just makes me want to project him.
20. DESCRIBE THE FUNNIEST MOMENT YOU EXPERIENCED IN YOUR WORK?
I don't really have many funny moments. I experience some scary ones from time to time when a wild animal decides to show me who's the boss.
21. WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED?
I love your work but, it could be better if you shot digital.
22. WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU AS A PHOTOGRAPHER?
I'm not really sure how to answer this one. Conversations with people often lead to a new photo location or critter to capture on film.
23. HAVE YOU WON ANY PRIZES OR AWARDS?
I don't really enter contests. So I guess the answer would be no.
24. OTHER THAN PHOTOGRAPHY, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
My family, my friends, and the natural world we all live in.
25. DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
Up with the sun, getting several good close up critter shots, lunch with hubby, then on to join up with family for dinner and an evening together.
26. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
More field trips, more photos, another book, and a little bit of home remodeling.
27. IF YOU PUT TOGETHER A COLLECTION OF PHOTOGRAPHS FOR THE LEADERS OF THEWORLD, WHAT WOULD IT BE ABOUT?
Nature. I would include images of scenic wild places and some close up shots of wild life. Then I would put in a few images of the destruction of our natural lands. I would want them to realize every decision they make effects the natural world for generations.
28. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST DREAM?
To make a difference. I know that sounds cliché, but I truly want to leave the world a better place than I found it. I have worked with scientist to help collect and record data on Monarch Butterflies and the milkweed they require to survive.
I have helped ban ducks in Minnesota. My hope is that all this information helps the scientific community in their quest to save wildlife.
I do presentations for school children and groups to help educate them about wildlife and our effects on them. I coordinated an earth day festival here in West Virginia to educate the community about nature. This event also brought together a variety of groups to show them we can all work together.
I want to do what I can to preserve our remaining wild lands and increase the appreciation for them. Then future generations can go out into the wild and explore, discover a variety of creatures and enjoy nature as I do.
29. DO YOU PREFER COLOUR, BLACK AND WHITE OR SEPIA?
I'm all about Color.
30. WHY FILM INSTEAD OF DIGITAL?
It's a preference. The best way I can explain it is to compare 2 painters. One uses water colors while the other works with oils. It is a different image, a different medium. I just like the image you get from an actual photograph over a digital print.
31. HOW MANY COUNTRIES HAVE YOU VISITED TO TAKE PHOTOGRAPHS?
Just 2 the United States and Canada.
32. DO YOU PAY PEOPLE FOR PHOTOGRAPHS?
No, I don't photograph people.
33. WHAT WAS YOUR MOST DIFFICULT PHOTOGRAPHIC ASSIGNMENT?
I don't do assignments. The most difficult thing about what I do is letting nature take it's course. Letting the predator have it's prey.
34. WHAT IS YOUR MOST DIFFICULT SUBJECT?
My most elusive subject is Red Wolves. There are very few of them left in the wild and they are painfully shy. I have tracked one, but I have never been able to photograph one in the wild.
35. WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU?
I am always striving to get a better shot, better angle, a better image that sparks emotion.
Clancy's comment: Thank you SJ. There you go, folks. Now, you have heard from a real wildlife photographer.