"Great photography isn't about documenting that you saw it...
...it's about capturing how you experienced the moment!"
An Interview with Photographer, Lisa Langell:
Who initially influenced you to enjoy and appreciate nature?
"I grew into an avid birdwatcher at the impressionable age of eight. It was a passion introduced to me by my great aunt Josephine, who cultivated and nurtered it while I spent time with her each spring. Josephine (Langell) James, 'Aunt Jo,' was a woman well ahead of her time. She always maintained the perfect sense of perspective, practicality, persistance and place that made her one of the most respected and admired women I have ever known. Her concern and appreciation for nature continued throughout her 102 years on earth. She is a big part of who I am today. In fact, I have dedicated my first published book of photography, 'The Nature of Things,' to her memory."
As you got older, how did your love of nature translate to photography?
"Over time, my enjoyment of bird watching expanded into a genuine passion for photographing wildlife and the natural world. My specific interest in wildlife photography evolved even more so during my teenage years when I first began visiting migratory hotspots such as Point Pelee,Ontario, Canada; Whitefish Point, Michigan, and Maumee Valley, Ohio, where I could observe migrating birds by the 1000s. It was at those places where I became enamored by "the birders with the long lenses" who tirelessly worked to photograph 'the perfect shot! By age 14, I was hooked."
When did you receive your first "big" camera?
"I initially had a Kodak Instamatic film camera, then later a Minolta 110mm point-and-shoot film camera when I was between 8-12 years of age. As my interest developed, I received my first 35mm film camera, a Canon A-1, from my mother as a holiday gift when I was about 14 years old. Soon after, I set off with my passion of capturing the natural world on film.
I chuckle now when I think back to my early images of birds and wildlife. They were far from being tack-sharp, frame-filling works of art. Still, I did not give up. Dissatisfied with merely images of scenics or wildlife that made 'nice documentation shots,' I eagerly sought to do better. I knew I needed to do so much more--even at a young age. I still feel that way."
How would you describe the current style of your fine art images?
"I have always been compelled to discover and capture those elusive, split-second moments that translate into one-of-a-kind, evocative images. That desire, for me, is absolutely inextinguishable.
When asked to describe the style of my artwork, I find that the best descriptions come directly from those who are drawn to my work. After all, they are the ones experiencing 'the moment' via my translation of it through my camera. Whether I exhibit at art shows, or simply read the comments from my Facebook or Twitter posts, comments I often overhear from others include descriptions of it as, 'emotional,' 'magical,' 'breathtaking,' 'peaceful,' 'elegant,' 'ethereal,' 'delicate,' 'powerful,' and 'absolutely stunning moments captured.'
These words mean so much to me, as the purpose I breath into my artwork is to not simply document the natural world, but to interpret it into meaningful moments that range from expressions of tranquility through to the powerful and most provocative of moments. I always seek to create images that produce both a visual and emotional connection for the viewer. As those rare, fleeting moments transpire in front of my lens, I tenaciously work to artfully capture them."
How would you describe the joy you find in photography?
"The joy--rather, euphoria--that I find in photographing moments in nature happens at least twice for every successful image. Initially, it occurs in the field with my camera, where I can completely lose my sense of time and immerse myself and my lens in the world around me. However, photographs are akin to a visual language--they speak out only when shared. My second wave of joy occurs when my work communicates emotion and moments to all who take a moment to look and listen. I feel so lucky that my images have opportunities to communicate to people daily."
How does your photography impact nature?
"Our environment is changing rapidly. Many plants and animals are finding it difficult to adjust and survive. As such, it is even more important that we work to preserve, respect, and appreciate the forces that work in harmony to produce the species that give all of us so much beauty and diversity. Those species sustain us---quite literally in many cases. As such, Langell Photography not only seeks to capture images of the natural world, but also donates a percentage of proceeds, artwork, and services annually to various recognized charities and organizations that work ethically to preserve and protect our natural world.
Additionally, I teach wildlife photography workshops that include required instruction based directly from the North American Nature Photographers Association's Principles of Ethical Field Practices. These guidelines are critical to ensuring photographers remain sensitive to the protection of plants and animals out in the field. 'Leave no trace' is a personal motto and perpetual practice of mine."
What award or recognition have you received which has touched you most?
"I've received numerous awards and recognition for my work--but my proudest moment occurred when I earned Honorable Mention (top 100) in the 2010 National Wildlife Federation's (NWF) Photography Contest. This contest is one of the biggest, most widely recognized wildlife photography contests in the world. There were around 50,000 entries in 2010. The NWF charges a nominal fee to enter, which increases the quality of entries and thus stiffens the competition. When I learned my image of "On the Growl" took Honorable mention, I was beyond thrilled!"
What other work do you do when you're not shooting?
"When I am not working on my photography, I work as an educational psychologist and international consultant for K-12 schools and educational institutions. In this capacity, I am dedicated to helping educators improve assessment, instruction, data analysis, and service delivery for students with disabilities, as well as improve achievement for all students. It is incredibly fulfilling and rewarding work.
Occasionally, I have bridged both photography and education together by donating images to a school for educational purposes. In one particular case, a wonderful elementary special education teacher used my wildilfe images to facilitate creativity and imagination among her students. She asked each student to write a descriptive story about the image they chose. Later, I was invited to the school to see their final work proudly displayed with my images in the hallway. I was truly honored and humbled. This will always be a treasured memory for me."
Where do you live?
" Formerly from Michigan, I now reside in Arizona."
Any final words?
"I wouldn't be successful without those who support what I do. My deepest gratitude goes to all of my customers, fans, and anyone who appreciates, enjoys, and champions my work. You are a vital part of my world and definitely sustain my passion.
A special thanks to my incredible fiancé, Ben, who loves and tolerates me even when I'm rain-soaked, muddy, am wearing hip-waders, and have filled every storage area of the house with my photography gear. Ben, your encouragement and support are so very much appreciated. Your work to support me "behind the lens" makes so much of what happens in front of it possible."
--Lisa Langell, 2011
Let's hope it gets good ones soon!