An Interview with Photographer Lori Cash
Visiting Lori Cash' website is like disappearing into the wonderful wilderness.
Wildlife, birds, landscapes, vineyards, Lori's photography emphasises natural beauty at its best.
Her colourful and adeptly composed images reveal the photographer's passion for her beautiful work.
You can view Lori's work at loriacashphotography.com
Please talk a bit about where you grew up and where you live now...
I was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee. After spending 20 plus years living in North Carolina near the Outer Banks, I moved to Virginia about 4 years ago. I currently live in Norfolk, Virginia.
How did you discover Photography?
As a child, I was always carrying around a camera and taking pictures of people. When I was station in Rockland, Maine with the U.S. Coast Guard, I bought my first 35mm SLR camera, a Pentax K1000. Maine is such a picturesque place, that when I bought my Pentax, I started taking pictures of the landscapes in Maine. A few years later in the early 1990’s, after my honorable discharge from the U.S. Coast Guard, I moved to Virginia. I took a few photography courses at a local community college, and one of the courses was a wildlife photography course. This was my introduction to wildlife photography. This course involved photo outings to Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. With these photo outings to Chincoteague, I developed my love for wildlife photography. Thus, I began my journey into wildlife photography and then into my special love for bird photography. While living in North Carolina near the Outer Banks, I began having a special love for birds and photographing them. In 2020, after focusing mainly on bird and wildlife photography for many years with some landscape photography as well, I started being more creative and dabbling with vineyard photography, macro flower photography and digital art photography, adding them to my areas of interests in photography.
How do you prepare for a wildlife shoot?
The first thing that I do to prepare for a wildlife shoot is to research the place I will be photographing as well as researching the potential of wildlife subjects. I research the best locations within the place to find wildlife, taking note of where the direction of sun is at the various times of day, and from that, determining what camera equipment I may need in the field at that location. If I do not already know, then I will learn the behaviors of the potential wildlife subjects so that I can anticipate the movements of the wildlife in order to get the best images of my wildlife subjects. After that, I move to preparing my equipment for going out in the field. I clean off my lenses and cameras, charge all my batteries, erase any old images and reformat my SD card that is in the camera(s), and pack my camera gear in the bag(s) that I want to take. I have a wide range of camera lenses and bags, so I will choose what gear and bag to take with me based on the location of the wildlife shoot. I always try to have several lenses to cover a wide range of possibilities that I may encounter from even taking my wide-angle lens to my long lens. I always take my tripod with me every time I go on a photo shoot, and I take my ground pod with me as well depending on location of the wildlife shoot. If I am going to the beach to photograph shorebirds, I most definitely will take my ground pod as this is one of my favorite ways to photograph shorebirds, but the most important thing about preparing for a wildlife photo shoot, is learning to have a lot of patience which, luckily, I do when it involves wildlife.
What do you enjoy about shooting vineyards?
My desire for vineyard photography grew out of my love for wine and wanting to learn more about the wine-making process and exploring Virginia Wine Country. When I first started to visit Virginia Wine Country and the vineyards, I saw a great beauty in the actual grape vines and in the vineyards. I really became very interested in photographing the vineyards based on my wanting to photograph how the vines transformed during the different seasons. As I walked around some of the vineyards at various times of the day, I was captivated by the beauty of the vineyards especially at times like sunrise and sunset. I enjoy photographing the changing seasons of the grape vines and the different elements through these seasons such as various patterns, clouds, weather, and using other various wine related elements of the vineyard to capture my vineyard images. A lot of times while photographing the vineyards, I also will see a lot of wildlife such as groundhogs, deer, hawks, blue birds, and other song birds. So, I have learned to take appropriate camera gear in the field so that I am always prepared for anything I may see when I go out shooting whether it is vineyards or wildlife. As my love for the vineyards and wine has grown this past year, I have started photographing wine art as well. With my wine art photography, I take pictures of various related still life such as wine glasses, wine bottles, etc. and then take those original images and create digital art images by applying filters to the images.
What marketing methods have you had success with over the years?
When I started to focus solely on birds and wildlife in the late 1990’s, I began entering wildlife photo contests especially ones like North Carolina Photo Competition. Having three of my images place 1st and 2nd in these photo contests a couple years in a row in 2006 and 2007 brought a lot of local attention to my photography which led to numerous images of mine being published in local publications. In addition, when I lived in a small rural area in North Carolina, I had joined the local Chamber of Commerce which led to me having some of my wildlife and landscape images be published on the covers of the local Chamber of Commerce’s annual guides. During this time, I created my first website for my nature and wildlife photography for which I highly recommend creating a very professional and well-maintained photography website. For a few years while in North Carolina, I did partake in the local area art and crafts type fairs with having a booth for my photography. I put together framed prints, and I designed and made photo greeting cards, bookmarks and various similar products that I would sell at the arts and crafts shows. After moving back to Virginia in 2017, I started joining the social media sites and Flickr, a photo sharing website. I had my Facebook account prior, but I slowly started sharing my images on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr and then, finally, Pinterest. Also, last year I created a new website with a blog where I discuss all things related to wildlife, nature, and vineyard photography. Social media and my new blog and website have increased the visibility of my photography even more. I was reluctant for a while to join the social media rounds, but I have since been thoroughly enjoying sharing my images with others and seeing other photographers’ images and the various artworks from artists on social media. I really like the connections that I have made by being a part of the social media world. Twitter has been, by far, the most successful as far as interaction among the twitter community, and it is my favorite social media site. In this past year, I have also created a portfolio of my images on Fine Art America and a storefront on Zazzle, which to me is a much better way of producing and making available for sale a variety of products made with my images.
What do you enjoy most about photography and is there anything you don't enjoy?
The thing I love most about photography is being creative, whether it is being creative with my wildlife, nature, vineyard, macro or digital art photography. I guess my love for photography and being creative has allowed me to explore these other genres of photography these past few years. I love sharing with others through my photography what I see and create with my vision. The only thing that I don’t enjoy about photography is how expensive the camera equipment is, but really, I love everything about photography.
What advice would you give a beginner photographer who wants to start a blog?
My first piece of advice would be to find a focus of your blog and what you want to share with others. As a beginner photographer, I would suggest focusing on one area or two of photography and sharing your photography adventures with your most stunning images and with the things you have learned so far in photography. When I first started a blog back in the early 2000’s, I only blogged about wildlife and nature photography, but now that I have so many years of photography experience, I have been able to expand my blogging to all the many different genres of photography that I do. So, start with a small focus genre of photography, and as you develop more photography skills, you can then expand to more areas or genres of photography. I would also suggest creating a domain name for your blog website that would be easily searchable and that is connected to your name so people searching for you online will easily locate your blog. Of course, as a new or beginner photographer, your photography skills will rapidly improve, and a blog would be a perfect way to show your audience or even potential clients how your photography skills have improved. A well maintained and very frequently updated blog, one with a posting once or twice a week or more, will help increase your audience and even your blog search rankings. One other thing I would suggest, would be to not just write about what you saw and what you did to capture the images that you are blogging about, but to share or describe something like a technique you used or even something you learned while out in the field shooting whether it be about the subject or photography skills, because photography blog readers want to learn something from your blog posts. This will help you draw in viewers and increase the viewership of your blog. Photography is a highly competitive field, and it may take a while before you develop a steady audience that regularly follows your blog. Having stunning images and great writing abilities will make your blog stand out against all the other photography blogs. What lenses do you use for landscape photography and Wildlife?
These days, I primarily use a Canon 17-40mm f/4L lens for landscapes. In the past before switching to the 17-40mm lens, I used a Canon 24-105mm lens for my landscape photography. As for my wildlife photography, I currently am using a Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS lens as well as a Tamron 18-400mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC HLD lens. For a long time, I mainly used a Canon 500mm F/4L IS lens with a 1.4x and 2x teleconverters and a Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS lens before switching to the Sigma and Tamron lenses. I like the versatility that the 150-600mm lens gives me with my wildlife images, because if I wanted to create a more scenic wildlife image, I don’t have to changes lenses to do that. The Tamron 18-400mm lens gives me a lot of versatility as well, and I will sometimes will use this lens for some landscapes. The 18-400mm lens is the predominant lens that I used to capture my frog images. I also use a Canon 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS lens, and I just recently added the Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di LD Macro lens.
Where is your favourite place to shoot and why?
My favorite place to shoot has changed through the years in my photography journey. In my early years of bird photography, Southwest Florida was my favorite place for bird photography, especially Little Estero Lagoon. The birds in Florida were so much easier to photograph as I was learning bird photography, but as my skills improved so did my favorite places to photograph. While I lived in North Carolina, Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge was my favorite bird photography place, but I also loved photographing the wintering snow geese at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. I have always loved shooting at the beach, and any beach is good as long as there is a sunrise and are birds to photograph. This would be a happy place for me, to be with nature and wildlife and to be able to be creative in capturing these different subjects in one morning. In addition, since moving back to Virginia, I have fallen in love with the American bullfrogs at the Norfolk Botanical Garden. The frogs have really become a favorite subject of mine this past year, and I have spent a few hours just about every weekend I could last year at the botanical garden photographing the bullfrogs. In my earlier years of photography, I did a fair amount of traveling to photograph wildlife, traveling to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, Florida, and many other places, but these days, I just like to hang closer to home and have mainly focused my attention on photographing Virginia landscapes, Virginia wildlife and Virginia Wine Country.
Who or what has been your greatest inspiration as a photographer?
As I mentioned earlier, I developed a love for bird photography when I lived in North Carolina near the Outer Banks. There were so many opportunities to photograph birds on the Outer Banks, and I just fell in love watching and photographing these little creatures in their habitats. In the early 2000’s, I began following Art Morris with Birds As Art. He is a world-renowned bird photographer and writer. I studied his images, read his books and even purchased some of his photography guides online. Eventually, in the winter of 2007 I took a photo workshop with Art Morris in Southwest Florida. I learned a great deal from Art Morris on that workshop and through his books and guides about bird photography and just about birds themselves. I developed my style of blurred backgrounds and shooting shorebirds from the ground level based on my learnings from Art Morris. He has not only had a tremendous influence on me as a bird photographer but as a photographer in general.
What is your post processing process for your landscape and vineyard images? What programs do you use?
I always shoot everything in RAW format which gives me much more control over my images. Once I load up the RAW images to my computer, I use Digital Photo Professional 4 to review my RAW images under quick check to determine if they are keepers or if I delete them. Once I have my keepers, I will process my RAW images in Adobe Camera Raw. I will make a few adjustments such as in shadows or highlights, vibrance, contrast and maybe some clarity, white balance or exposure adjustments. Then I will open up my images in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, programs which I have and use on different computers. I always start with zooming into the image to at least 100% to look for sensor dust and to do any spot healing on the sensor dust. If I crop my images, I would normally do that next. I rarely make any other adjustments in Photoshop. I always save my images as a tiff with the layers, and I keep my RAW files as well. If I find the image has a lot of noise, especially with the landscape images, I will use Topaz DeNoise AI to denoise the image. Most times, I do use Automatic Exposure Bracketing (AEB) for my sunrise and sunset images. This is a process in which I choose to use the three-shot AEB and where I will shoot one underexposed image, one overexposed image and one correctly exposed image. I like to use AEB frequently for my sunrise images due to the harsh and high contrast changing light which makes it difficult to properly expose the image. When I use AEB, I will merge these three images using the HDR software called Photomatix Essentials. My next steps in post processing depend upon what the image will be used for, such as for my blog, social media, my website, my Fine Art America portfolio or my Zazzle storefront. I usually will open the image back up in Photoshop and size it according to where it will be used, and lastly, I always sharpen the image. Sometimes, I use Photoshop to sharpen my images, but these days I have been using Smart Photo Editor a lot to sharpen my images. I started using Smart Photo Editor when I learned about it from Mike Moats, one of the top macro photographers, who uses Smart Photo Editor to process his images. I mostly use Smart Photo Editor for my digital art images by applying different filters from the program to create my digital art images.
What are your plans for the New year?
I really have been enjoying this journey of vineyard, wine art, digital art images and macro flower photography, so, I want to continue to develop my skills in these areas and market these images more this new year. I want to continue to share my photography journey on my blog and to share the knowledge that I have learned over all these 30 plus years that I have been photographing. I, also, plan to continue my photography of landscapes, wildlife, birds and bullfrogs and share all these images on my website, blog, social media, Fine Art America, Flickr, and Zazzle accounts. I just want to keep capturing the tranquility and beauty of wildlife and nature and keep sharing this vision with others as I hope that through my photography others will gain a greater sense of appreciation for the natural world.