Gigi Ostrowski is a Colorado based nature photographer; here is a link to her blog:
Q: What made you want to become a photographer?
A: I’ve loved photography since I was 14. However, I got serious about it when I was in my 40’s. I was a social worker for adult protection in Boulder County, Colorado but, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and knew I had to figure out a way to supplement my income and jumped into photography. I crossed my fingers and went for it. My house at that time had flowers, dragonflies and bees that whispered to have their pictures taken. At that time I only had a 10 mp camera, but if you know lighting and angles you can make anything work. I framed pictures and made my own cards, even though I had never done any of that before. I started working festivals every weekend and they took off.
Actually, even now many of my pictures are taken from that little camera, although I have the whole expert set up with a macro lens, but in Colorado you may be driving and suddenly there is something that must have its picture taken and all you have is your small camera. You can never pass up a moment that might not happen again. So you don’t need anything special if you just believe in yourself.
Q: Who are some of your influences?
A: Most of my influences have been mentors too. I was fortunate that when I got serious about photography the art community in Colorado welcomed me. Actually, not just welcomed me, but invited me into galleries and shows. Not only photographers, but painters too, and all artists have some specialty to teach you as a beginner.
So I would have to say Barry Bailey, his photography is incredible and he showed me how to use my camera and even which one to buy. That was a huge asset for me, so this is a nice way to say thank you… thanks Barry!
Daryl Price is an unbelievable artist who is also suffering from a chronic pain disease, but he continues through the pain. He is amazing and gives me hope. When I have a bad day I think of Daryl and I make it through my day. It may not be the most productive, but I’m able to do a few things and think positive. And despite the fact that people can’t compare pain levels he is such an inspiration to me.
But the person who influenced me the most was Billie Colson, who owns the Independence Gallery in Loveland, Co. She always motivated me to excel at my art. Plus her work is so beautiful you can see angles, light and how it makes a difference in her art. Further, how to use shading to your picture to bring more power to it. She was and is a strong influence in my work.
Through all of these great artists I have been able to ameliorate my photography.
Q: What inspires you about Colorado?
A: Being a Colorado native everything inspires me. From 300 days of sunshine to mountains that can touch the stars or the lush golden aspens that sparkle in the sun. The diverse wildlife, Colorado has to offer to be photographed range from elk, big horn sheep, and even bears. They lend individual beauty and strength to the photographs you can acquire here.
The insects; I love the dragonflies of all colors that seem to enjoy dancing in front of me, begging me, teasing me, daring me to take their pictures.
Oh, and the lichen! Few stop to notice and most think of it as simple moss on rocks. However, most lichen is colorful and amazing when blown up. Lichen has been used in dyes and perfumes and has an actual function which I won’t bore you with, but you can look it up on Wikipedia if you have an interest. But once I saw it through my macro lens I was speechless, what colors and shapes I saw.
Colorado has copious amounts of inspiration for me and will perpetually stir my soul. But to be honest, I’ve never found a place that didn’t hold magnificent pictures. No matter where I am, I can find a photograph.
Q: What did you photograph in Wales?
Wales was wonderful to be in for 3 months and it might be easier to figure out what I didn’t photograph. I of course found lichen, moss and all the flowers I could imagine there.
However, I found a strange fascination with chimneys as bizarre as it sounds. They were so charming in their different shapes and sizes. I could also find them everywhere, so it didn’t matter where I went. I took pictures of chimneys with laundry in the forefront, flowers in the background. We’ll have to wait and see how they come out after I edit them
But beyond chimneys, my favorite were the beaches, which was different for me. Lighthouses, rock formations, waves, docks and yes… chimneys lol!
I was a tourist too, and took pictures of castles with fog rolling in and all the basics. Pictures are the best memories, always.
Q: What was the most challenging thing you have ever had to photograph?
A: I see it in my mind’s eye right now. My nephew! I like taking pictures of people, but I usually get my best ones when they don’t know it. I do candid photos with people when they are in thought or just being their true selves. But my nephews’ picture was for his second birthday party invitations and the pressure was on and all he wanted to do was cry, rant and rave, of course. We spent hours with toys, bottles and tempted him with anything we could and no way would he smile. Finally, we were all frustrated and decided we’d go with one of them after I looked through them all. I was so disappointed, but as he looked up, in his car seat, it was perfect, no smile, but candid. I got so many compliments on that photo and if people only knew. I never want the challenge of a screaming two year old again!
Q: What trends in the art world annoy you?
A: That’s so easy for me, PHOTOSHOP! I will brighten or darken my photos, but for people to say they are photographers, but Photoshop all their photos kill me. It’s one thing if you’re an electric artist, but to say you’re a true, straight on photographer and there is a moon larger than a mountain that is heart shaped in Colorado, not going to happen. But we don’t have limits with photography now with all the programs and I’m not saying we should, but we should be honest about our art, it is representing us. I don’t know how to use all the features and I could have my son teach me, but I like being a photographer right now. Maybe at some point I’ll branch out, but at that point, I’ll also tell my clients that I have.
Q: What do you think is key to good nature photography?
A: The key is literally taking the picture and looking for pictures in everything, even if you don’t think it’s perfect. It might be in the lens, but you can’t see it. Because, nature is already perfect, but we are so busy and want “the perfect shot” that we never take the picture. I spoke with a gentleman getting ready to go on a photographic safari on my way to Amsterdam and he said that he hoped he took a few pictures, but they would have to be perfect. Really? The biggest trip of your life and you might take pictures, wow! I think getting out early with the sunrise and perfect light is a must. Find a picture that will make you proud, something truly unique. If not, try making the angle unique. There are plenty of pictures in nature to take, but knowing the right ones, that is what makes a good nature photographer.
Know that you have a good eye to see something that others may not see. And remember that only you were able to get that picture, because it only happened at that moment in time. Nature rarely repeats itself.
Q: How do the experiences you had as a social worker influence you as an artist?
A: It gave me a deeper appreciation for life and nature. Dealing with hoarders, homeless people and people who were so much worse off than yourself make you love all of life so much more. You see people at their lowest and they appreciate the smallest gesture, the little glimmer of hope. Honestly, they always smiled when I gave them one of my picture cards or came into my office and saw my pictures on the walls. That is when you know your art can touch the hearts of others, that is when you know you make a difference.
Further, social work helped me get along with all different types of people and you meet all types in the art world, artist and clients. It also gave me a diversity level like no other, so whether it’s in nature or at a show, I give thanks to all for being there with me.
Q: What is unique about your photographs.
A: I wait, wait for a dragonfly to come to me. I hear they don’t do that with everyone, but they do with me, I guess you could say I’m a dragonfly whisperer. It’s actually my nickname, Dragonfli.
Also, I don’t use Photoshop on my photographs, I lighten or darken them. But other than that, what I see, you see. I try to make them as natural as possible. So the vibrant colors I see are the same you see. I love the bright colors of flowers and most people never get as close to them as I do. I get as close as possible to get the maximum color possible.
I’m also a bit strange with my macro photography because I try to think like a tiny person would (ok that sounds crazy lol!). However, I think to myself “what would be pretty if I were tiny” and that is what I look for in the lens.
I remember when I was a kid loving all the miniature flowers in our backyard and my mother would tell me stories about the tiny people who lived there. I think it’s where my love of macro photography came, I still imagine those tiny people climbing all over my lens.
So what makes my photographs unique? How about all the magic that comes to life through my lens.
Q: If you could meet Diane Arbus or Ansel Adams, who would you pick
A: For me, that comes easy, Ansel Adams. Although Diane Arbus has an amazing body of work, people aren’t my focus.
Ansel Adams was an environmentalist and one of the most famous photographers of nature. His body of work still stands as a testament to what he saw and there wasn’t Photoshop available when he did his photography. He did what I call true nature photography. His landscape photography is so rich and magnificent, just to look through his lens and watch his process would be an honor.
If I could meet him I would love just to follow and question him one day, a day while he took pictures at Yosemite. To see his technique with lighting, angles, views… everything he did while questioning him the whole time. I know I would be more annoying, but, what a dream come true!
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)