All posts by holliwithani

The moment I knew photography was my passion

This is the story of how I discovered my passion of photography. It starts, however, with a boy.

We were going to get married, that was the decision. He knew we were meant to be together forever. Then, like the practical girl that I was, I explained to the boy that we had to get a good idea of the costs to get married. For example, how much does a ring cost? How much for a wedding? What about living expenses? I was a girl of 20, he a boy at 19. We both lived at home, and attended College.

The ring seemed like a good start. Without an official purposeful, we decided to look at rings together and see how much they cost and what would strike my fancy. Why not make it a good excuse to hop over the border and visit Canada?

Once we arrive the sunny day turned dark with gray clouds, a foreboding sign. We ate lunch, and then entered a very rainy day. This put the boy in a bad mood. Things were not going according to his romantic plans. Being an optimist, I said, “Well, let’s buy an umbrella! It’ll force us to walk more closely. And, we’ll have a good souvenir.” So we did. A bright white and red one with the Canadian Maple Leaf on it, telling everyone we passed that we were tourists.

We hopped in and out of jewelry stores, until there were no more within walking distance. With the rain dashing our plans of simply walking around along the waterfront or through gardens, we strolled through a Mall. I spotted a little photo-booth, the type where you get 3 or 4 of those tiny square photos on a strip. I smiled and suggested we get another souvenir. He said no, he was grumpy. Finally, we landed in an old bookstore stuffed to the ceiling. While we sat on a little bench, I clutched a book of Portraits done by National Geographic Photographers. I was captivated.

With the twinkle of inspiration and hope, I shared aloud, “I want to make a book like this someday.” The boy’s grumpy mood must have overtaken him with his resonse, “You can never do that. It’s unrealistic.” That’s when I knew the truth. He was not THE ONE for me. Despite his model perfect chiseled good looks and old fashioned manners, we didn’t really fit. I had some lofty dreams, but I knew I wanted someone who encouraged them, even if deep down they doubted.

I felt like a wilted flower at the end of that day. With a bit of truth I didn’t want to swallow, I knew I loved photography and that didn’t work with this boy.

The boy and I were not meant to be, because I said no. I chose a different path, one with no boy in sight.

Then, almost like an accident, and a few years later, I met a different boy. Someone who watched clouds roll by with me while lying on a blanket. We shared dreams. His analytical mind didn’t shoot my ideas down, but they challenged the logistics of how to make them happen. That is why I married my husband. And, that is why I’m still taking photographs.

Do you have a passion? Or many passions? When did you know they were what you wanted to pursue?

Overcoming the time excuse

I used to say I didn’t have any time for Photography. Last week I sorted through my Photograph archives from the past 10 years. I captured thousands of images. The only thing I didn’t make time for was doing the kind of Photography I wanted. I’ve never stopped taking photographs, but I have let time stand in my way of using a lens to capture the things that strike me as beautiful.

This was captured with my purse camera while playing at the park with my kids, and is one of my most popular prints!

Now, don’t get be wrong here. I really enjoy photographing my son’s birthday party or a picnic with friends, but I’m usually pulling double duty – snapping some photos and serving a salad. But, what I really love is being totally focused on capturing beauty be it a Bride’s face when she first see’s her Groom, or a vividly colored Fall leaf on the ground.

As my life has grown, the things I wanted to photograph 7 years ago has expanded. Now it includes nature, and details and above all beauty I see every day. The sunlight touching a fresh new Fern is as stunning as the glimmer in a New Born’s eyes.

How to you make time?

Here is how I’ve allowed myself to “find the time” for photography…

1) Got a Camera?  I carry a camera with me all the time. I do not own an iPhone. Anyone who does, has no excuse not to take photographs on their lunch break. My phone camera is made by Microsof, ‘nuf said. So, I carry a Canon Coolpix in my purse every day.

2) Anytime, anywhere! Use your camera every day. I find some times at home to pull out my Cannon Rebel, and capture something staged in about 5 minutes to highlight a particular subject. The camera in my purse captures wonderful images, too, but is sometimes lagging. The point is to shoot often, and keep at it. You never know when you’ll walk into a stunning scene.

3) Schedule an appointment with your camera. Sometimes you really need more time with the camera to get into a groove or set up something ornate. I have found that just an hour is plenty of time for me to capture at least one or two images that make me smile.

4) Make time when it appears. I leave uploading images and editing to my spurts of free time – whenever I have it to spare, I use it on Photographs. Sometimes it is hard to wait for that window of free time, but usually I’m so busy with life stuff and kids that I have no trouble waiting a day or two.

So, what is standing in your way? Is it thinking about how little time you have to spare? Stop. I was there, and it didn’t help me find any time at all. I just had to start making time where ever the opportunity presented itself, then after getting into that mindset, the time became more abundant.

Last minute show!

I spent last night preparing some new work for the Grand Opening of Photosynthesis, a Massage Studio in the Admiral Neighborhood on the West Seattle Peninsula. My first look at the new space was on Tuesday, and it has much more wall space than I was expecting!  The owners have worked hard putting in new cork flooring, painting and creating a very modern, minimalistic space that is also inviting.

After checking it out, I quickly decided that instead of filling the walls with work from my last show, I wanted to put work in that would really fit the space. Some of the previous show pieces fit the place, but I needed more. Thankfully, my favorite local frame shop is open until 9pm on weekdays. I literally felt like I was racing the clock to get 6 new pieces ready! Today, I had the pleasure of hanging them up. I am going to call this new last minute show, Soothe.

These are a few snap shots, which really don’t give the space or photos justice:

If you’re free tomorrow evening, Friday, Feb. 3rd, visit Photosynthesis!

Where: 3225 California Ave. S.W. Seattle, WA. 98106

When: Feb. 3rd 6-9pm

Or save the date for March 8th – the work will be shown as part of the West Seattle Art Walk!

p.s. Another Photographer’s work features images from Thailand and fill the Massage Rooms. Pretty stunning work!

The Surprise + January’s Best

Yesterday I ran into my neighbor. He said he and his wife saw my work up at Sugar Rush, and his tone expressed surprise, “I didn’t know you were a Photographer…You have really great work.”

Something about this conversation caused me to feel the need to explain that yes, I was a Photographer, but I took a break after having my son. What I didn’t take the time to share was that while I am a Photographer, my focus has shifted from Weddings to capturing beauty in daily life. Both require looking for a way to showcase gorgeous moments, but they are vastly different in the marketplace (service vs. product).

This hasn’t been the only “surprised” exchange I’ve had about my work. What they have made me realize is how much I haven’t promoted or shared my work in the past. Somehow when I transitioned to Home Maker, people stopped asking me anything else. Oh, you’re a Home Maker/Stay at Home Mom. End of conversation in most cases. Rarely does anyone ever ask what else I’m doing or what my hobbies or interests are.

A few of my Stay At Home Mom friends have said things like, “In my past life, I used to be a Lawyer. I was a really good lawyer,” with a wistful tone – as if the life they are living now isn’t a part of their past. It’s a curious thing to me. How should I introduce myself? Should I say, I’m a Photographer and Stay at Home Mom, or I’m a Home Maker and Photographer?

Speaking of Photography, I want to share some I’ve taken this month. I would like to post a Best of The Month regularly. I am posting to my new Facebook Page: Holliwithani as time allows, and to Flickr. But, I’d like to highlight my favorites here.

Without further ado, January’s Best:

Goals and Transformers

My new creative project for 2012

As soon as my Photography show was up on the walls at Sugar Rush Coffee and Baking Company I thought to myself, “What next?” And, people started asking me the same question after the Opening Reception. I thought to myself that I wanted to do something a little different, a project or series, but I didn’t know what yet, and didn’t let the ideas leave my brain.

A few days after the Opening Reception, I got an email from my neighbor sharing this idea she and her husband had about doing a Calendar with his Transformers and her Garden. Thus, the Transformers in the Garden project was born. They merely wanted a Calender for themselves. I came on board thinking this project would deserve a wider audience.

And so, this is how my next photography project got started! Just a thought, then a prompt, and now with our first session complete, I’m really excited about it.


Goals: yes, I have a few! The most important lesson this Photography show has taught me is the power of putting our goals out and up where we feel the pressure to complete them. To put this lesson to good use, here are my goals for 2012:

– Two Photography Shows: With one under my belt, I know it’s a lot of work. And, I know how much fun it was. So, I want to do more.

– Complete a Photography Project: Yes, the one above is plenty. But, I have a few more rattling around in my brain involving vegetables. While one is already going, I may have more that are destined for completion by 2013.

– Market my Photography: No, I’m not going to send out postcards or do direct mailing lists. I am, however, looking at ways to get creative with my work. For example, I can donate a piece of work to my son’s school auction (which I’m going to do). And, I could donate one to a local Art Lending Library. This is one area I have the most need for growth. I’m happy to share as I learn!

p.s. The Rainbow of Life show will be up for one more week at Sugar Rush, 4541 California Ave. SW Seattle, WA 98116 – check it out and don’t forget it’s a partial benefit for the West Seattle Food Bank (donation bin by the door).

Learning Curve

Beach Wedding by Holli Margell

Wedding Photography was easy. It was a way to use my love of Photography in a straight forward way as a service. You hired me, I did my job, and got paid. There was more to it than that, but that was the basic bones of it.

Now that I’m entering the art photography world, I’m learning as I go, without feeling confident that I know some formula for success. You get to watch my learning curve.

Art Photography – Essentially, I’m selling a product. Art in all mediums is a product. You either love it or you don’t. I think that is why it scared me to try. I know I love my photographs, because I take them and keep them because I believe they are beautiful. But, the big question I face is, “Will others love it?” And, can I sell it?  Some people don’t and hire great business managers. Others never try, and their art rests like skeletons in their closet. I’m working to figure it out for myself.

The business of art – I’ve been reading a lot about how to make money with my art photography. One of the key pieces I read by Gwenn Seemel lays things out simply, “Making a living is like making a painting.” She explains some of the tools she uses, and the fact that things take time to evolve.

Money and art – One of the joys about being a Seattlite is that there are a variety of opportunities to learn. Last month I had the pleasure of sitting in on one of Chase Jarvis’ LIVE interview of Ramit Sethi (author of “I Will Teach You To Be Rich”). You should invest the 1.5hrs to watch it here. Chase and Ramit share the ins and outs of pricing your work and finding your ideal clients in a passionate and conversational setting. I was not bored for a second, and even got to ask a question! Chase shares a lot of valuable information for photographers who want to make a living.

I priced my work at the show to the comfort of my stomach – knowing a coffee shop show wouldn’t bring in art collectors, but also that I wanted to make enough to donate to a good cause. I’m still looking at what sold, and who bought to understand who my audience is – who loves my work and who will likely buy it. They actually suggested this in the interview, and I’ve read about it before. Some even recommend offering the work for free to learn more about your target market. I did this slightly by giving away cards for food donations. It is fascinating to look at which cards people took when money wasn’t involved.

So, what I’ve learned so far is that women are the ones who purchase my photography art, and I’m not the only one who thinks the photographs are beautiful.

Rainbow of Life Show: Thank you + Review

My Dad and Me, he gave me my first camera, a Polaroid when I was 10. Photo by Joe LeBlanc

The best part of the show was hearing from a cousin, “Wow, Holli, I didn’t know you did this!” It was fun to see so many friends and family members come out to see my work: big and pretty and up on a wall. The comments and compliments of strangers was even more delightful, because they didn’t have to like my work. Being a part of the West Seattle Art Walk was a little dream come true.

Thank you to everyone who came out to the Opening Reception for The Rainbow of Life Photography Show. Thanks to all who have purchased a piece or print, we have raised $367.50 for the West Seattle Food Bank! And, those who brought non-perishable food donations – we’ve filled the donation bin up almost half way.

For those of you who didn’t get a chance to see the show, I’ve done my best put together a slide show of the work – at the bottom of this post. Now, onto a Review of the experience so far… Continue reading

Photography Cards with a cause

I am selling Photography cards to provide a way for folks to purchase a show image in a way that is very affordable, $3.00 per card. They are also being given away for a good cause: If you bring 2 non-perishable food items to donate, you’ll get a card as a thank you!

A main component of the show is that it will benefit the West Seattle Food bank with 50% of sales. In an effort to encourage and foster a spirit of giving for the month, a donation bin is on site for the month of January.

See you there!

Photography Show Countdown: Sneak Peek 7

fireworks and power lines

This is how we viewed Fireworks this past 4th of July: Through the window out toward the alley. Our little ones needed to get to bed, so we didn’t go out to one of the hot viewing points here in Seattle. And, you know what? It was amazing. I thought it was funny to see such a close up show provided by neighbors juxtaposed against the power lines.

This is an 11×14 print with a perfectly matching metal frame.

About the show: Rainbow of Life

Art with Heart: 50% of all sales will be donated to the West Seattle Food Bank.  For those who can make it to the show and want to help, bring two non-perishable food items, and I’ll give you a Photo card featuring a piece from the show. You can donate non-perishable food for the entire month at Coffee To A Tea With Sugar, a donation bin is located inside. To purchase a piece from the show contact me at photoholli @ gmail dot com, or come to the show!

The Details Again: The show is part of the West Seattle Art Walk, held on January 12th form 6-9pm. My Show Reception with be from 5-8pm at Coffee to a Tea with Sugar, 4541 California Avenue S.W. Seattle, WA. The show can be seen for the entire month of January.

Photography Show Countdown: Sneak Peek 6

fern rising

Living in the Northwest, I have always loved Ferns and the grow prolifically around here. This is one of the smallest pieces in the show at 5×7, because I was using my Cannon Powershot when I captured this photograph. I usually carry this “pocket” camera when I’m heading to the park with my kids. Since most of our family photos don’t get printed larger than an 8×10, I don’t need a high resolution setting or a fancy lens. But, then I captured this Fern on the way to the playground. It’s one of my favorite. Despite the fact that it cannot be blown up to an 11×14 print, I thought it was worth including. It makes it more affordable!

About the show: Rainbow of Life

Art with Heart: 50% of all sales will be donated to the West Seattle Food Bank.  For those who can make it to the show and want to help, bring two non-perishable food items, and I’ll give you a Photo card featuring a piece from the show. You can donate non-perishable food for the entire month at Coffee To A Tea With Sugar, a donation bin is located inside. To purchase a piece from the show contact me at photoholli @ gmail dot com, or come to the show!

The Details Again: The show is part of the West Seattle Art Walk, held on January 12th form 6-9pm. My Show Reception with be from 5-8pm at Coffee to a Tea with Sugar, 4541 California Avenue S.W. Seattle, WA. The show can be seen for the entire month of January.