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Monday, April 22, 2024

My Photography Story: from an amateur to a professional

Photography was a calling that I resisted for decades. On three European adventures in the 1990's, I took a maximum of six photos via the then popular disposable, point-and-shoot cameras and never developed an image. Yet, in 2009 as my dear father edged towards his final breaths, I succumbed to the profound calling and purchased a Nikon point-and-shoot camera; this one was durable, not disposable.

My father loved photography and always strongly encouraged me to pick up the camera as a companion. I knew Dad's spirit would brighten as his outer light faded if I embraced a camera. On my final visit, my frail father happily set-up my point-and-shoot camera and gave me ample tips.

Dad in 1939 with his 
35 mm Argus camera
As a youth in the economically fragile 1930's, Dad supplemented the family finances as a professional photographer with a dark room in the house. In WWII, Dad was a bomber pilot stationed in Italy; on a fateful mission, he navigated his injured plane out of formation, dodged German fighter planes, and landed the plane in a remote airstrip two miles into Russian territory. On the six-week trek back to Italy, Dad traded his silk parachute for a camera. Framed images from his WWII sojourn decorate my home.

As my trusted business advisor, my father somewhat sternly told me that my non-profit work was profound and to methodically document it. I knew Dad was referring to written and visual documentation, and I took his advice to heart. Shortly thereafter, Dad was my advisor via heavenly whispers as his physical essence retreated to ashes.

My mother tells me that my paternal grandfather George Elmore was the founder of the Indiana Photography Society. Though research does not validate it, I choose to retain the statement as family history. Thus, photography was infused within my DNA and destined to envelope my spirit with unbridled passion intertwined with Divine guidance.

Divine Guidance

2011 Peachtree Road Race
On July 4, 2011, the Angels strongly beckoned me to arise at daybreak to capture the lead runners in the Peachtree Road Race; at the time, I lived one building away from the two-mile mark on the course. 

It was surreal as I intuitively knew exactly what to do: 1> adjusted my camera settings, 2> found my focal point between two ladies across the road, 3> simply clicked away as the solo lead runners flew past me, and 4> turned to the right for front captures as the runners came by in couples. Oh my, there were several AMAZING images of in-air runners taken with my point-and-shoot camera! I felt my inner-photographer introduce herself.

On a whim in October 2011, I purchased a Nikon Coolpix 500 camera. The following day, I went out for a long walk with my new camera. At the neighborhood Duck Pond, a baby squirrel ran over to me, stood at my feet with a look that stated "I finally found YOU!," and climbed up my pant leg to my pockets. Then, I realized that I had not yet taken a photo with the new camera. As a child, my father had a pet squirrel Chuffy, and I knew my father was present via the baby squirrel for the first photos.

First photo with my Coolpix 500
By 2013, it was evident that photography was integral to my personal and professional lives. Thus, my mother gifted me $2,000 to purchase a camera; I had no idea of the how, what, and where related to a camera purchase. On November 27, I found an $1,800 Nikon D7100 camera kit at Costco and purchased it. On January 3, 2014, I found the nerve to open the box while visiting Mom in Sarasota, Florida; I knew that my life would forever change once the box was open. On my first adventure with the D7100, my feathered friends at the local bait shop put on a show; one of those framed images hangs in my living room.

Months later I realized the importance of January 3: it was my parents' wedding anniversary! My father gifted me the photography DNA and my mother with quality equipment.

Steep Learning Curve
With a new DSLR (digital single-lens reflex,) I embarked on the steep learning curve on how to understand and use my camera. Initially, I joined the local camera store's 101 through 301 in-person classes. Often, I was near tears while learning the camera trilogy: ISO, aperture, and shutter speed.

Pre-dawn image at the
Smokey Mountains workshop
Later that year I graduated from the kit lens to a 24-70 mm, f/2.8 lens and joined a weekend photography workshop in Charleston to learn about the lens. As the year closed, I added a 70-200 mm, f/2.8 lens to my repertoire and immediately attended a workshop in the Smokey Mountains. The workshops were an immersion in shooting technique utilizing the upgraded lenses.

By 2017, I was adept with my in-camera techniques, and it was time to develop my post-processing skills. Thus, I joined the KelbyOne platform that offers a plethora of Adobe Creative Cloud - Lightroom and Photoshop - online courses. 

Continuing education is paramount to my photography journey; content vacillates between in-the-field skills and post-processing techniques. In the recent years, Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology within editing platforms catapulted processing efficiency and creativity into expanded dimensions. KelbyOne on-lines courses and workshops are a perfect avenue to embrace the new technology available.

Another steep learning curve was organizing and launching the Holly Elmore Images (HEI) website. I chose SmugMug as the website host due to their templated site format and excellent on-line customer support.

Documentary Skills
Along with my budding photography prowess, writing segued into a prominent professional focus as I embraced photojournalism and documentary photography. Recognizing the value of these skills, the  Zero Waste Business Council declared Elemental Impact (Ei,) my environmental non-profit, the official media partner for the organization as well as their well-attended national conference during their five-year tenure, 2011- 2016.

Edited photos were first organized in Ei FB albums and later in the Ei Gallery series within the HEI website. Albums support Regeneration in ACTION and The IMPACT Magazine articles that document Ei's important work; there are over 500 published albums with individual photos supported by a detailed description.

In May 2018, I presented on Creating Your Legacy: making an impact with your photography at the 2018 Phlorographers Unite workshop hosted in Denver, CO. The HEI Making an Impact with Photography video served as an intro to my presentation.

For eight years, I traveled to Chicago for a week in May to attend the National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show, at times as a speaker. Each visit, I spent time at Navy Pier and photographed the lighthouse off the end of the pier. It was empowering to witness the improvement in the captures, first from upgraded equipment and later from enhanced post-processing skills.

On my final NRA Show Chicago visit in 2016, I tripped on a sidewalk curb and headed for a full-frontal splat on the pavement. Fortunately, my camera was in my right hand, and I pulled it into my chest to brace the fall. Thus, my trusted camera and 90 mm lens saved me from serious injuries. 

Acting quickly, I called the Atlanta camera store to order a replacement camera and lens for an overnight shipment. Since I listed the entire $1,800 camera kit as the insurance value for the D7100, I upgraded to a full-frame D750 camera for a mere $100. The following day I was out shooting the gorgeous spring tulips on Michigan Avenue with my new camera. 

Fingertip Press
The Fingertip Press is my nomenclature for published articles, documents, and other written communication.

Initial published articles were in national trade-association publications. In 2017, Southern Farm & Garden (SF&G) magazine, distributed nationally in Whole Foods and Barnes & Noble in addition to their impressive subscription base, contacted me to publish articles on Ei-related topics; the first article in the fall 2017 issue was a seven-page, multiple-article feature, An Icon in Sustainability and Hickory Grove Farm: Regenerative Agriculture Revives Soils & Local Ecosystems. For the 2018 spring issue, my neighborhood-garden photo was the wrap cover and included the Restoring Pollinator Populations article.

During the pandemic, I published my first photo-article book, From Macro to Micro to Nanoplastics, an excerpt from the October 2019 Plastics: a double-edged sword article; the Blueberries: from blossoms to fruit, a Fingertip Press snippet story, published shortly thereafter.

The Fingertip Press page details the plethora of national-print media, Ei digital and print books, online magazines, documentary work, industry publications, and industry documents.

Investment in Professional Photography
In late 2023, I decided to invest in my professional photography and signed up for the KelbyOne VIP platform. Approximately, 125 astute photographers from across the globe participate in the VIP platform. In late May, VIP members are invited to a two-day retreat at KelbyOne's Tampa-area studios.

Backyard loquats edited
with an artistic flair
More than a financial investment, Scott Kelby and Erik Kuna orchestrate three monthly educational sessions that include a homework assignment. 

A first assignment was to determine what photography genre best aligns with my style and passion. Several months later while working on on another homework project, I realized that I am a photojournalist and documentary photographer. 

Though I have ample travel images, I do not travel to photograph; I photograph when I travel, usually for business. Nature photography is prominent in my repertoire; yet, since returning to Sarasota in 2021 most of my nature images document the Ei Rewilding Urban Landscapes Pilots that reside in my front and backyards.

Another early assignment was to develop a unique, consistent photography style. Utilizing the ON1 Effects plug-in for Lightroom powered by AI technology, I gave myself permission to segue into a creative, artistic style. It was empowering to witness my photography evolve from basic documentary images and into artwork. During a VIP photo review, Scott and Erik validated my efforts with their compliments on my artistic-image series; due to my intentional consistency, Erik mentioned it was evident that the same photographer produced the images.

The March assignment was to launch an online portfolio site. After two solid weeks of sifting through images, re-editing earlier photos, deciding upon the seven galleries, writing the About- and Fingertip Press-page copy, and loading up images and text to the SlickPic site, my site was ready for the designers. I selected the SlickPic Bespoke plan where they design the site via feedback from the photographer.

On March 21, the Holly Elmore Images Portfolio site launched; it was a milestone in my professional life. A VIP benefit is a one-on-one portfolio review by either Scott or Erik.

Cuban fishing boats in the
Havana Bay
For April, the assignment is to publish a photo book, which I accomplished in 2020. Thus, I decided to publish a coffee-table book featuring my 2017-Cuba-Cruise images. For two weeks, I sifted through my images from Santiago de Cuba, Havana, Cien Fuego, and captures while at sea. 

Though I am pleased with the photo quality, my editing skills significantly improved since 2017 and images required additional post-processing. The copy is essentially written in the Cuba: rich in spirit, history, and restoration article as well as in the Holly Elmore Images Cuba gallery series; in the series, each gallery includes an intro and individual photos are complete with a description. Book publication is on my docket when time allows.

It is 15 years since I purchased the Nikon point-and-shoot camera to brighten my dear father's spirit. Though not as often or as pronounced, Dad remains present with me as I delve deeper into the realms of professional photography. Thanks to my investment in the KelbyOne VIP platform, I now stand in my power as a professional photographer.


Tax-deductible donations in any amount are greatly appreciated to support Ei's important work. 


About Elemental Impact:
Elemental Impact (Ei) is a 501(c)3 non-profit founded in 2010 as the home to the Zero Waste Zones, the forerunner in the nation for the commercial collection of food waste for compost. In June 2017, Ei announced the Era of Recycling Refinement was Mission Accomplished and entered the Era of Regeneration. Current focus areas include Nature PrevailsSoil Health | Regenerative Agriculture, and Water Use | Toxicity.

The Regeneration in ACTION Magazine articles, From Organic Certification to Regenerative Agriculture to Rewilding Landscapes: an evolution towards soil integrity and SOIL & WATER: the foundation of life, published to explain and substantiate the importance of Ei’s rewilding urban landscapes work within the Nature Prevails focus area. What We Eat Matters is an emerging platform that intertwines within the three focus areas.

The Holly Elmore Images Rewilding Urban Landscapes-album folder documents two active pilots: the Native-Plant Landscape Pilot and the Backyard Permaculture-Oriented Pilot.

To work with industry leaders to create best regenerative operating practices where the entire value-chain benefits, including corporate bottom lines, communities, and the environment. Through education and collaboration, establish best practices as standard practices.

Ei’s tagline – Regeneration in ACTION – is the foundation for Ei endeavors.

The following mantra is at the core of Ei work:

Ei is a creator, an incubator.
Ei determines what could be done that is not being done and gets it done.
Ei brings the possible out of impossible.
Ei identifies pioneers and creates heroes.

For additional information, contact Holly Elmore at 404-510-9336 |