The other side of the lens: Q&A with Sharon Matthews-Stevens

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Florence Firenze, Italy

For the past 16 years, Sharon Matthews-Stevens has been escaping from the everyday world to create a sort of visual music with its own distinct rhythm with her art. As a veteran travel photographer, her work has been showcased in publications such as the Globe and Mail, Washington Post, Saltscapes and Dreamscapes and a variety of art galleries.

Now, Sharon is sharing a few insights into what happens on the other side of her lens, before her finger hits the trigger on her camera.

1. What’s been your favourite place to photograph around the globe?
That would be the street. Always a lot of action, and you kind of get the pulse of what is going on quickly in terms of the economy and culture. I like capturing images of people in daily activities.

Forest, Sharon Matthews-Stevens

2. Where have you revisited, because you enjoyed photographing it so much?
I like to revisit the forest. The forest is magical. The trees impart a sense of comfort. I focus on the visual beauty.

3. What kind of camera do you own and what type of camera would you recommend to a photography hobbyist that’s just starting out?
My working horse camera is a Nikon D810 and my back-up is a Nikon D3S. For someone that’s just starting out, I’d recommend a DSLR camera. Put as much money as possible on the lenses. Take photos using one lens at a time until you know it inside out. Take chances and be playful… happenstance is your friend.

4. How do you decide what lens(es) to travel with?
Most situations require three lenses to produce a strong portfolio of that destination. I always travel with my 14-24mm 1:2.8, 24-70mm 1:2.8 and 70-200mm 1:2.8 Nikon lenses. They are heavy, fast, and they are worth the workout. My favourite is the wide, then the telephoto, and the workhorse lens is the 24-70.

5. In your opinion, what makes a good photo?
Composition. So I think about the elements and principles of art, technical skills, and where the maker has created a strong emotional reaction with the viewer.

Street view, black and white, Sharon Matthews-Stevens

6. Do you ever use smartphones to take photos? If so, when do you prefer using a smartphone over an SLR camera?
Yes, I use my phone to take images for personal use. I love my Nikon, because it requires a lot of decisions before clicking the shutter. It is not about making a snap, but creating an image through the lens.

7. Can you share a story about a time you felt the most welcomed, out of your element, in danger or speechless while travelling?
Yes, sailing in Lake Superior during a gale. I was physically and mentally unable to photograph because I was looking at a wall of waves, my body was very cold, and the rain was relentless.

Loon Harbour to Tee Harbour, sailing, open water, Sharon Matthews-Stevens

8. When visiting a new destination, how many photos do you typically shoot? What percentage of those photos do you end up using?
I shoot 200-300 on a typical day. Of those, I only use 10% in most cases.

9. Based on your experience, what are the characteristics of a good travel photographer?
Looking at each assignment, or destination, with fresh eyes. Researching the country prior to arriving. Looking at what has been photographed already. Engaging with people.

10. How important are social networks like Instagram, Flickr or Facebook for sharing photos? Do you feel professional photographers should share their photos to help grow their business?
I archive images that I intend to sell, and they are not the photos that I post on social media. And yes, I think that the photos on social media provide a glimpse of my style etc. and that potentially attracts new business.

To see more of Sharon Matthews-Stevens’ work, visit her web site: Sherry’s Pix.

P.S. Thank you to blogger Dan Young for introducing me to Sharon. Visit Dan’s blog, WHITTICISMS, to read one guy’s take on the Blue Jays, one swing at a time.

  • Beth Norman March 15, 2016, 1:09 pm Reply

    What grabbed my attention to your post was the beautifully coloured building on Facebook. I had no idea that lenses were so important. I only have two and use mainly one. Great article.

    • jon March 15, 2016, 1:46 pm

      Thanks Beth – you take great photos with those two lenses!

  • Mario March 13, 2016, 6:21 pm Reply

    This is a nice addition to your blog Jon! It is interesting to read her answers and it’s nice to know she only uses 10% of her daily shots because it usually works out to be the same for me! I visited the Aylmer Wildlife Management Area yesterday and took about 400 photos. I’ve saved 42! I look forward to your next addition to your blog!

    • Jon March 13, 2016, 6:57 pm

      Thanks Mario – Looking forward to seeing your next collection of photos!

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