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Details From The Witness: The Photography of Jessica Kelley

Words & Photos by Jessica Kelley

Any time spent on the Hyperlite Mountain Gear blog or website will quickly reveal that we have some very talented photographers from all over the globe in our family. There are a million ways to document a place or people and a moment in time, but a great photographer captures it all while telling you a little bit about themselves, too. We're pleased to introduce you to Jessica Kelley. Read on to find out how Jessica approaches her craft and gain a few skill-building tips and nuggets of wisdom in the process.


Name: Jessica Kelley

Residence: Mazama, Washington

Years Shooting: 10

Favorite Location(s) to Shoot: North Cascades

Camera Setup: Panasonic Lumix ZS-200 (point-and-shoot) and Samsung Galaxy S10e (phone)

What got you into photography, and what keeps you at it? 

Long ago, I kept a blog where I wrote race reports and recorded my adventures. That’s what got me started - taking pics for a blog. I don’t update that blog anymore, but I love looking back at pics from previous outings. Sometimes I look back and cringe at the photo quality. Sometimes I look back and thrill at the fact that I was actually able to see such an amazing sight and got there under my own power. As for what keeps me at it, I admit that I do get a lot of joy sharing my photos with other folks. I don’t necessarily “do it for the gram,” but I feel especially satisfied with an outing when I manage to capture at least one pic that adequately conveys the beauty of a place, so that other people can see what’s out there. 

Out in the wild, what are the elements in a setting that will stop you in your tracks and make you grab your camera? 

Wildlife - especially charismatic megafauna like bears, goats, bobcats, etc. I've also been known to stop for tiny nuggets like pikas and pygmy owls. And a good moonset or moonrise gets me every time.  

What elements will you wait or hunt for? Where and why? 

It's interesting; although I love photographing wildlife, I don't necessarily like sitting around waiting for an animal to appear. If I see a flash of movement or hear a noise, I'll definitely pause and see what reveals itself. But I'm not one to go out and sit in a blind for hours at a time. However, I will start early or end late to get good lighting, leave my dog home to increase my chances of seeing other animals, or lug my "real" camera on a trip if I think I'll want the optical zoom.

If you couldn't use words to describe what kind of photographer you are–you could only share one of your photos–does one come to mind? Why? Where was it taken? Describe the scenario. 

Oof, this is a tough question to answer! I think if I had to choose one picture, it would be the one below. It was taken five years ago when I traveled to Guatemala with my family. One day, while my husband and daughter stayed in town, I went into the mountains to climb Acatenango. It was an incredible experience that ticked a lot of boxes for me–international travel, unfamiliar terrain, a long non-technical uphill march, and gorgeous scenery from top to bottom. I brought my real camera and frequently stopped to take photos. I don't know the person in this picture, and that's pretty typical for me. Because I'm usually solo, many of my pics either don't include people, or the person in the pic is some rando captured from a distance! 

You can pass five short tips on to aspiring shooters. Go. 

Run what ya brung. As Chase Jarvis once said, "The best camera is the one that’s with you.” I don't have a lot of expensive heavy equipment. I carry my phone (a Samsung Galaxy S10e - not a super old phone, but certainly not the newest fanciest one out there either) and an older Panasonic Lumix ZS-200. Sometimes I don't even carry my real camera, and I simply rely on my phone. This is why I think a phone is such a great tool - because most of us always have ours nearby. (This is also why many of my pics are taken using my phone–because it's all I had with me at the time.) 

Pause and look for movement. I tend to spot a fair amount of wildlife, and I think this is mainly because I typically adventure alone, and therefore, I'm often scanning for movement - partly to stay situationally aware for safety and partly to see cool things. When I'm glancing through the woods hoping to see an animal, I'm not looking for "an object shaped like a bear." I'm looking for motion or the flash of eyes reflecting my headlamp. 

Stop and listen. Just as you should make loud noises if you want to scare away wildlife, if you're hoping to see and photograph wildlife, you gotta shut yer trap and open your ears. Often my first indication there's an animal nearby isn't actually movement but sound. And, of course, to determine where the sound came from, I have to stop and stand in complete silence. This means no headphones or chatting with friends, and you're definitely not gonna set an FKT - but then you get to see a mountain lion padding softly down the trail away from you, and it's all worth it. 

Composition. Take the time to figure out the best composition. It's worth it. Snap multiple photos so that you can crop and edit when you get home. Don't be afraid to kneel or lie down on the ground, or if you're short like me, hold the camera above your head to get a different angle. If your phone has a wide-angle option, try shooting the same image with both regular zoom and wide-angle. If you have a "real" camera, zoom in and out. Lastly, the rule of thirds is a rule for a reason - it works! Keep that in mind as you compose images. 

Get up early and stay up late. This gives you the best lighting and also increases your chances of spotting wildlife. 

 

Where can we see more of your work? 

Instagram: @jessi_goes

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