Entranced by the Golden Hour
Artist Interview with Melissa Bissell
Melissa Bissell is a photographer based in the United States who is entranced golden hour and light in photography. We had the opportunity to interview her and learn more about her process!
Melissa Bissell with Lensbaby Velvet 56
Q: When did you start taking photographs and why did you continue?
A: I always had a film camera when I was growing up, but I began to seriously become interested in photography when my kids were young. A turning point for me with my photography was when my daughters started having dance recitals and my son started playing baseball. Both of those activities posed significant challenges for me and my little digital point & shoot camera. I did a lot of research and learned that I would have more success documenting their favorite pastimes if I learned how to shoot on manual with a DSLR. I loved the challenge of learning how to manipulate and control my camera, which over time transitioned into a love of being creative and making art out of my photography.
Q: Which is your favorite Lensbaby lens and why?
Q: What tips do you have for beginners just learning how to use Lensbaby Gear?
A: My tips for beginners to Lensbaby products are the same for all Lensbaby gear. 1. Does your camera have "Focus Peaking"? If so, turn it on! Lensbaby lenses are manual focus lenses. Focus peaking adds colored highlights to your viewfinder and/or LCD screen so that you can see the areas of focus in your frame. 2. PRACTICE! Lensbaby gear gives you the tools to create unique images, but the photographer needs to put the time in to learn how the gear works, and how they can get the results they envision. The only way to do that is by practicing and experimenting. I recommend spending two weeks to one month on each new Lensbaby item you acquire. 3. Let go of perfection! This is probably the most challenging tip I have to offer. Most photographers have spent years mastering the rules of photography. When asked to abandon those rules, to embrace the blur, the grain, and any other set of rules we have hard-wired into us, it can be difficult to let go. Make lots of images. Study them. Analyze what you like and what you don't like. Learn from your mistakes. Be kind to yourself as you let the rules fall away, and keep your eyes open to new possibilities and the transformation in your work.
Q: What professional photographers have influenced your work, and how do you incorporate their techniques into your photographs?
A: I love to read biographies of photographers, especially women photographers, even if their style is very different from my own. I find it fascinating to learn about how their childhoods and life experiences affected their work. Biographies I've read recently are: Sally Mann, Dorothea Lange and Vivian Maier. David DuChemin has some wonderful books and a podcast series, A Beautiful Anarchy, which I dive into when I need to give myself some positive artist self-talk. I find as much inspiration from artists of other mediums, such as painters and sculptors, and even writers, as I do from other photographers. I especially love to see how their work changes over time. I believe strongly that our artisitic "voice" is not static, but rather something that is ever-changing, as we soak in everything life has to offer us.
Q: What is the most difficult part of being a photographer?
A: I have a challenging time deciding on what to print. This is because of a combination of over-scrutinizing my work (becoming lost in negative self-talk over the quality of my images) and also having analysis paralysis (due to the plethora of available photographic products). The digital age has allowed me to accumulate an abundance of images on my hard drives that often just sit there. I frequently have to remind myself of the value of printing and displaying my own work.
Melissa Bissell with Lensbaby Sol 45
Q: Do you have formal training as a photographer or are you self-taught? What was that journey like?
A: I am a self-taught photographer. I was motivated to learn about photography so I could take better photos of my children doing their favorite activities. During that time I bought a DSLR and spent hours pouring over books and online tutorials to learn the essentials of manual photography. I joined Click Community (formerly Clickinmoms) several years ago and was immediately inspired by the work I was seeing from other women photographers on that platform. During that time I began taking online classes through Click Community as well as a few other online platforms. It was through those connections that I discovered Lensbaby products. Working with Lensbaby gear was a turning point for me, and marks the period where I began breaking rules and focused on the artistry in my images. Currently I am a fine art photographer, Lensbaby Ambassador, and Click Pro and Mentor with Click Community. I love sharing how I see the world through my photographs, as well as offering my knowledge, support and encouragement to emerging and experienced photographers.
Q: What details do you believe make the best photographs? How do you go about focusing on them in your work?
A: Being observant is probably the most important skill to being a successful photographer. Noticing the light, the moment, the emotion, the details both small and large, will impact what goes into and what is left out of your frame. The combination of those factors and how you choose to present them will be what makes your image unique. I am not sure if it is because I am an introvert or not, but I have always been an observer of life. Discovering photography gave me the means to express and share how I see the world. I am constantly studying human nature and the world around me by watching interactions (human, animal, environmental), light and color patterns, weather changes, and the tiniest details. All of these factors come together in my work to help me tell the story of what unfolds in front of me.
Q: What inspires you most?
A: I am most inspired by light. I have always been a light-sensitive person with my moods dictated by light, likewise so are my photographs. But that is not the same as saying I only like traditionally beautiful light. I am definitely driven by gorgeous light and shadow play, and entranced by the golden hour. But I create images using a variety of lighting scenarios. Moody interior low light will capture my attention and cause me to hunt for pockets of available light in my home on a cold winter afternoon. Whereas heavily overcast summer mornings won't keep me indoors, since I know those grey skies will bring out the texture and rich colors in the the petals of my garden flowers. So give me all the light - bright, direct, indirect, hard, soft, golden, diffused - I'll take it all!
Melissa Bissell with Lensbaby Velvet 85
Q: Tell us your favorite quote!
A: “Today is the oldest you've ever been, and the youngest you'll ever be again.” - Eleanor Roosevelt
Q: What is your favorite subject to photograph?
A: I love to photograph a variety of genres including nature and street.
Q: How would you describe your photography style?
A: Finding Beauty In the Ordinary, Focus on Intimate Details, Abstract, Quiet, Thoughtful
Q: What is the most rewarding part of being a photographer?
A: I love being able to capture a precise moment in time, molding it, making it my own, and sharing it with the world.