How My Love of Photography Has Blessed Me

Moments Captured in Time

by Shelley Sharp

Fisherman in Essaouira Morocco. Copyright Shelley Sharp
This fisherman in Essaouira, Morocco ran after me when I took his photo, teaching me a lesson in cultural sensitivity.

Autumn is a time for introspection. It’s a melancholy season when the light shifts and the leaves glow with the color of the sunset. It is a natural time for photography with the sun less over head and the moon brighter in the sky. I’m drawn to and inspired by these naturally-occurring conditions and my photography reflects this. I’m more apt to put down my camera in the summer months and become inspired by the first evening shadows across the Tucker House Inn lawn or the red-tipped leaves on San Juan Island’s apple trees.

Young wizard passes by Ollivander's Wand Shop at Universal Studios, Orlando. Copyright Shelley Sharp 2015.
Young wizard passes by Ollivander’s Wand Shop at Universal Studios, Orlando. September 2015.

Early Exposure

Throughout my life I’ve found photography my favorite form of self-expression. When I turned six, my parents presented me with a hollow, boxy Brownie camera. I can still remember the square, blurry-edged photos of my pets and neighborhood haunts and friends. In 1970, when our huge oak was uprooted by a freak tornado in Salt Lake City, Utah, I documented the massive tree across our front yard with my dad striking a conqueror pose. A few years later, my family bought a Polaroid that took color photos. I was instantly captured (no pun intended) as the shiny white paper emerged with a whir and then magically conjured its subject matter. Both of these early experiences shaped my design aesthetic and allowed me to play with form, balance, symmetry, color (or lack of), and light.

Fast Forward to Today

To this day, photography continues to be a way for me to express myself without speaking. I use it to enhance prose and marketing pieces. I am most drawn to editorial style photography. Sure a shot of a beautiful plate of food is enticing, but I’d rather look at and take a picture of the story behind a dish. Whether it’s animal, vegetable, or mineral, when I look for the subject of a photo, I look for something that I want to know more about.

Patrick and Iggy Klausen on the trail between Angel Fire and Taos, New Mexico.
Patrick & Iggy Klausen take a break on the trail between Angel Fire and Taos, New Mexico. August 2017.

Smiling Not Required

I’m not a fan of smiling group snapshots. For me, one of the blessings of photography is that it can capture an authentic moment. The first three photos in this blog were snapped without staging or asking someone to say, “stinky cheese!” through gritted teeth. It’s not always a successful method of capturing a subject. But when it is, it is artistically rewarding. I especially like being a fly-on-the-wall and attempting to glimpse the second of a perfect expression or gesture, knowing that it will be preserved forever.

Telling a Story

Oceana Jenkins and Iggy Adventure Dog on a December day at Great Sand Dunes National Park. Copyright Shelley Sharp
My daughter and Iggy on a December day at Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado.

For me, great photos tell a story. For instance, We can all conjure the iconic shot of renowned National Geographic Photographer Steve McCurry who captured the blue-eyed Afghan girl looking directly into the camera. Great photos etch themselves into our collective memories and become a shared experience. I feel blessed that photography is timeless. When I look back at my own photos, I am transported to the moment in time I took them. My favorites are visual memories of experiences I’ve had or wonderful people I’ve met. They help me recall the story behind my daughter’s fourth birthday party, or the day my mother passed away. For better or for worse, photos are the story line of my life.

Outing my Inner Painter

Friday Harbor resident Shelley Sharp photo Kelp and Moon Jelly. 2019.
The wanna-be painter in me likes to shoot things like “Kelp and Moon Jelly.”

I’m drawn to Modernism and artists who know how to use negative space. But I am not a great painter. I do not have the talent to bring what is my mind’s eye to life on a canvas via a paint brush. Photography, on the other hand, is the perfect medium for the Joan Miro in me (as well as my somewhat quirky and impatient nature).

Dead rattlesnake at Space Port America. February 2017.
For me, there’s a beauty in texture and shape. Even a dead rattlesnake.

A quick shot recently taken at the Friday Harbor Marina, I like to call “Kelp and Moon Jelly,” is an example of what a painting of mine would look like…if I could paint. I like how the negative space enhances the two subjects and natural elements. I like that the kelp is partially out of the shot and that you can’t tell from what perspective the photo is taken. Another, “Dead Rattler at Spaceport America” also lends itself to my love of the abstract, space, and form.

Visual Road Trip

Business signs along Route 66 in Gallup, New Mexico. Copyright Shelley Sharp
Business signs along Route 66 in Gallup, New Mexico.

Photos allow me to look back on places I’ve been. They showcase highlights of my journeys for family and friends. It’s always my goal to capture images that are a bit different than standard postcard shots. Again, my education instilled that photos should tell a story. Our month in Morocco earlier this year was a feast for the eyes. I found myself looking at the country through the lens of my camera. The thousands of photos I took during our 2015 road trip across the U.S. are a scrapbook of the diversity of landscapes and people that make up this amazing country.

Worshiping Nature

Peggy Porschen Cakes, London England. Copyright Shelley Sharp
Dreaming of love at Petty Porschen Cakes on Elizabeth Street in London, England

I am blessed that photography allows me to pay homage to the natural world. It is my church. It is my therapy. It is my way of remembering all that is good and beautiful on the planet. My favorite muse is my dog Iggy. I love to place him in a striking outdoor settings wherever we find ourselves. Iggy makes my travel photos more interesting and personal. His presence reminds me of all the adventures we’ve had. I took my favorites a few years ago and produced a book, “Iggy in Instagram,” which I donated for sale to the shelter program where Iggy got his start.

Just the Tip of the Iceberg

Iggy Adventure Dog at Goblin Valley State Park, Utah. Copyright Shelley Sharp
Iggy investigates Goblin Valley State Park in the middle of nowhere Utah.

I could go on and on. There is almost nothing I enjoy more than investigating a city or area with my camera in hand. Now, I find myself heading into my second fall season in the endless beauty of San Juan Island. The days are shorter and the light is already changing. The busy season at the San Juan Island Inn Collection is coming to a close and I will have more time for photography outings.

I am blessed that these times allow me to stop, watch, and seek out what is unique and magical. It is very personal and a passion that will grow throughout my life.

Sunrise over Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, Washington. Copyright Shelley Sharp
Sunrise over Friday Harbor.