Karen Gale was our Photo of the Month winner in July. Her Flickr username is -Kai2-, which you may recognize. Her work has been featured in our Friday posts plenty of times. She’s got a good eye and routinely cranks out interesting and unique shots.

I had the privilege of getting to know her a little bit before we feature her on the blog. Another one of the perks of my job. It’s always nice to get to know the minds behind creating the pieces shared on the blog. Her story is just below. Thanks and congratulations, Karen!

image © Karen Gale

Side Note: It’s not always easy to get a hold of our winners, so please contact us when your work claims the title. I mean you should contact us if you want your goodies, that is. ;-)

How I Discovered Photography

Art has always been my avocation. Over the years, I have explored many different types of media such as painting, fiber arts, drawing, and more. I was an art major in college, but in the working world I was a publicist for the State of Michigan. I wrote travel articles, made radio spots, and worked on development of brochures. I assisted our staff photographer with mundane stuff, but unfortunately not the fun location work. He encouraged me to try photography, which was something I had not dabbled in since childhood with my photography-mad grandfather.

Fast forward 20 years–while in an artistic rut, I reconsidered photography. Digital cameras had arrived, which made photography much quicker and more affordable. I had been playing with art software for years by then, creating digital art and loving it, but when I added the photography component, I never looked back. I could manipulate my images in any way I felt best reflected what I wanted to convey such as surrealism, watercolor, or strictly graphics. It was the ultimate art supply nirvana.

Image © Karen Gale

Photography Enrichment

I do plenty of self directed continuing education. The vast amount of photographic knowledge available on the internet is a huge resource. It’s there for anyone to learn without heading back to college. I love the intense seminars at creativeLIVE. I recently finished gleaning from a 3 day photo-compositing course. It’s a new fascination of mine and puts me one more step towards realization of the images in my head. I consider myself a very serious hobbyist and am happy practicing at that level. I spend several hours each day on photography, shooting, processing, and on reading blogs and tutorials. I am not an equipment fanatic, so think long and hard before adding a new lens or software to my repertoire.

I have sold images through various outlets, but mainly I shoot for the love of it. That said: it is a thrill when an image speaks to a person enough for them to pull out their wallet.

The blend of technology and artistic expression is a perfect fit for me. I love the ‘what if I try this’ nature of creating images with software. It leads me both to the places that I had envisioned, and many times beyond.

Image © Karen Gale

In Practice

I am not so much brand loyal, as I am feature loyal. I first shot on an entry-level fixed lens Canon. Its positionable rear screen was what I loved the most. I could never find a viewfinder adaptor that worked well for me, and I use the live view exclusively.

When it was time to move up to a more serious rig, Nikon offered a positionable screen and Canon didn’t, so that made my decision. I shoot with a Nikon D5100, and have invested in a few lenses,  so i’ll probably stick with it. A camera is a tool, like any other art supply, so it’s up to you to choose what works best. I like to challenge myself in order to learn my equipment well. I don’t want to have to think about it when i’m shooting. That way, I can concentrate on the artistic side of things. I shoot almost exclusively in full manual, and i’m totally comfortable with it. There are big advantages in this for me, especially when it’s combined with using manual focus. It’s so much faster, and more reliable–especially when I need adjust quickly, like shooting from a moving car when traveling.

One of the shots I have included as a favorite is the panorama of the farm, skeleton and dinosaur.  I shot them from the interstate, using my favorite 55-300mm in burst mode,  across 3 lanes of traffic. Later I stitched them together manually. Photoshop merge wasn’t doing it justice. Sorry Adobe! ;) I shoot on the move quite often. There are fantastic things to see and shoot on the road, but you can’t stop for everything. I have a nice tripod, but don’t use it very much.  The majority of my shooting is hand held.

Image © Karen Gale

My Style

I like dark, mysterious images. I want the viewer to get involved in the image, maybe take a little time to look around and discover what’s in there. I have done brighter, more saturated work, but have been moving towards more subtle tones lately. Not monochrome, but delicate coloring. It is always a challenge.

I use only natural or available lighting. I am probably just too cheap to invest in a fancy lighting set up right now, but it has been working for me so far. At some point I might try a lighting tangent.

I have sold a few prints, and have approached a local gallery to show my work. We’ll see what happens. Until then I’ll just keep doing what I do for myself.  It’s one of the great joys of my life.  Good luck to all of you out there, too. Doing what you love is a gift from the universe,  it allows us to share our real selves.


Check out more from Karen over on Flickr. Here’s a link.

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