We had the good fortune of connecting with Joel Savage and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Joel, putting aside the decision to work for yourself, what other decisions were critical to your success?
The most important decision I made that has contributed to my success was when I decided to follow through with something I love and wanting to see it to the next level. That may sound simple at first, but there were a lot of things I was afraid to tackle before making that decision. My educational background was not in photography, business, or even art. I went to college for 5 years to get my Master’s degree in architecture, and I had been working as an architectural designer in a professional setting for 4 years before I even thought about starting my own photography business. So when the pandemic hit, I had a lot of time to think about the things that were important to me. In 2020 I made the decision that photography was important in my life, and I wanted to take it to the next level. To me that meant taking it from a life-long hobby, to starting my own business and sharing my work with other people on a larger scale. All of those things that I was afraid of suddenly weren’t a big deal to me anymore. I then spent most of my free time outside of my full-time job researching how to start a business, what my business plan would look like, the gear I would need to start successfully, and what my website was going to look like. Success is certainly a subjective term, but I think the moment I decided to pursue one of my passions is the moment that put success on that path.

Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I started Savage Photography with two questions in mind. The first is how could I use photography to help develop my career in architecture? The second is how could I use photography to take advantage of my interest in the outdoors? So one half of my business focuses on photographing our built environment and provides architectural photography services. The other half is about going on adventures to photograph landscapes and the night sky, and selling prints that capture moments of those adventures. While I love it all, photographing the night sky gets me most excited, and that’s what I want to focus on for this question.

To get a really great night sky photograph requires a lot of planning and some luck. The first thing to know is that Colorado is a great state to view the night sky without a lot of light pollution. Even a short trip into the mountains can reward you with being able to see thousands of stars above you just with the naked eye. That’s why for all of my photography trips, I start with a light pollution map to see what areas will be best for getting the darkest skies. I then overlay those areas with cool campgrounds or landmarks that I want to use as the foreground. The National Forest Service also has great maps that show which off-road routes you can use to access remote areas and camp on. Once I overlay all of those locations onto a map, I then check to see when the next new moon is, or at least when the moon will set before it gets dark out. Moonlight can reduce the visibility of stars you can see overhead by illuminating particulates in our atmosphere. So once I have found a location to photograph and know that the moon will not interfere, I need to check visibility of the sky. In the summer and fall, that can mean checking smoke patterns from wildfires near and far. But most often it means checking weather forecasts and hoping there will not be any clouds during those new moon phases. That’s why I mention photographing the night sky needs luck. No matter how much you plan a trip at the perfect location, if the clouds decide to interfere there is nothing that can be done.

The biggest lesson I have learned from experimenting with all of this is that patience is key. I have had several times where a trip didn’t turn out as planned due to those unforeseen conditions, but when the stars do make themselves visible in the conditions that were planned, it’s such a great feeling. When the camera snaps and the image preview shows up on the back of the camera with a beaming Milky Way over the foreground, I know the wait was worth it. It is moments like those that mean so much in my photography. And while there is still a lot of processing work to be done when I get back from the trip, I can at least know that I was able to photograph a special moment of a subject that I love. And it means the world to be able to share those moments when someone decides to purchase one of those prints from me.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
If I had a week to show some friends a great time in Colorado, we would most certainly try to visit several national parks for the ultimate road trip! This state has so much to offer, and I’d love to try to show them all of the great parks and towns that I love in it. It would be really cool too if it was during the last week of September/first week of October so we could take in all the Aspens changing colors. We’d probably start in Rocky Mountain National Park though, and after doing a morning/day hike, we would head back down and grab a drink at Oskar Blues or The Rayback. The next day, I think we would head down to the Sand Dunes National Park. We’d set up camp and get ready for a hike out on the dunes the next morning. After the hike, we’d probably check out San Luis Valley Brewing for some food and drinks on the way out. We would then head over to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and set up camp on the south rim. A few shorter hikes the next day before we head down towards Mesa Verde National Park, driving through the Ouray or Telluride areas to get there. After taking in the views at Mesa Verde, we’d probably drive over to MOAB and Arches National Park on our way back up to I-70. We’d get peaches in Palisade and donuts in Glenwood Springs on the way back to Denver! Maybe a day or two to decompress in Denver before everyone heads home too. That might be a lot of driving, but sounds like a cool trip to visit some great parks with good friends!

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would love to first recognize my wife, Andi, as a big part in my story. She is always there supporting me behind the lens. I want to thank my dad for the entrepreneurial spirit and DIY attitude, and my mom for the life-long interest in photography. I want to thank my sister and her family for the continued support in my work. I also want to recognize all of my friends and coworkers who push me to reach my goals. I would not be where I am today if it were not for all of them.

Website: https://www.joelsavagephotography.com/

Instagram: jsavage.photography

Image Credits
Savage Photography LLC

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