We had the good fortune of connecting with Josesph Hamner and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Josesph, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
Balancing wildlife and nature photography, family/portrait sessions, and a full time job can get quite hectic at times. At this time my full time job obviously comes first, but I’m hoping that things with photography pickup soon, and I can go from full time to part time, and then eventually just focus on photography 100%.
The good thing is I love the outdoors, so doing wildlife and nature photography doesn’t feel like another job. Even when I’m not carrying my cameras around I’m either out hiking or running on trails. The family and portrait sessions can get a little more tricky, but I typically do those sessions outdoors, so again it’s not like I’m really working. I’ve started branching out and doing more business sessions, so we’ll see how that effects the work life balance.
The part that I really need to work on balancing out is the post processing and editing. I’ve talked to many photographers that hate this part of photography, but I love it. My biggest problem is I’ll start working on a photo, and start going down a rabbit hole with how many different ways I can go about getting it just right. This can get very time consuming, and sometimes I just have to step back and walk away from a photo for a little while.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
As mentioned in the previous questions, I’m a wildlife/nature photographer who also does family/portrait sessions, and am starting to do business sessions.
I started taking an interest in photography a few years back after getting into ultra-running and trail running. I’d always take pictures of my adventures either with my cellphone or a point and click camera (Nikon Coolpix). After a trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming in September 2020, I was looking at some of the pictures I had taken, and knew that I had to upgrade my camera if I wanted to start taking photography a little more serious. A few months later after researching cameras for wildlife photography, I purchased a Nikon D500 with a 200-500mm lens and a 16-80mm lens. and from there began learning as much as I could about the camera, lens, wildlife and nature photography, along with post processing (which I had never really done before).
It wasn’t as easy as I expected. There was a lot more that went into photography that I had never considered when shooting with a point and click camera or cell phone. Things like aperture, shutter speed, and ISO were foreign to me, and I had to learn what each one did, and how each one effected the other (I still learn new things about this on a regular basis). When it came to post processing, I didn’t know what a “raw” image was, much less what that even meant. I over came these challenges by watching videos on youtube and other media outlets. It’s amazing the amount of vast knowledge that is out there available at our finger tips. The great thing about this is everyone has different experiences, so you can learn what works and doesn’t in different situations.
Some lessons I’ve learned when doing wildlife photography we have to be patient, and try and anticipate what the subject will do next or where they will go. I’m missed some great shots in the past from being impatient, however I’ve got some great ones since I’ve learned to slow down. For example in October 2021 I was in Wyoming, and pulled over because there was a moose just off the road. There were a lot of people scrambling to get into position in front of the moose (he was facing the opposite direction of me), but I stayed where I was and just watched. He eventually turned and walked just passed me allowing for some amazing shots. After he passed me he went partially up a hillside, and it just wasn’t a really good shot at that point. A lot of the people started getting in their cars and leaving, and I decided to stick around to see if he’d walk up to the top of the hill for a better shot. A few minutes later he walked to the top, the clouds cleared (for just a few seconds) bring the Teton mountain peaks into view, and I got some great shots with the moose looking at the Teton peaks.
I’ve also learned the importance of a good background. In the past I’d take shots, and the backgrounds would be really busy or distracting. I’ve learned to look at the whole picture now, instead of just the main subject, and if the background isn’t right I’ll either move to a better position or just enjoy the moment (with that said, I still do get excited sometimes, and forget to make sure the background is right. I mention background here, but the foreground and the entire scene is just as important.
Finally one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that my feet are my most important tool (after the camera) for getting a good shot. If there is something distracting in the scene, I can always move, and set the shot up, so that everything works.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Well since I live in South Louisiana and this is Shoutout Colorado, I’ll do my best to give an itinerary for some of my favorite areas around Colorado Springs (since I’m fairly familiar with that area).
Day 1: I’d leave the cameras behind and take them to hike the Manitou incline. I’m sure they would absolutely hate me for making them do that, but it’s something I think everyone should experience.
Day 2: We’d do the Barr Trail up to the Experimental Forest Trail (about a 3 mile hike), once one the Experimental Forest Trail we’d spend the rest of the day hiking there. Experimental Forest is one of my favorite trails in the Colorado Springs area, and for some reason I haven’t found many people that know about it. During the fall the aspens create a tunnel of golden leaves when first getting to the trail, and then from there it’s peaceful, quiet, and a good bit of wildlife (at least from my experience)
Day 3: After doing the Manitou Incline and Experimental Forest Trail on Day’s one and two, we’d take it a little easier, and spend the early part of the day in Cheyenne Mountain State Park. Here the hiking is pretty easy (unless you want to head up to the dragons spine or dragons back, I can’t remember what it’s called right off hand). In addition to being easy, there is lots of wildlife, and great views of Cheyenne Mountain. During the late afternoon/evening we’d head on over to Garden of the Gods and explore there until dark.
Day 4: Hiking the 7 Bridges trail, and the tons of other trails in that area.
Days 5-7: Road trip exploring the back roads of Colorado heading towards Durango (on my bucket list of places to go).
I’d leave places to eat up to my friend (I’m not a picky eater). We would definitely end up at Axe and the Oak for drinks in the evening. If you haven’t had Axe and the Oak whiskey I highly recommend it.
One of the best things about hiking mountain trails is you always meet interesting people, and It’s amazing at some of the stories I’ve heard from random people out on the trails.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I started this journey on my own, and have had support from family and friends. I’ve also learned a ton about wildlife and nature photography by watching youtube videos, specifically some put out by Thomas Mangelsen and Tin Man Lee. Both have different and unique ways of approaching wildlife and nature photography, and through their videos I’ve learned a lot that has made me not only a better wild life photographer, but also better and taking pictures of people.
Instagram: Wildlife/Nature: @josephmarcphotography People: @josephmarcphotography_people