She is Shelley

spazberryjam ~ Photostream
Etobicoke, Ontario, which is at the extreme west end of Toronto.
i go by Shellbell on my blog
Shop ~ spazberryjam
~ i have not yet begun listing my photos as prints for sale, but i will hopefully be doing that soon! in the meantime i'm selling my original paintings and illustrations, and some vintage fine china.
Equipment ~ this is where i get bashful... i wish i could say i'm using some spectacular equipment, but at the moment i have to work within my modest means. so... i'm shooting with a little Nikon L20 digital camera the majority of the time. i use a small joby gorillapod thingy to keep my camera steady, and i shoot without a flash and in natural light as much as possible. when i can get my hands on film, i also shoot with a polaroid coolcam (600 film) and a spectra 2 (1200/image film). and i started getting into the toy camera craze a little while back so i have several rolls of 35mm film shot with my Holga 135 and Diana Mini - but i haven't had them processed yet.

light my fire

i grew up in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario and from the time i was born up until university you rarely found me without a crayon, pencil or paintbrush in my hand. i hate to say it but university kind of killed my creativity in terms of the visual arts, and i went off to pursue a career in writing. eventually, i found myself called back to the visual arts though, and when i began blogging, i found myself constantly gobsmacked by really inspiring images from everywhere in the world in all kinds of media, and that's when i discovered photography as a truly artistic medium, rather than simply a means of capturing good times with family and friends.

i had always thought i was a mediocre photographer at best, but when i started to view it as an creative medium rather than a documentative one, i found that i actually had a knack for composing interesting and artful shots. positive comments from friends, family, fellow bloggers and flickrers have fuelled my confidence and desire to learn and grow as a creative photographer.

Why do you photograph?
i photograph because it helps me to see the world in new, beautiful, wonderful ways - even when i don't have a camera in my hands.

storybook tree at blarney

Is there a particular photographer you admire? What is it about their work that you enjoy?
i admire anyone who is trying to capture their unique perspective through the lens of a camera. it is impossible for me to choose any one photographer - there are so many whose work i follow on blogs and on flickr, and in the real world. i think if i had to choose a couple of people i know in my real life whose work has inspired me, they would be my mother, and my friend Rob Gubiani.

my mother was an amateur film photographer for many years - especially during my early childhood. she really has a unique view of the people in her world - and the photos she takes today with the little camera in her mobile phone are heads and shoulders above what i'm doing with my nikon!

i met Rob when i was backpacking in Scotland - and i had never seen nature and travel photography like his before. he had been interested for years, but was really just beginning his journey in terms of self-teaching, and his work was so professional looking so early on - i continue to be blown away by his talent. he has since taken his love of photography to the next level and is now entering (and winning) competitions, as well as exhibiting in galleries in Australia, his home.

If you process your images at all, what software do you use and how much processing do you do?
i process my images using Picasa. but the more i learn and practice, the less and less i'm processing my images. i'll load them up into Picasa and start looking at them, and suddenly get this rush when i see that an image has actually turned out the way i wanted it, without editing! more and more, the images i'm uploading on my blog and flickr photostream are those that are shot out of camera, with the exception of a bit of creative cropping. it is so exciting to see how far i've come since i began! to the point where i'm looking at some of my earlier shots and wondering if i maybe over-processed them, just because i had the tools at my disposal, and less confidence in my vision and ability back then.

admittedly, i have never tried Photoshop. it terrifies me! i sort of like the limitations of the Picasa program - it means i have to work harder to get what i want when i'm photographing, and i think it may be why i've come this far so quickly.

as a rule, i do not edit my polaroids, not ever. i'm kind of a purist that way, i guess!

How did you learn your skills - are you self-taught?
for the most part i am self-taught. i picked up a few things here and there... back in high school we did a unit in my grad year art class on pinhole photography and processing our own images. i loved it, but i think i kind of thought that i had discovered it too late - i was committed to becoming a writer at that point.
everything i have learned since the ignition of my digital and instant film photography obsession has been on my own, through seeing what other people have done, experimenting, trial and error.

i would very much love to take a course through the GTA Photography Classes group. a friend of mine did a course with them, and it is astounding how much she learned in a short period of time! as soon as i have access to a dslr and some extra money to burn, i will definitely take a course with them.

red bokeh

What is the next piece of equipment/software on your wish list?
first off - a good quality photo printer. i haven't nailed a brand or model down yet, still doing my research.

as soon as i get the money together, i'm going to be picking up the Nikon D3000. i think it is the next step in my development and learning process as a photographer. i've done everything i can with my current camera, and i'm so ready to graduate! i tend to get intimidated by the really top-of-the-line cameras... i will get there, but at the moment i need to work within my means.

oh, and i want to see if i can get my hands on a polaroid sx70 camera - i'm itching to try the new PX100 film developed by the Impossible Project!

What inspires your photos?
i love watching the changes of seasons in my neighbourhood, and in the city. i'm inspired by simple things, nothing too contrived - i'm just focusing on getting good, beautiful shots of everyday things, with my own creative twist. i'm inspired by vibrant natural colour and light, the contrasts and textures and patterns that occur in nature... or in things, the way they just are. i LOVE images that incorporate a great depth of field, and i like it when odd things just happen... like when i'm walking down the street and i see that someone has randomly draped a string of party beads over the branch of a tree... or someone has put a toque on a fire hydrant! randomly occurring oddities are what i'm always on the lookout for.

What is your favourite subject or theme to photograph?
i have a great affection for trees. i don't know much about them from a science perspective... but they are a constant source of inspiration for me, in every season, in every light. lately, i'm photographing my mismatched china collection. old things are so visually interesting. and my cat.

i really want to learn to become a good portrait photographer. in my youth i used to draw portraits in graphite, that was my thing. i have found i'm not so naturally inclined as far as portraiture with the camera, and i really want to develop that skill.

Do you self-portrait?
only the hand-held, snapshot kind. i have to take like 200 shots to get one i'm okay with. i have thought about using the timer feature and composing self-portraits "properly" but i'm really critical of the way i look in photos. i would rather focus on taking portraits of other people.

What is your biggest challenge?
my biggest challenge is definitely continuing to learn and grow while making due with what little i have.

What advice do you have for new photographers?
follow your intuition. take as many photos as you can. expose yourself to work that inspires you and helps you to see things new, exciting ways. try not to worry about not having the best equipment... i read somewhere that it isn't the camera, it's what you do with it that is important - i try to remember that and it helps! take a class if you can, but if you can't, learn by experimenting. if you have vision and curiosity and drive, the technical stuff can always be learned later when you have the means - and don't let it get in the way of your creativity! sometimes rules are meant to be broken.

Thank you so much Shelley. We love to see your work in our group. Good luck with your progression as photographer!
~Andrea and Kari


  1. Can't wait to see your photo shop, Shelly. That kitty portrait is PERFECT, and I love the butterflies, too.

  2. I cant wait to see your photo shop either, such gorgeous photos, I love the one of the cat

  3. Anonymous5/14/2010

    nice interview, Shelley! I love that cat on the windowsill photo.

  4. The lighting in the ancient tree photograph is lovely! great work :)

  5. Wonderful interview - I hadn't realised you were a painter too! The link to Rob's site is fascinating, what talent there as well.

    Your photos are inspirational and unique - keep up the good work and thanks so much for taking the time to do this fabulosu interview!

  6. Lovely interview, beautiful photography!

    So glad to hear you don't edit much. I'm just a very new, very amateur photographer, but I find it so much more satisfying when the shot makes me happy just as it is (with perhaps a crop or 2).


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