Selfies from Above with Dana Walton

May 20, 2020

Welcome to RISE Dana, it is an absolute pleasure to introduce you to our Community. I first came across your beautiful images and feed through Instagram and love your refreshing approach to photography.

RISE: Firstly, tell us a little about yourself, where you are located and why you LOVE photography so much?

I am a jeans and cozy sweater wearing kinda gal, that has a deep love for my family, a good cup of coffee and my adorable kitties.  I live with my husband of over 20 years, our teenage son, and our two cats, in a small town outside Toronto, ON. 

The thing I love about photography, is that one single frame can tell a story, evoke a emotional response, as well as preserve an experience or event. It can be though provoking, joyful, or a visual masterpiece. One simple tool with the power to tell a story, preserve a legacy,  document moments in history or to let the artistic imagination create things. I find such a tool to be remarkably extraordinary.

RISE: Is photography something you have always loved?

When my husband and I developed a taste for travel, I bought a point-and-shoot camera to photograph our little adventures. It was photos from a trip to Europe that highlighted my passion for this art, and my husband strongly urged me to pursue it further, and he bought me my first DSLR. 

This 15+ year journey has been incredibly fulfilling by means of developing an artistic style and identity in my work, to have the joy of sharing creative tips and tricks with other artists through social media and publications, and very excitingly, have my art purchased for display, it is a true honour!

Learning how to slow down has given me a great sense of appreciation

RISE: You see beauty in the simplest of life’s pleasures, that people would ordinarily overlook or take for granted, what inspires you to document such things? 

Taking the time to slow down. There is this sense of rushing around, running from A to B, that  it often leaves a feeling of overwhelm at times. Learning how to slow down has given me a great sense of appreciation for taking in the subtle beauty of my environment, that might otherwise be missed.

Shooting macro photography really helped to train my eye for slowing down and seeing details amid the distractions and chaos of daily life. It propelled me to find beauty on the  most smallest scale, and allowed me to marvel at how simple and beautiful the world really is.

I then translate this ideology onto a larger scale, such as observing the gracefulness of birds in flight, or the leading lines of a dogs paw prints running down the beach. Taking the time to slow down can both develop the ability to appreciate the beauty in the simplest of things, and it can also be very calming.

RISE: I was particularly drawn to your ‘World from Above’ A birds eye view that brings the viewer into your world. How was this idea born? 

A photographer friend once told me to ‘avoid photographing anything at eye level and you’re work will stand out from the rest’. That really landed on me. From then on, I plan my point of view with intention.

As part of my world from above series, it started as a day-in-the-life project of self-portraits that would illustrate my daily life at home. Because I didn’t want these simple moments to feel mundane or repetitive, I needed a fresh angle. Circling back to my friend’s advice, I decided to take selfies from above. I wanted to create true bird’s-eye view self-portraits that would show my environment and how I interact within it.

Bird’s-eye view photos are compelling to a viewer because it feels very much like you are outside looking in on a scene as it unfolds. For me, this is the perfect way to tell my story. But, logistically, creating these selfies from above is a bit of a challenge. I don’t have a drone to use inside my house and a tripod wasn’t going to create the look I was after. So, I came up with a solution: Tape my smartphone to the ceiling. 

Take a look at how Dana captures her selfies from above as featured in MYCLICKMAGAZINE.COM

RISE: What would be your favourite thing to capture? 

Minimalism. It has always evoked the most joy in my photography. Creating a visual Impact, with as little as possible in the frame, has by far pushed me the most creatively. 

RISE: I see from your images you have a love of cats, who almost seem to be human and speak the same language. Do they literally follow you everywhere and is a lot of patience required? 

I have loved cats since I can remember. I think we have a quiet understanding of each other. That, and kitty treats are a way to a cats heart! And yes, they do absolutely follow me everywhere!  

When it comes to taking their photo, patience is definitely a virtue. I wait for a moment to unfold and often they do deliver some fun expressions. Other times it comes down to sheer luck and timing… and when all else fails, a composite using a few of my favourite frames in Photoshop will do the trick!

RISE: I loved your article on how you get your artistic selfies from above, what is the one thing above all others that you could share to others to getting creative?

It’s an art, have fun with it! There are so many viewpoints and interpretations as to what makes a ‘real’ photograph, that it can often inhibit our creative freedom. Allow yourself to explore new ideas, such as a fresh perspective, an editing technique or an artistic style.

For instance, while taking photos from above, sometimes the vision can’t be executed in a single frame alone. When this happens, through the magic of Photoshop, I create the story with a composite of multiple images and use the cloning tool to bring the final image to life.

This editing process gives me the creative play to pull the viewer into the scene by incorporation certain elements, while omitting others. Adding and removing specific details has always been a fun approach in my work, especially in my approach to minimalism.

RISE: Which would be your favourite lens to capture life unfolding?

This is tough! If I could choose only one, it would be my 70-200 2.8 VR.  Seeking simplicity in my imagery, this lens really delivers a beautiful isolation of my subject which is intensified by the gorgeous compression and bokeh. Shooting at 200mm also allows the moment to unravel naturally without my proximity interfering with the scene, which might otherwise change the outcome.

If I can squeak in a second favourite, surprisingly, I would say my smartphone. The sheer convenience alone makes capturing real time moments simple. Some of my favourite, and most recognized images were photographed using my phone. While expensive  gear is nice, composition, storytelling and use of good light are often more impactful than pixels. Never be afraid to use what you got and get good at it!

RISE: Do you have favourite editing software/apps you could recommend? 

I work with both Photoshop (PS) and Lightroom (LR) equally.  I use LR for global edits, such as white balance, exposure adjustments, or colour grading, which can often involve a preset. (my current favourite is Meridian Solstice “Autumn” by Meg Loeks). I use PS for artistic enhancements such as very specific colour adjustments, cloning, composites, colour cast correction, sky replacement and sharpening. This is where I find my creativity emerges.

*BONUS: If I’m on my phone, editing on the go, a little hack I’ve learned over the years is to use an app that has a teeth whitening tool. This comes in handy when I’m shooting winter scenes especially. I use it to make the snow nice and white! 

RISE: Do you have an all time favourite image to share with us and what makes it your favourite? 

The Minnow

This image has been my most challenging photo to date. It took hours of sitting patiently at the end of my dock, watching these tiny little fish jumping out of the water. Never have all the stars lined up so perfectly to achieve this shot. While I was dialled in with the settings and focal point, it was ultimately a stroke of good luck, timing and Mother Nature that get a standing ovation on helping me with this one!

RISE: Finally Dana, is there something you would still like to achieve within your photography?

Long exposure photography has always intrigued me. I have a Neutral Density filter, so it’s just  matter of pushing myself to get out there and practice more!

Dana it has been an absolute pleasure to feature you on RISE and hear about your photography journey.

Check out more of Dana’s work


Check out the Dana Walton Collection

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