Valerie Popper Anderson, Kansas City, Missouri

How long have you been a photographer?

I picked up photography as a serious hobby four years ago. I am currently using a Canon 60D, which I absolutely adore. I also carry a small “Point and Shoot” Canon Powershot in my purse that I bought at a local office supply store. It isn’t just the camera that makes the photo. It is motivation, location, and taking the opportunity.

What first piqued your interest in photography?

I was raised in the beauty of the state of Alaska. Living in such an enchanting location, I have always loved nature and landscapes. The first pictures I remember taking for fun were when I was 10 years old and I used a Kodak 110. I was only allowed to take a few pictures at a time because film development was expensive.

What is your photography forte?

I love to take pictures of any landscapes, flowers, animals, sunsets, everyday things in everyday life, and storm clouds. As a matter of fact, we have a joke in my family that I should “appreciate while stationary,” meaning that I should not drive, look around, and take photographs at the same time, which I may or may not have been known to foolishly do.

What tip or trick have you learned along the way that made the biggest difference to the quality of your photos?

I took a photo class at the public library once and the teacher said, “Edit before you shoot.” What that means is if, for example, I am taking a picture of a building with a fence in front of it, I might stand on a ladder or in the back of my truck so that I am elevated above the fence line. That way the fence is out of the shot and I do not have to try and edit it out. I always follow this advice and it works great!

How important is Photoshop in your final image?

Photoshop is not important to me at all. I don’t even know how to use it! :) I have a simple editing program that I use to crop and once in a while punch up the color. Because I am a hobbyist, I have the luxury of taking photos when I feel like the conditions are right.

How do you decide what to shoot and how to shoot it?

I love patterns in nature as well as macro work. But I’ve got to tell you, if there are some cool clouds, especially at the temple, I am hooked.

Where is your favorite location to shoot?

My favorite place to take a photograph is anywhere I have not been before.

What photographers inspire you most?

There are three photographers who have impacted the way I take pictures. Most recognizable is Ansel Adams. The second is my great-grand-uncle George E. Anderson, who served a photography mission for the Church in 1907 and 1908. The photographer I have learned the most from, however, is another amateur friend of mine named Dave Tallant. He has not only taught me about the mechanics of cameras and lenses, but I learned that a really great photograph should tell a story or evoke emotion.

What advice would you give to new photographers?

The best thing I have done for my photography is to go on field trips around town with friends. We have visited cultural events, cemeteries, old junkyards, festivals, art galleries, and so on. We each bring our cameras and photograph whatever strikes our interest. Then we share our work where we can safely critique each other’s work. It has been fantastic! It has been a fun way to spend time together as friends, and it has been a terrific way to share and develop our interests. Between all of us, we have taken thousands of pictures. Why not? It’s free!

Where is your dream location to shoot?

I am planning a trip to photograph the widows of India. I help collect money that is sent in the form of microloans to Indian widows outside of Calcutta who have been disassociated from society. I cannot wait for the day to meet these women in person and capture their story for other Americans to see.

What types of photos have you shared with the Church and its members?

Since I do not want to sell my images, I share and post them freely on The Vineyard, on a blog about the Kansas City Temple, and on Facebook. I also love to give photo cards that I make as gifts to people who will appreciate them. They are usually photographs of the Kansas City Temple, flowers, and ordinary objects shot in extraordinary ways.

What is one tip that you would like to share?

When photographing animals, always try to capture at least one of their eyes in the shot. Eyes truly are the window to the soul.

—Valerie


Stephen Peel, Mesa, Arizona

Stephen Peel
How long have you been a photographer?

About 25 years. I still consider myself an amateur.

What first piqued your interest in photography?

I love to explore nature and out-of-the-way places. Often I was alone and the only way I could share the experience with others was through photos. I had an opportunity one summer to be a wilderness ranger in the Oregon Cascades. One of the assignments was to make a photo survey of the entire Mt. Jefferson Wilderness. It was 3 months of almost daily enjoyment, including the challenge to see things in new ways.

What tip or trick have you learned along the way that made the biggest difference to the quality of your photos?

Do reconnaissance on a location prior to shooting. Imagine different seasons, weather, time of day, etc., and select the scene beforehand, so when the conditions begin to aggregate, the location and shot can be set up quickly. Learn to wait for the light and see it as the camera does.

What is your photography forte?

Landscape nature, wilderness, and wildlife. 

What advice would you give to new photographers?

Take a camera everywhere it is allowed, and shoot anything that appeals to your inner artist. Play with the camera features and image processing software until you see outcomes you like. Push the limits of imagination; learn to see things from different perspectives.

Favorite camera and lens?

Nikon D2x. Nikkor 17-55 mm 1:2.8.

What photographers inspire you most?

Galen Rowell, Tom Till, DeWitt Jones, Josef Muench.

What do you think photographers could do to help in the Church’s call for photos?

Like those with a talent for music, literature, or art, a photographer can share a love for creation by engaging in a creative process. An image can communicate a message to others that may inspire thought, instill hope, convey peace, or recall cherished memories.  

How important is Photoshop in your final image?

I always use Photoshop to “Unsharp Mask” and perhaps to crop an image. Often, I also use it to balance color or tweak exposure, but only as a tool to approximate the original image seen with the eyes. Rarely, I use it to remove a distracting element that would otherwise detract from an image.

What about photography inspires you?

It is an intriguing blend of art and science, of vision and technique. And it’s always a challenge to see a familiar subject or location in new ways. For instance, I have perhaps a thousand images of the Mesa (Arizona) Temple. Some are in summer, some in winter, some with cactus, some with petunias, with first morning light or last rays of sunset under a thunderstorm. It stretches one’s mind to learn to see a thing differently.

Where is your favorite location to shoot?

I love the Colorado Plateau, Northern Rockies, Oregon Coast, and Desert Southwest.

Film, digital, or both?

I migrated from film to digital about six years ago, when the capacity of digital images approached that of film. I still take an occasional roll of Fuji Velvia, but not often. 

—Stephen Peel