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Oregon Photographer Melissa Kelly

Oregon Photographer Melissa Kelly

Photo by Melissa Kelly (self-portrait)

ELEVEN: What does photography mean to you?  

Melissa Kelly: I have always been deeply drawn to various art forms. Having little skill at drawing or painting, I was naturally drawn to photography as a way to “capture” something I saw and share with others.  

11: Can you give us a brief history of your photography experience and tell us how you landed in the PNW?

MK: I am very blessed to have been born and raised in the PNW. I’m quite certain there is salt in my veins. I was gifted with my first camera at 12 years old. I saved all my allowance to purchase film and pay for developing the images. Every time a roll of film came back I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it and see what new treasures I had! In high school I joined the yearbook committee and I took a darkroom photography class where I learned to roll and develop my own film. That hands-on aspect of photography forever sealed my love for it. Over the past few years I’ve been slowly accumulating darkroom equipment. I’m hoping that within the next two years I’ll be able to convert a space outside of my home for a darkroom of my own. With the advent of digital photography, I’ve found a level of creativity and photographic freedom that I hadn’t had before, however, I would love to be back in a darkroom playing around with images and old techniques again.

Peeping Cows (Galway Ireland, March 2010)

11: Your portfolio shows a wide variety of locations and environments. How has travel played a part in your career and experience with photographing landscapes?

MK: For me, travel is a vital aspect of my photography. I absolutely love to spend a day (week, month even!) wandering around old barns, ghost towns, ruined castles, historic towns, wind swept beaches and spacious deserts. If I weren’t able to travel I feel that I would possibly begin to stagnate somewhat creatively. Getting out of town allows me to see things with fresh eyes when I return home.

11: If there was one destination you could photograph, where is it and why?

MK: It was Ireland. I’ve been over and photographed three different times now, each time covering a different area. One more trip and I will have covered the whole island! Ireland is an exceptionally beautiful place, very similar to the PNW only there is such an incredible amount of history to soak up while photographing people and places. Ireland is a place very near and dear to my heart. If you were to ask me a second destination I would be very hard pressed to come up with only one. I would love to be able to travel the world and photograph it all, bit by bit.

11: Canon or Nikon?

MK: I love my Canon.

School’s Out (School house in creek. Coolidge Montana ghost town, May 2015)

11: What kind of tools do you use for post processing? Explain your work flow.

MK: I use my laptop to do an initial run through of images and discard the ones I won’t use. After that it depends on what I’m editing. If I’m editing a wedding/senior portrait/family session I immediately launch Lightroom and begin all my initial work there. If I need or want to do additional editing on any of those images I then move to Photoshop. For landscapes and pieces I’m working on for myself I start off in Photoshop and sometimes utilize Photomatix.

11: Have you ever lost or damaged your equipment on location?

MK: I haven’t lost or damaged anything on location during a professional shoot but I did lose a $1500 prime lens to a friend knocking my camera off a table during a family pumpkin carving event. That was an expensive lesson learned!

See Also
images used Courtesy of Harry Smith Archives

Left Behind
(Remnants left behind in a bar located in Garnet Montana ghost town, May 2015)

11: Are there any photographers that inspire or influence your own work?

MK: Ansel Adams has inspired me since I was very young. His landscapes and skill with black and white are nothing short of genius. Dorothea Lange and Annie Leibovitz are two of my other great favorites. Their portraiture work is evocative and memorable.

11: Any advice you would give to a newcomer in the field of competitive photography in PDX?

MK: Get out there and do what makes your heart happy!  My advice for established photographers would be, “Don’t shun the newbies.” I’ve run into many new photographers who were simply stunned that I would sit down and take the time to help them better understand their equipment, give them advice on locations, or invite them to tag along and go for a hike with their cameras. Their experience with other photographers was completely the opposite. That makes me incredibly sad. All artists should be encouraged, there is room for us all.

11: Where can our readers purchase your prints?

MK: Images are currently available for custom printing on my website: Or, if you are in the area, Upstairs Bar and Grill and The Schooner Restaurant and Lounge in Netarts OR host printed canvases for sale.

Giant’s Causeway (Bushmills, Co Antrim, Ireland May 2014)