January 21, 2020

Photography is filled with all types of people and as technology advances and the related costs drop, more young people than ever have the opportunity to explore the art of photography. We've been following the work of Pennsylvania-based young photographer Sam Swartley for a while now and he was kind enough to give us a glimpse into his photography world. Read below to see what it's like to be a young photographer breaking into the scene. 

1.Tell us a bit about your background. Where you live, how old you are, your interests, etc.

I live in a small town called Telford, Pennsylvania right outside of Philadelphia. I am twenty years old, I currently work at a coffee shop right in town but I hope to find something that involves Wildlife or the outdoors, in due time. Over the summer my fiancé and I bought a tiny house to fix up so lately I have become very interested in woodworking and being more creative hands-on, which has been very enjoyable! Of course, I love hiking and just being outside haha that kinda comes with the wildlife photography hobby.

Close up photo of a fox curled up fox

2. How did you get interested in photography and more specifically, wildlife photography?

I have always been into the arts as a kid but I couldn’t find what specifically I was good at until I was around 16 or so and I started just taking of pictures of mainly trees, trains and whatever else looked interning with my iPhone but I didn’t get into wildlife photography until a year later when I went out hiking with my dad and grandfather who were very passionate about birds and wildlife, and we came across a squirrel who was in a beautiful setting of the changing leaves, so I grabbed my very beginner camera and snapped a picture and instantly was hooked! I haven’t stopped learning and immersing myself in the world of animals and photography since then.

3. What are some of the challenges you face being a younger photographer breaking into the scene? 

When you first start out it can really be challenging to know where to find wildlife/the times to see them, that took me a few months to get in a routine of where to look and what times of the day. Also, travelling can be hard, whether it's the funds to support the travels or just being inexperienced with travel, It can be tough to plan a trip alone. I think another issue I had was that young people don’t always have the best reputation and with that, it was hard to earn the respect of the older, more experienced photographers. I learned to be persistent and focus on relationships and not my reputation. 

Wildlife photo of a bird on a stick

4. What are your photography goals for the next 5 years?

I plan to hopefully travel a lot more, see the world a little more other than my home state. I would love to use my photography to do something more, maybe help in wildlife conservation with my photography, or help inspire people to get involved with conservation. I do art shows currently and sell my photography there but I would like to do that a whole lot more to build that up. My top goal would be to work for wildlife/nature publisher, I’m very passionate about what I do and would love to do it for a job, we shall see.

Bird in the snow

5. What photographers do you look up to? 

I really look up to Harry Collins, he is a Pennsylvanian photographer as well. His photography is outstanding! As well as Isaac Spotts, he is another young photographer that I admire, his mammal shots are very captivating and make me want to visit Wyoming even more!

7. What tips would you give to someone interested in shooting wildlife photography?

When people think of wildlife photography they usually think of the big stuff, elk, owls, moose, wolves, eagles, etc. And while that stuff is amazing, it's not as obtainable as you’d think, I would highly recommend starting with what's right in your backyard or local park.

Learn about different light and angles and how you can work with those to get the best shot! Don’t underestimate the value of practicing, always be shooting even if it's not wildlife, in fact, try other forms of photography they will help broaden your skills and knowledge.

Connect with other photographers too, its always nice having friends into the same hobby as yours, I would be lost without the friends I have made who have given me great advice that has changed how I think about photography.  

Bird in the snow

8. Wildlife photography requires a great deal of patience. What tips do you use to stay warm while shooting wildlife photography in winter? 

It sounds very odd but once the weather starts to get colder I try as much as possible to not use the heater in my car on my way to locations so that my body doesn’t get used to the heat. That way when I get out my body temperature isn’t all out of sorts from going from hot to cold.

Keeping your hands warm is also one of the key things to staying warm if they get wet its a game over so keeping them dry and warm is a priority, I love my Vallerret Markhof Pro Model 2.0. especially when I put a hand warmer in the zip-able pocket on the back of the gloves, they where a lifesaver last winter and I’m positive they will be this year! 

9. What’s your favorite animal you’ve photographed so far?

I have two favorites the first being the Red Fox, I love how they can be right in your backyard but you would never know because of how sly they are! and their coat is just beautiful, even more so in the winter when it gets so thick and fluffy. I hope to find some during the winter this year, its a dream shot of mine to have a fox in the falling snow!

The second is Mountain Goats, they are such insane animals to watch! At first glance they just look like basic goats that you might see on a farm or petting zoo but as you get to watch them you really gain respect for them as they scale huge boulders over certain death if they just took one wrong step! I would love to spend more time with them next summer as well.

Mountain goat on a hill

10. What destinations are on the top of your list to visit for wildlife photography?

My top spot would have to be Yellowstone National Park during the Fall/Winter, North American Wildlife is my favorite and Yellowstone offers almost all of it! I also love the element that snow brings to my photography, its become my favorite season to shoot in! I would also love to visit Iceland, and Alaska someday as well!

About the Photographer:
Sam Swartley is a 20-year-old photographer from Telford Pennsylvania. Wildlife is his passion and he strives to show people the value of conservation through photography. You can find his work on Instagram 

Wildlife Young Photographer Sam Swartley

 


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