A professional photographer at 12 years old
Ashleigh’s dad, Gerry, showed us some of her photos of wildlife at Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in northern New Jersey, and we just had to share them with you and introduce you to Ashleigh!
How did you get interested in photography? I started taking photographs when I was 8 years old after I received an Olympus point-and-click camera for my birthday. I have always enjoyed wildlife, but with my camera I realized that I could get closer to them and capture really cool details on things like frogs and butterflies. When my family moved to the country, I started becoming more interested in capturing hawks, owls and foxes, and my hobby just progressed from there.
Do you have a favorite species to photograph? How about a favorite location? My favorite species to photograph is foxes and owls. We have foxes that live around my home, and it’s always a fun challenge to try to photograph their behavior, like catching voles, mousing in a field, or napping in the sun.
The Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Millington, N.J., has also given me a lot of opportunities to photograph foxes, too. I also like photographing in Grand Teton National Park, W.Y.
I started having an interest in owls after an eastern screech owl box we put up in our backyard was occupied and two little owlets were raised there. I was very fortunate to watch and photograph the owlets fledge one day, and ever since then, I look for opportunities to photograph owls.
My family and friends call me the “Owl Whisperer” because I always seem to find and photograph this awesome species. In the last year I’ve photographed snowy owls, screech owls, barred owls, great horned owls and great gray owls.
My favorite location is definitely the Great Swamp. Everyone there is so nice, and it’s where I started photographing. It’s really incredible how many different species you can see there throughout the year.
What do you think is most challenging about wildlife photography? This is a hard question to answer. Being a wildlife photographer definitely requires a lot of patience and an understanding of lots of camera specifications, like shutter speed, depth of field, and using light.
Most importantly, though, you need to be an observer of wildlife to understand patterns and behavior that may help you when you set out to photograph a certain species.
If anything is challenging, it’s that sometimes things just don’t work out for you – it could be too dark, too bright, or your subject just doesn’t cooperate. When this happens, just learn to put your camera down and observe instead!
What suggestions do you have for other people interested in taking photos of wildilfe? Start small. Taking photographs of amphibians and reptiles can be very exciting and challenging, too. Also, go to your local camera store and talk to the experts there – they can help you choose equipment and may even offer instruction, too. Be patient, think creatively and respect your subject!
Do you know what you’d like to do when you’re older? Do you think you’ll still be taking photos of wildlife? Yes, I want to be a professional wildlife photographer! A lot of my photos are of animals showing emotion. I think if I can continue to photograph the expressions and behaviors of wildlife then maybe it can teach people to respect and appreciate the natural world more. I hope I can continue to photograph more as I get older, and one day I would like to have my own gallery and be a naturalist.
Which photo of Ashleigh’s is your favorite? Tell us in your comment below, and head over to her Flickr page to see more photos!