The porch is host to an old wagon and a cutout section of an even older barn, the first floor has a full, eclectic flavor as it absorbs odds and ends from an antique piano to swaths and toys and silk vegetation, and the backyard, which overlooks the scenic Crow River, is a gardener’s paradise from May to October with rainbow blooms and blossoms.
What makes this quiet, tucked away suburban property a little out of the ordinary is its duo purpose. On one hand, it’s the home of Saima Hawley who has resided in the Autumn Oaks area of Rockford for a decade with her husband and children. On the other, it’s a fully loaded professional photography studio and business with “in and outdoor” capabilities, and is the birthplace of Saima’s Photography.
Hawley is a local photographer who has not only hung out a shingle with growing success, but one who has also widened her horizons, challenged herself with new and unusual photo opportunities, and is making a name for herself through the recognition of her peers.
Hawley’s move from being an interested amateur to a full-time pro was not a dive, but more of a wade, into new waters. Although she’d always liked taking photos, she never really considered that it would one day become her profession. Her background was in accounting. Then an interesting twist of fate pointed her in a different direction and she’s spent most of the time since honing her trade and pushing her abilities to the next level.
Disappointment over some portraits of her youngest child, three months at the time, prompted Hawley to see if she couldn’t do as well, maybe even better, on her own. The portraits were enthusiastically met by those who saw them, resulting in some of her first jobs. The work helped her to become serious, confident and curious about photography, and it wasn’t long before she started collecting “props”, expanding her client list and upgrading her equipment.
One thing Hawley thinks needs mentioning is the way her business has grown, which is organically. Instead of taking out a loan for equipment or borrowing from household funds, she bought what she could from what was coming in. She’s also self-taught, but has joined TCPPA (Twin Cities Professional Photographers Association) and looks forward to exchanging experiences and ideas with other photographers.
Starting out as a portrait artist, Hawley quickly diversified her portfolio, taking her show on the road. She does it all, she says. Weddings, retirements, destination or in-house; and when she says she does it all, she’s not just speaking of her scope of offerings, but her workforce. “When you hire me, you get me. Just me. I do it all from beginning to end.” Hawley explains that there’s a kind of intimacy and fulfillment in seeing a job all the way through, and being able to make the calls. She stands behind not only her work, but her commitment as well. Recently, a wedding in Albert Lee scared away a significant number of out of town guests as well as some vendors. Not Hawley, though, who drove down by herself and captured an event that, regardless of the weather conditions, was lovely and memorable.
What Hawley has progressed to, following a longtime interest that combines her love of travel with technical technique, is landscape photography. And, we’re not just talking about the backyard. She’s packed up and headed out to remote locals in state, and out, to capture the beauty of natural settings, working with them to put her own unique signature to each.
This is a fascinating process, and requires patience and an inner eye. HDR (High Dynamic Range), is something Hawley uses to give her landscapes a deep dimensional quality, allowing her to overlay under, over and normally exposed versions to bring out both the dark and light that wouldn’t normally be captured in a single shot. The effects are stunning, with colors and landmarks seeming to sand right out of the flat surfaces they cover.
Hawley’s growing skills as a photographer are not going unnoticed. She was recently awarded TCPPA 2012 Illustrative Photographer of the Year with the top illustrated print, her work displayed at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chaska where she also does some volunteer work. These honors follow a merit award she picked up at the International PPA competition for an image she took in Bayfield, Wisconsin. A shot taken this winter from a road trip to Brighton Beach in Duluth, “Moody Morning”, is featured on the Daily Duluth Photo Blog: www.dailyduluthphoto.com/2013/02/05/moody-morning
Asked if she had any tips for someone thinking about going into photography professionally, Hawley advises that understanding the camera and working on improving technical abilities is a huge part of getting the most of photography, but relying on instincts and taking as many photos, and chances, as you can, is equally important.
Luckily for Hawley, she enjoys all the pieces, from traditional to innovative, and the opportunity to capture beauty wherever, and whenever, it catches her photographer’s eye.
Oh, and she also cautions against keeping all your photos in one place, or on a single computer, for their safety and your sanity.
You can read more about Hawley and her work at www.saimasphotography.com.