Next in our ongoing Photographer Spotlight series it’s Willie Dalton.
Willie is an Anchorage, Alaska based travel and outdoor lifestyle photographer, film maker and a contributing creative professional at Akela Collective. Willie is also a stock photography contributor at Stocksy United.
Q&A With Willie Dalton – Outdoor Adventure Photographer
1. What is your specialty? What do you love to photograph?
My heart has always been in the outdoors and the recreation that surrounds that is my forte. Living in Alaska allows for easy access to remote, wild places and fosters a community who love and support the activities that make our state so unique.
2. How long has it been since you first started taking photography seriously – what has that progression been like?
My Grandfather has been the consummate family photographer over the years and gifted me a camera of his many years ago. I saw the value in his documentation of our familial interactions and travels; it gave me (an introverted individual) a reason to interact and provide value. Recently I’ve taken this further and have begun interviewing my family and making podcasts to record the history of my genealogy for the betterment of those who come after me (who wouldn’t love to hear their great grandparents speak on tape?)
3. Are there any particular images you’ve captured that stand out as being especially meaningful or satisfying for you?
I’ve stepped into the role of photographer representative/consultant recently and critiquing others work has taught me this lesson: there are commercial images and then there are personal images. The quality of an image is totally secondary to the subject matter; whereas commercial images need to have both those elements in strong harmony. While I think both can exist, finding that symbiosis is challenging and takes years of honing. I look to the later personal work of Annie Leibovitz for a stellar example.
4. What challenges do you face capturing the shots you want to capture?
It all comes down to planning. Travel within this state is incredibly challenging due to the lack of roads and the sheer size so transportation to get anywhere usually involves a combination of cars, boats, floatplanes, snowmachines (snowmobiles), and four wheelers (atv’s). Also the weather is wildly unpredictable which can lead to whiteout conditions up in the mountains on a ‘summer’ day in June.
5. What motivates you to put in the effort to overcome those challenges?
The feeling of accomplishment of just getting somewhere is usually enough, but more often than not the harrowing adventures, the miserable conditions, the ‘type-2’ fun as the kids call it these days makes for memorable trips/shoots/productions.
6. What gear do you use? Why?
Whatever is available – we don’t have much in the way of production infrastructure up here so what you have on hand or in your local peer group is usually as accessible as it gets. I shoot on a Canon 5D 3 for stills work and Canon and Sony cinema cameras for motion projects.
7. Is there a market for your work? How do you make money?
Alaska and Anchorage is a small market that is tough to break into. This is a ‘small town’ of ~300,000 people: it truly is all about who you know. Traditional marketing strategies won’t get you as far as they will in other parts of the world. I make my money through commercial photography and filmmaking, as well as a small consultancy called Akela that assists other commercial creatives in running successful businesses.
8. How do you promote yourself and your work?
Like I said in the previous question – this town (and to some extent this industry) revolves around your network. So get out there and get connected! I do very little traditional marketing save for having a presence on the internet and social media.
9. What are your goals for your photography career in the next year, 5 years, long term?
I’d like to explore displaying and showing photography in non-traditional, non-framed print ways. I have a soft spot for filmmaking and am interested in exploring virtual reality and expect to continue doing what I can to lift up other photographers and their businesses so we can all buck this lame steriotype of ‘starving artist’.
10. Do you have any tips or advice for photographers who love your work and would like to photograph something similar?
Get the heck outside! If you’re anything like me then you’re happiest when out of breath while climbing/running/biking in some unique and wild place, so chase those emotions and experiences and share them with the rest of us!
FIND OUT MORE
To find out more about Willie and to see more of his work, you can view his website here: WillieDalton.com
Or follow him on Instagram or Twitter.
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