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Episode #096

Slipping Conservation Values into Commercial Photography with Rebecca Stumpf


UPDATED: May 24, 2023


You don't have to work strictly on environmental issues to be an effective conservation photographer. Editorial and commercial photographer Rebecca Stumpf shows how you can work these values into every type of photography you love to do.


Often (and I do this all the time) we get wrapped up in the idea that conservation is about wildlife and protecting wilderness. It's about saving critters from the brink of extinction.

That's not what it's all about though.

Conservation is actually so many things. It is social justice, economic equality, access to resources. It is rooted in race, class, culture, and so much more.

Ultimately conservation is about paving a path toward sustainability on all levels, and using your photography to bring attention to that path.

That makes our job as conservation photographers that much easier, because it means we can bring elements of our conservation values and messaging into every niche of photographic work.

Rebeca Stumpf is a perfect example of a photographer who has found a way to live out her conservation values in commercial and editorial work.

“I do I shoot for a variety of different magazines. And a lot of them are sort of rooted in the land, how people use the land, how they're inspired by it, and their creativity within it. I really go for those types of assignments. When I get something like that, it's like, wow, this is spot on with my passion and values….

When someone explores their passion and what comes naturally, I think that is seen by the world. When I'm photographing what I love and what I believe in, I think that comes through in my photos.”

Dive into this episode to hear how Rebecca has honed her style and what she's known for to be able to land commercial work that aligns with her values, and provides opportunity to slip conservation values into mainstream conversations.


Resources Mentioned

Episode 096: Slipping Conservation Values into Commercial Photography with Rebecca Stumpf

Shownotes: ConversationVisuals.com/96

(Digitally transcribed, please forgive any typos)

Jaymi Heimbuch:
[00:00:00] Jaymi: Rebecca Stumpf. Thank you so, so much for joining us on the podcast. It is awesome to actually get to sit down with you and talk about your.

[00:00:09] Rebecca: Awesome. Jaymi, thank you so much. I'm really happy to be here and thanks for taking an interest in my work.

[00:00:15] Jaymi: Absolutely. I have been in love with your photography ever since becoming introduced to it when you became a member of the, her wild vision initiative directory.

[00:00:26] Jaymi: And honestly, so I have an inspiration board template. It's this interactive searchable template that I give to my conservation photography, 1 0 1 students. And when I built the structure for them to be able to duplicate and make their own, you are one of the inspiration board pieces, because I was like, her work is so amazing and it resonates with me.

[00:00:47] Jaymi: It's beautiful. So yeah, all my students know of you. Oh,

[00:00:51] Rebecca: thanks so much. I'm honored. That's awesome. I hope, I hope it inspires them. Yes,

[00:00:56] Jaymi: absolutely. Well, so for anyone who's not familiar with [00:01:00] you, will you just give us a, brief overview of who Rebecca is in the

[00:01:04] Rebecca: world? Yeah, definitely. So. Well, in a nutshell, I guess, , I, I'm an editorial and travel photographer and I am based in Missoula, Montana.

[00:01:17] Rebecca: I guess a little backstory. I started my freelance career in 2012. So I've been doing full-time freelance since 2012 and I built most of my career in Colorado. So I was living in Colorado until actually the pandemic hit in 2020 and my partner and I decided to move. For me back to Montana because I went to graduate school here.

[00:01:42] Rebecca: So it's been a long time dream of both of ours. He fell in love with Montana, you know, the second I brought him here. And so we moved back here and so since 2020, I've been living here and yeah. Doing my freelance work, so.

[00:01:57] Jaymi: Excellent. Excellent. So [00:02:00] starting out a career in 2012, but really building foundations and having a strong career going, how was that when the pandemic hit had, did you, I mean, obviously you made it through but how, how was that in terms of your workflow, did having that foundation help or did you see things dry up?

[00:02:17] Jaymi: Like so many of

[00:02:18] Rebecca: us? Yeah, that's a great question. Yeah, definitely 2020 things slowed down, you know, I think there was that initial period where everything just kind of shut down and. Sort of shocking to the world and everyone was trying to figure out their way and not much was happening. So I would say for most of 2020 work really slowed, you know, there were some outdoor things and outdoor photo shoots and assignments that were able to happen.

[00:02:50] Rebecca: But in terms of. Assignments from photo editors and whatnot. It definitely slowed down in 2020. And then I would say in like 20, [00:03:00] 21, it started to pick up again. So but yeah, well,

[00:03:05] Jaymi: it doesn't seem like you slowed down at all because like you have a gorgeous project called everyday is today. That was like basically documenting what COVID was.

[00:03:15] Jaymi: What was it like to kind of pick up your camera? Because for a lot of us during the pandemic and even lasting now into 2022, there was a huge kind of creativity, dry up, you know, so many stress factors and things going on. A lot of people put down the camera and haven't picked it back up, but you are shooting all the time and you built this like very beautiful portfolio and I'm going to link to everything in the, in the show notes is this beautiful portfolio of just like, and this is what this looks like to be in quarantine unit.

[00:03:42] Jaymi: So what was that like for you staying creative during that time?

[00:03:46] Rebecca: Oh yeah. That is such a great question. You know, for me that time was almost like using, picking up my camera and turning [00:04:00] it on my home was almost like a coping mechanism, to be honest, you know, like it was, it was sort of like, okay, the world is shut down.

[00:04:11] Rebecca: what, who am I, what am I, you know, what's my home. And, and so I picked it up and turned it on my home, which is data subject that I often you know, really explored. And so it was, it was really fun and refreshing to, to turn it on my home and just this quiet kind of slow down time, you know? And, and it was really, you know, just a reflection.

[00:04:38] Rebecca: Time and, and you know, that project is about time and the passage of time and how it feels really warped during that initial, like locked down essentially. So it's really, yeah, it's more of like a personal documentary project that was a bit of a meditation for me to be [00:05:00] honest. And it was just a personal project, you know, I, I didn't do anything with it other than put it on my website and share it on Instagram, but it was definitely a way to kind of deal with the drastic change of life at that time.

[00:05:17] Rebecca: And I sort of have one that. Is still in the works it's called everyday is still today. And it's sort of a part two of that project, which takes place now in Montana, because we did move in 2020. And so it's sort of part two of that, like still sort of being in the pandemic phase and time still being more apt,

[00:05:43] Rebecca: but still, yeah, I kind of a reflection and meditation on, on my home and just this slower life that we're all, you know, sort of taking on.

[00:05:53] Jaymi: Yeah. I really enjoyed looking through it and it was something that I think. [00:06:00] In especially in conservation a lot of us look to the outside world, like into nature, into ecosystems that we feel connected with and kind of look externally.

[00:06:09] Jaymi: And so the idea to find creativity within the home, within the backyard one person who I find a lot of inspiration from he's a macro photographer named Joseph Ferraro. He was like, I go out into the yard every day and look for bugs. And so in that, that restriction of space where now I'm only going into my front yard and this was back in 2020 only going into my yard that actually like really expanded my knowledge and connection with the insects that are here and noticing their lives.

[00:06:38] Jaymi: And so I just, yeah, that, I think your project was one that just inspired me quite a bit for where we find creative.

[00:06:46] Rebecca: Awesome. Yeah. Thank you. I I'll have to look up that photographer. but when you, when you mentioned Joseph, it reminded me of a photographer. I really love her name is Ann Jean.

[00:06:58] Rebecca: I think it's D E N E. [00:07:00] And she has a book called encyclopedia of an allotment. And basically she documented for a certain period of time, everything that passed over her allotment, where she grew food. So down to the microscopic little bugs, you know, up to like the birds in the sky, she documented the leaves, the changing of the leaves.

[00:07:27] Rebecca: And it's just like this beautiful meditation of like, I don't know, like beautiful kind of. Poem almost, you know, like Neil's very poetic and it's just like this gifts, you know, like from the earth. And so I really find a lot of inspiration in, in that book.

[00:07:46] Jaymi: Oh man. I, now I absolutely have to go look that up because that sounds amazing.

[00:07:51] Jaymi: Well, so let's, let's bring it back to you. You are a freelance photographer and you have worked with some pretty big publications across the [00:08:00] globe from news outlets to magazines, like dwell. What, so who have you worked with and what kind of assignments or commissions do you go for in your work?

[00:08:11] Rebecca: Yeah, such a good question. So I have a big variety of clients that I work for and, you know, it's, it's funny. Looking back on like the pass of my freelance career and how sort of in the beginning, you know, I did a lot of different things and over the years I'm kind of fine tuning it and I'm finding my niche and what I love and hopefully, you know, being hired more and more for that more fine tuned kind of themes, I guess.

[00:08:46] Rebecca: So yeah, so I do I shoot for a variety of different magazines from, yeah, like you said, 12 to high country news to the guardian. And , a lot of them [00:09:00] are sort of rooted in the land and how people use the land and how they're inspired by it. And. Their creativity within it. And so I really go for those types of assignments when I get something like that, it's like, wow, this is spot on with my passion and values.

[00:09:22] Rebecca: Like even the dwell assignment, you think of dwell just being like, oh, beautiful, modern architecture. Right. But this particular assignment was kind of remodeled fishing cabin in the Bitterroot valley, south of Missoula and the, the owners and the architects really wanted to build this sustainably.

[00:09:43] Rebecca: And so they used like all beautiful, local lumber and, they wanted to just respect the earth right. In building this beautiful giant fishing cabin. But you know, even they had like a. set of [00:10:00] values that I felt were similar to mine. And so, you know, showing that end product of their cabin and how they live in it and how it's so integrated into nature, still felt really in line with , kind of some of these other more conservation focus stories.

[00:10:18] Jaymi: how do you, so I have a bunch of questions about that, but I'm going to hold those because I want to ask first, how do you get your assignments?

[00:10:26] Rebecca: Gosh, that is tricky. I think it's been a long process in a nutshell. I, I do a fair bit of. You know, Marketing, I'm reaching out to photo editors, I'm following them on Instagram.

[00:10:44] Rebecca: I'm seeing what they're doing, you know, and making sure I'm reaching out to the, the, the right photo editors. I think it's word of mouth, you know, slowly it's been building over the path of my career for the course of my career. And honestly, like [00:11:00] when I moved to Montana, I sort of had this fear, like, am I still going to get assignments?

[00:11:04] Rebecca: Are people gonna know I exist still? You know, cause I was known in Colorado. And so I sorta had this fear that that might happen. But honestly, like I just kind of emailed everyone that I've worked with and let them know that , I moved and I've been so fortunate to. To get, a bunch of editorial work here in Montana still.

[00:11:29] Rebecca: So that's been, that's been nice. So yeah, to answer your question, I think like, Just sorta word of mouth and doing, , my effort in terms of marketing and SEO and keeping my website up to date and things like that.

[00:11:45] Jaymi: Oh, you're starting to talk. My language is more like making sure that you've got your website really functioning for you and being a tool that works for you and not just a place to store pictures and oh yeah.

[00:11:55] Jaymi: Oh God. There's like eight places. I want to go with direct questions. [00:12:00] Let me head back. So I want to dig down this path some more, but I want to head back to what you mentioned earlier about how over time you've been able to really focus on instead of saying yes to anything that comes your way, you've been able to focus in on, well, here's where.

[00:12:15] Jaymi: My ethics are, my values are what I love to work on. And I've, I've honed my ability to get work in there. What has that journey been like for you as an artist, as well as, as a working person to really niche down and to say, this is what I want to focus on, this is what I want to be known for and the types of assignments so that you are then known for that.

[00:12:41] Rebecca: Yeah. It's been a slow process, right? Because initially, you know, when, when someone's first starting out, they may be, sort of have to take some things that, maybe aren't that exciting to them.

[00:12:56] Rebecca: Right. But they need the money or, you know, [00:13:00] it's a, it's a portfolio building. Assignment or whatever, but it's definitely been a slow process. I think I sort of reached a point maybe like five or so years ago where I, I sort of was like, okay, this is what I love. These are my values. This is my passion.

[00:13:20] Rebecca: And I feel like when you, when a photographer or anyone, when, when someone explores their passion and what comes naturally, I think that is seen by the world, like when I'm photographing what I love and what I believe in, I think that comes through in my photos, you know?

[00:13:42] Rebecca: So, um, I sort of started to realize, or, or really just. Reflects on my values and where I wanted to go. And then I just sort of put out there what, what I wanted to get more of. [00:14:00] Right. I put the work out there that I wanted to get more assignments of in that realm. So it's definitely been a slow process. Another thing though that I think has really helped is exploring some personal projects in that realm.

[00:14:17] Rebecca: So for example a personal project that I started in the fall of 2019 called rewilding remembering is it, it looks at food sovereignty and after I started that project, it started. It sort of made me chuckle. Cause it was like, oh, this is just like a natural extension of like me and my childhood and like where I grew up and how I grew up around food and like, the land.

[00:14:48] Rebecca: And so it's anyway, but that was sort of another way that I was able to hone maybe the themes that I was putting out there [00:15:00] and then getting more work in, in those areas. So,

[00:15:04] Jaymi: so there's a lot of backhoe website, nerding. There's a lot of website curation then that goes in. So if you are, as you said, you I'm putting out there in the world, the work that I feel passionate about.

[00:15:18] Jaymi: And so that is going to help bring in assignments or commissions that reflect that type of work. And so website, curation and portfolio curation, as well as showing those personal projects must play a big role inside of that. How do you look at. What you put out in the world on your website or on social

[00:15:36] Rebecca: that's oh yeah, that's interesting because you know how I look at it is maybe different than like how a photo editor or someone might look at it. I should, I feel like I should look at it more like a photo, but I tend to just really put out there[00:16:00] the work through my eyes that I think is strong and a reflection of, of what I love.

[00:16:08] Rebecca: And then hopefully, you know, that translates to a photo editor and how they look at it. And they might say like, oh, you know, like let's hire her for this and Montana or whatever. So, yeah, but it definitely involves a lot of curation and honestly, like. The website is for anyone it's just constant, right. In terms of keeping it up and curating and getting rid of old images, like I still have some older images on my website that don't totally feel like me and my style anymore.

[00:16:41] Rebecca: But it's just, it's constant right. To, to be updating and keeping things fresh and curated. So,

[00:16:49] Jaymi: absolutely. Absolutely. Well, one of the things that I really love about you is you have. An ethos, you have a view. And like you said, you have your [00:17:00] value set that comes through your work. But at the same time, you like, as we were emailing back and forth you also are like, I'm not a hardcore conservation photographer. And I love that because I think that there are a lot of people out there who. Either already recognized, like, yeah, I'm this type of photographer. And I also like to do conservation work. It, it feels good. This is where maybe I volunteer.

[00:17:23] Jaymi: This is a key component. I work with a lot of people where they do commercial work that has nothing to do with conservation. And then conservation is a side thing that they do because they're passionate about it, but it's not a primary income source. There's so many ways that you can be a conservation photographer without being like, this is the one and only thing that I do.

[00:17:43] Jaymi: And so you mentioned like in your, her wild vision directory bio. Your passion and telling visual stories lies and understanding the connection between humans and nature, how they're inspired by it, how they work with it, how they connect with it, how they experience it and the creative [00:18:00] space that falls between the two.

[00:18:02] Jaymi: And I feel like, even though you say I'm not a hardcore conservation photographer, there is so much of that conservation ethos that comes forward. So how do you view yourself or how do you make space for maybe conservation focused work inside of your overall photography practice?

[00:18:21] Rebecca: Well, so you sort of asked earlier, you know, about how over time. I've honed, my work to be kind of this type of work. And I mentioned that because in the beginning I did a lot of edits or commercial stuff that sort of like had nothing to do with conservation, you know?

[00:18:45] Rebecca: But now I feel that like even my commercial work sort of has kind of this nuance of conservation underlying, you know, like [00:19:00] underlying, whether it's like selling something, right. Like for example, I, I recently did a. Commercial shoot for a a cider company or hard or hard cider company.

[00:19:11] Rebecca: And the shoot for them was photographing in their orchards. And their orchards are located south of Missoula in a valley where they're used to, it used to be known for apple orchards in the sixties. And then for whatever reason, there was a huge decline. And so it was about this company, like bringing.

[00:19:35] Rebecca: Bringing apple growing back to the land there. And so, you know, even though it's a commercial shoot for a hard site or a company, it's like, it has that storytelling aspect. And I think a lot of my commercial work and what I value and, and say yes to, in terms of commercial work are brands and companies that value kind of that story telling aspect, you know, and, and [00:20:00] have that connection to the land.

[00:20:01] Rebecca: Like I said, in my bio. So I don't know. Does that, does that answer your question? I feel like I kind of got off track there.

[00:20:10] Jaymi: Well, and to be fair, it wasn't really a question, more like a. Wander into this topic because it is such a a really great thing to be able to embrace how much impact you can have in conservation without necessarily saying I am a conservation photographer.

[00:20:29] Jaymi: And you're such a beautiful example of that, where you're like, yes, I do commercial work, but I'm S I'm selecting to work with companies who have a sustainability ethos, or they have a mission that brings in the same value sets that I have. And so you can kind of bring that in. And I also really. I want to underscore what you said about how you can bring conservation messaging into what you do in the most subtle ways, but still make it there somewhere for people to see and defined [00:21:00] under-recognized.

[00:21:00] Jaymi: And I love that, but do you have any projects that you're working on? You mentioned remembering re rewilding, remembering or remembering rewild. I get them mixed up in my head,

[00:21:12] Rebecca: rewilding, remembering wilding. Remember when

[00:21:15] Jaymi: this is this beautiful photo it's, it's a project. I can't say it's a photo essay, but it's a collection right now of these beautiful images on your website that you, you talked about a moment ago.

[00:21:26] Jaymi: Would you feel that as a conservation oriented project or like, how do you define conservation inside of what you choose to work on? Whether it's a personal project.

[00:21:37] Rebecca: Yeah, that is such a good question too, because I think sometimes when people hear the word conservation, they think of like maybe hardcore wildlife photography or something along those lines, you know, which I don't do at all. I, I would say conservation to me is protection of, our [00:22:00] natural resources whether it's the land or the water or wildlife.

[00:22:04] Rebecca: So in that sense, I do believe that rewilding remembering is. You know, I don't think someone might look at it and say, oh, that's a conservation project. But when you look at what it's about, it absolutely is because it's about protecting the land and bringing, bringing back agriculture and food systems to local communities and in growing in a regenerative way.

[00:22:37] Rebecca: So we can, you know, have food sovereignty and food security for, for the future. So, absolutely. I would say it's a, a nuanced conservation story.

[00:22:50] Jaymi: Okay. Well,

[00:22:51] Jaymi: so I, I firmly agree with you and I think also one of the reasons why I was excited to talk with you about kind of the the [00:23:00] underlying conservation that you do in your work is conservation can be so many things. And you're right. That we often, and I do this all the time.

[00:23:06] Jaymi: Get wrapped up in the idea that, oh, it's about wildlife. It's about protecting ecosystems. It's about, you know, saving critters from the brink of extinction. That's not what it's all about though. That is a component of conservation, but ultimately, ultimately it's about. Bringing purpose to your images to make sure that you're bringing understanding and action to environmental issues.

[00:23:27] Jaymi: And a lot of environmental issues are about how we humans utilize the land, how much power we have over our ability to live a sustainable life. Our connections to these things. And so rewilding, remembering that to me is a great conservation topic because food sovereign sovereignty, especially when it comes to class issues, this is a really, really big topic, a critical topic.

[00:23:51] Jaymi: And so to be exploring that I think is amazing.

[00:23:54] Rebecca: Yeah. And one thing I guess, diving into the food sovereignty and the aspect of [00:24:00] conservation is a big part of food sovereignty is valuing all food providers and, Sharing knowledge and skills of how we work in harmony with the land and nature and passing those on through generations.

[00:24:18] Rebecca: And so like you mentioned, conservation is yeah. Almost, you know, protection of our knowledge and skills as well. Right. And our traditions and carrying those on of how we value and protect the land. So,

[00:24:36] Jaymi: yeah. Well, one of the things that stands out to me so much about your work whether it is this project or any project you're working on really is the approach that you have in your style.

[00:24:49] Jaymi: So I would love if you're game to, to dive into that. And the reason why I want to talk about it is because one of the things that I do a lot [00:25:00] in kind of embrace. What's emerging as my personal style which was a fight for me for awhile. I thought, oh, if I want to do conservation photography, it's supposed to look like this.

[00:25:10] Jaymi: And you know, you open up pages of national geographic or whatever. And it's like, oh, I'm supposed to photograph like that. And that's not my real style, not the style that emerges when I'm photographing the style. That feels good. Where I look at an image and I'm like, that's I see myself in that. And when one of the things that I love to do is to look at other photographers work and see elements of what they do, where I can see that's where my creative side wants to go and they're already doing it well.

[00:25:37] Jaymi: And so I use that as inspiration, and I see that so much in your work. And that's just personal to me because it's a personal style thing, but

[00:25:45] Jaymi: I think that you have a beautiful way of blending, sort of that commercial approach, because so much of your work isn't in that. So there's a little bit of this commercial aesthetic blended in with a very quiet meditative.[00:26:00]

[00:26:00] Jaymi: Witnessing. And so you do a lot of really interesting things, compositionally that I think a lot of people might be scared to do, especially if you're just getting started in photography, because it's, it's rule breaking. It's one of those things where it's like, I can pull this off, but if you pull it off wrong, then the image sucks.

[00:26:18] Jaymi: Right. Pull it off in the right way. And so you did a lot of things like cutting out people's faces from a frame and just having like an arm or a body part or, or all of them, but their faces hidden. One example is a photo where both of the S the human subjects are looking away from the camera, which often is a big no-no, but you, you make it so that it's like, what are they looking at?

[00:26:39] Jaymi: And where are they going? And I want to follow them in. So there's a lot in that I would love to talk with you about. Your style, how you approach your work, how you hone your ability to do a little bit of that rule, breaking and explore, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Now I'm handing it over to you. You just start.

[00:26:59] Rebecca: [00:27:00] Well, first of all, that is so great to hear some feedback, honestly, because as freelancers, we don't often get feedback in terms of how other people view our work. So thanks for saying that. And, and I'm, I'm honored. That feels so great. To hear that. But yeah, it is, it is interesting. The style thing I, so I actually come from a photo journalism background.

[00:27:29] Rebecca: I got my master's in photojournalism and I did work at newspapers for awhile. And when I look back at my newspaper work, It feels very different from where I am today. It definitely had that like much more kind of raw photojournalistic work. But over the years, I think since the majority of my clients became magazines, my style evolved and [00:28:00] became a bit more clean and refined and maybe quiet, you know, like you had mentioned.

[00:28:07] Rebecca: And honestly, like, I think it's sort of just a reflection of like my brain in some ways, you know, I, I am a very outgoing person, but I'm also very much an introvert and I feel like photography is my way to sort of tap into that more introverted, quiet, still side of things. And so. Yeah. Over the years, it's definitely become a little more refined.

[00:28:40] Rebecca: And I sort of , curate, I guess the whatever's in front of me. And I guess that's what, you know, every photographer is doing, right? Like we're choosing, what we capture with our camera in the little square or rectangle or whatever, you know? So it's just sort of my, yeah, my [00:29:00] natural way that I've, evolved to kind of curate my world and how I see it over.

[00:29:05] Rebecca: Yeah. Over time.

[00:29:07] Jaymi: Tell me a little bit more about that curating, like what's going on in your mind as you're framing something, is it conscious or is it something where it's very intuitive with

[00:29:18] Rebecca: you? Let me think about that. I would say it's pretty intuitive, when I, get to a scene or whatever I'm photographing, it just feels very natural.

[00:29:33] Rebecca: What my camera, what my eye is drawn to. And I think it is sort of just those quiet moments. Cause I think it does sort of I guess it's sort of my way to, help, maybe simplify something, a C a busy scene or an idea or something like, it's just sort of, there's a lot of noise in the world, right?

[00:29:56] Rebecca: So it's like my way of just [00:30:00] intuitively kind of. Narrowing in. And, and as far as like the rule breaking, I don't know. I just, that I guess just comes naturally, you know, like I, yes, I learned, you know, all the rules and in photo journalism school and I've definitely, you know, I definitely break a lot of those now.

[00:30:19] Rebecca: Especially, you know, as I shoot for magazines and whatnot, but those that just sort of comes naturally as well. Like I don't really follow many photography.

[00:30:33] Jaymi: Yeah. I love the concept of really deeply curating what is actually in your. In order to make something very loud and noisy, and that's not always the approach, but you, you know, a person needs to take, or a photographer needs to take, like sometimes including the noises is part of what needs to happen to really document what's going on.

[00:30:54] Jaymi: But the idea of really curating what's in the frame to [00:31:00] make everything in their essential and important and profound. I just love that concept a lot.

[00:31:07] Rebecca: Thanks. Yeah. And it's so funny because like, now that I am talking about this and, and kind of expressing how intuitive it feels, there's times when I'm actually like, okay, I want to make this a little messier, you know, like I actually try to kind of make it more loose and raw and, and maybe less.

[00:31:34] Rebecca: Refined informal, you know, so it's, it's funny how, we have, something that comes naturally, and then we sorta wanna like break out of that, but it's like, what comes naturally is what comes naturally. And so I think it's best to sort of just go with that

[00:31:56] Jaymi: when you're out on a shoot and you are [00:32:00] looking to kind of curate that scene to, to do intuitively what you intuitively want to do, and you're not getting that.

[00:32:08] Jaymi: How do you manage inside of that shoot to really start to get what it is that you're looking for?

[00:32:15] Rebecca: Hmm. Yeah, I would say that I just. I mean, cause you know, that happens many times, right? When we go out on shoots and, and it's not what we expected or it's not, you know, the lighting we wanted or whatever.

[00:32:31] Rebecca: So it's sort of our job, right. As photographers to put all these puzzle pieces together and create an image. So honestly, like, I would say I just start photographing and just try and work the scene, I guess. And just keep trying to get closer to what I'm envisioning, you know, and maybe it is something where it's like, [00:33:00] you know, I want to take a portrait of like, like for example this assignment I did for high country news on forest management in Idaho.

[00:33:10] Rebecca: I went out with a couple us forest service Rangers and, they were like, we drove to like the nearest forest outside of salmon, Idaho. And, and they're like, is this good? And I was like, well, you know, like it wasn't quite my ideal scene, you know? And so I was like, well, I'm sort of looking more for this.

[00:33:29] Rebecca: So, so I just sort of explained what I was looking for. And then we kept driving and you know, they got out of the car and then I started photographing and then we walked into the forest a little more and then, you know, there was like this beautiful lights and he kind of put his hand on the tree. And so like, That situation, it evolves.

[00:33:52] Rebecca: And I, we just communicated in terms of like what I was looking for and then this like natural moment fell into [00:34:00] place. So I think, yeah, just kind of really working the scene and, and, you know, if you're with a subject or whatever, expressing what you're hoping for, and, they're generally willing to work with you and help you make a good image as well.

[00:34:17] Rebecca: So

[00:34:18] Jaymi: we hear the term work the scene a lot. What does that look like for you when you're like, I need to work the scene? What does that look like?

[00:34:28] Rebecca: I would say just getting a variety of distances, , whether it's close ups wide shots, medium shots. Different, different angles, actually physically like walking around and working the scene. And just also there's like, like the example I just said with the forest service park ranger, like just kind of, I guess, [00:35:00] like just being a human and communicating and right.

[00:35:03] Rebecca: Like just connecting and, and letting this like natural energy unfold. And, and just take this exchange, just take place. So, you know, in addition to like the, the physical actually working the scene, I think there's sort of this energetic Exchange that happens as well. Whether it's, you know, with an animal when you're shooting wildlife or, a human or whatever,

[00:35:32] Jaymi: I love the, the, just be human in a previous episode with Morgan Haim.

[00:35:38] Jaymi: I asked something along that line and she says, don't be such a photographer. Yeah.

[00:35:45] Rebecca: I love that. That is so true. It's so true. I mean, you know, I think probably in the beginning I was such a photographer, you know, like I would go into a shoot and how I thought a photographer was [00:36:00] supposed to be. And then over time it's like, oh, this is more about relationships and, and connecting with the, the, the.

[00:36:11] Rebecca: The people that the story's about or the wildlife and, and really understanding, you know, their story and, and being human and just having a conversation, you know? So I love that. I love this. You said that,

[00:36:28] Jaymi: well, One of the things that I love about your work is the way that you approach environmental portraits.

[00:36:33] Jaymi: So what is an environmental portrait to you and how do you craft?

[00:36:39] Rebecca: So an environmental portrait to me is essentially photo that I feel like is jam packed with someone's story. really, , I think it's just like capturing someone in their environment that they feel comfortable in and, and within [00:37:00] that it tells their story.

[00:37:01] Rebecca: So you know, you could probably find a million examples on my website, but I did a shoot for an online publication called feast and field, and they're all about the stories behind our food. And it was a story about a regenerative cattle ranch here in Missoula.

[00:37:25] Rebecca: And so, you know, I captured a lot of portraits of the owners are in Wendy, it's called Oxbow cattle company. And, , they, I captured them in their essence, right. Like I think, I think in environmental portrait shows someone's essence, right? Because you get a sense of who they are, you get an immediate understanding of their environment behind them, around them, that they work in.

[00:37:55] Rebecca: And when you capture someone in their environment, I think their essence comes through. [00:38:00] So I captured a lot of portraits of Barton, Wendy, you know, on their horses, in their fields with their cattle. And that's like their passion. So that's, you know, I think their essence hopefully came through in those photos.

[00:38:15] Rebecca: So, yeah, that's, that's kinda what I would say. An environmental portrait is

[00:38:20] Jaymi: how much work do you do to create the environmental portrait versus letting it unfold?

[00:38:27] Rebecca: I would say both to be, to be honest. It's yeah, a little bit of both. It sort of depends on the situation, you know, like with The regenerative cattle ranch, , obviously some of those portraits were much more candid, right. As they were working with the cattle and on their horses. And, and then other times, , if I saw the right light or the right moment, I would ask them, you know, like, can you, can you just pause a moment and [00:39:00] look at me or look off or whatever?

[00:39:02] Rebecca: So I would say it's a fine balance of just kind of reading the scene and what might work best. In the scene and the situation that you've got to work with.

[00:39:12] Jaymi: Excellent. I'm going to make sure that my, my students listen to this because right now, inside I, so with conservation photography, 1 0 1, there is a student group component and I do monthly challenges with them.

[00:39:25] Jaymi: And right now they're doing environmental portrait as their monthly challenge. And so I'm definitely going to point them to this episode as they create their portraits.

[00:39:34] Rebecca: one more thing on that. You know, I, I think a lot of students or, or early career photographers sort of have an apprehension in terms of.

[00:39:48] Rebecca: Maybe, really, really talking to someone and getting what they want out of a portrait, you know, like they sort of maybe have a fear that they're wasting their time or, you [00:40:00] know, like I, so I actually teach a week-long editorial photography class here in Missoula every year. And we went out on assignment with the students and, they had to photograph some of these employees at this place where we went and, and a number of them were like, I don't want to disturb them while they're working, you know?

[00:40:21] Rebecca: And I was like, it's okay. Like, they know we're here to tell their story, you know, like they're willing. And so. I think you just, I mean, it's definitely a fine line, right? Like you have to kind of feel their energy and feel their body language. Are they willing to maybe let you work with them until you get the portrait you want?

[00:40:43] Rebecca: And again, that comes from being human. Right. And just, just being nice and, and relating to them.

[00:40:50] Jaymi: Yeah. Yeah, I think, okay. So first of all, is that editorial workshop, editorial, photography workshops, something that anyone can sign up for because [00:41:00] I know myself and other people will probably want to take part.

[00:41:03] Rebecca: So it's not, unfortunately it's it's through the Rocky mountain school of photography and it's there like your long professional intensive it's called students. And so they're there from like August, till may. Maybe it's like a school. And they do like towards, in the spring they do, they have like guest instructors to come in and do like adventure, photography, editorial, photography, you know, food photography.

[00:41:36] Rebecca: And so, yeah, so it's like a week long thing for them, but I know they have like a bunch of kind of online short short-term things. So some of your students could, you know, maybe look into that as well. Awesome.

[00:41:49] Jaymi: Well yes, I think that that is a really amazing skillset to have, and I definitely always encourage people to take.

[00:41:56] Jaymi: Courses and all different types of photography, because you never know [00:42:00] what skill sets you'll come back with and how, yeah. And I have to share this one story of one of my students in a, in person workshop. So we do these pre COVID and we will start them back up again. We do these seven to 10 day intensives and one of the stations.

[00:42:16] Jaymi: Was very human. And so we had an open day where they needed to just go out and kind of like fill in the holes of the story on their own. And she came back with these incredible images from one of the ranches that was in the area. And she had basically just strolled on up and, and started talking to people.

[00:42:39] Jaymi: She got invited into the home of these older people. Like they were maybe like 70 or 80 years old had tea with them. Then went out to the barn, went out like photograph the workers in the barn, asked if she could get up in the rafters for some overhead shots, got like, it was just, she just worked at all by just having conversations with people and they [00:43:00] wanted to give her all of this access and ability to show their work.

[00:43:04] Rebecca: It was really, oh, I love that. That is such a perfect example, you know? Like, and if you just like, imagine if she. I walked in and was like, just clicking away right away. You know, it might, it might not have like allowed them to open up as much. Right? Like you, that connection is so important for access and, and when you show a genuine interest in people's stories, I think then they're more willing to really share it.

[00:43:38] Jaymi: oh, so true. Yeah. Well, I have one more question for you, which is who, what photographers or anyone else who inspires you in your work?

[00:43:52] Rebecca: Oh God. Wow. Okay. This is a big question. Well, so [00:44:00] I, I. I won't start off by saying who but I will say maybe where I get a lot of inspiration because honestly, like, I mean, I follow a ton of photographers and, the one I mentioned before, and Jean I'm really inspired by her work because it's very nature focused and you know, there are photographers who I, who really inspire me, but generally I try to find inspiration in other realms of the world, I guess.

[00:44:36] Rebecca: So I find a lot of inspiration in just in nature myself. I live in the forest and You know, I go for daily, walks out my door on forest service land, and, you know, to be able to walk on that same trail every day and watch the seasons change, watch the light [00:45:00] change. Like I start to notice just like the subtleties that I never noticed when I lived in Colorado in a city, you know?

[00:45:11] Rebecca: And so I find a lot of inspiration in nature. And I think that is part of the reason that, you know, a lot of my photography is kind of nature and land focused and the love of the land. Because I have that myself. So I find a lot of inspiration and in nature also documentaries, I really am so, so inspired by documentaries because it's sort of.

[00:45:40] Rebecca: the like next sorta natural evolution of, of a still photo, right. Is the moving photo. And so I love film festivals and it's actually been so great during the pandemic because like a lot of the film festivals are now online. So you can, , really [00:46:00] watch any documentary at any time, you know, through any of the film festivals.

[00:46:05] Rebecca: The big sky documentary film festival here in Missoula just happened. And I watched five documentaries online in my home and I was just so inspired by them. Like just, I just get inspired by like other people's stories and, , struggles and like solutions and, you know, like just. Just like understanding other people and cultures I think is such an inspiration to me.

[00:46:34] Rebecca: And so I find a lot of inspiration in documentary. Awesome.

[00:46:39] Jaymi: Yeah. I I lied. I have one more question. I do this all the time to people, so I'm sorry, one last one and then wait, but one more. So

[00:46:48] Rebecca: like the curse of a photographer as well, you know, they're always like, okay, one more photo and then they take like five.[00:47:00]

[00:47:00] Rebecca: So I

[00:47:00] Jaymi: understand, I want to ask this because as you, like, you lit up with so much energy when you were talking about where like just being inspired by documentaries. So when you are inspired, what do you do with that inspiration?

[00:47:15] Rebecca: Hm, such a good question. Oh gosh. So usually I, well, usually the first thing I do after I, I find a documentary I really love is go look up the filmmaker and kind of just see what, what they're doing and, where they get inspiration.

[00:47:39] Rebecca: so one of the films that I watched at the big sky documentary film festival was called inhabitants. And I would recommend it for anyone, but I think you would really enjoy it, Jamie.

[00:47:51] Rebecca: So it's about. Native Americans and how they have been managing natural resources for millennia, you know, [00:48:00] like forever. And in a world that it's like now more important than ever to really protect and, conserve our natural resources. It's sort of like, oh, well, you know, it was about the native Americans.

[00:48:16] Rebecca: Like they know how to do it. They've been doing it for so long. And I just, I just found it so inspirational. And yeah, so I like followed the filmmaker and, and I think it just kinda ties into like a lot of my values and passions and, and, you know, hopefully that like flows through, into my work. It sort of got me inspired to.

[00:48:39] Rebecca: Pick up my camera and work on my um, rewilding remembering project again it sort of has been at a stand still for a little bit, just cause I've been busy with assignment work. But it's sort of, it gave me some ideas for other things I could explore in that project and maybe where there [00:49:00] are holes still.

[00:49:01] Rebecca: I guess I just sort of feel the inspiration and then it just sort of flows out of me into the parts where I think it needs to go. But like I said, I just get so inspired by. By other people's stories and, and documentaries in particularly really inspired me.

[00:49:19] Rebecca: Awesome. Yeah.

[00:49:20] Jaymi: Yeah. Yeah. I'm always curious about that because it can be so easy for us to be like that was inspiring and then move on and not have that. Yeah. It doesn't really sink in. So the idea that you feel it, let it sink in, go research more about the maker of what inspired you. I think that's awesome

[00:49:40] Rebecca: advice.

[00:49:41] Rebecca: Yeah. And the story as well, you know, like I think, yeah, like the content right. Of the, like, I'm always inspired by the filmmaker cause that's like, you know, in the realm of what I do as well the, on the photography side, but yeah. Also exploring the [00:50:00] story, you know, like just the things they talked about in that film and you know, a lot of them are happening here in the Northwest.

[00:50:08] Rebecca: So looking into that and, and, you know, sometimes even like I have this book of, you know, notes here and sometimes I'll even take notes and write things down that inspire me and, you know, maybe I'll come back to it later. Maybe I won't, but just kinda, yeah, jot down what, what inspires me and it might flow into something else in, in my future, you know, in my work, so

[00:50:35] Jaymi: well, wonderful.

[00:50:36] Jaymi: Well, thank you so much for being an inspiring photographer as well. I'm going to be linking to everything. Oh yeah. I'm going to be linking to everything in the show notes, but for anyone who's like, I'm so inspired. I need to go see your work right now. Where can they head to connect with you or to check out, got

[00:50:51] Rebecca: your work?

[00:50:52] Rebecca: Yeah, so I would say my website is probably the best place. It's just Rebecca [00:51:00] stump.com and yeah, you'll have the link, but and then also Instagram, Rebecca stump at Rebecca stump on Instagram. And I would say Instagram is sort of, it's like kept up a little more, you know, websites, it takes a while to, to update them.

[00:51:15] Rebecca: So Instagram is kind of the place to where I'm constantly sharing new work and stuff. So yeah. So those two places mainly. Great.

[00:51:23] Jaymi: Great. Well, thank you so much for your time for bringing the conservation ethos into your work so that you're sharing that with the world in everything that you do. And just thanks for being an awesome human.

[00:51:35] Jaymi: We

[00:51:35] Rebecca: appreciate, thank you so much, Jamie. This has been really fun.


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