Q&A: Photographer Valerie Millett Talks About Why She Entered the Arizona Highways Online Photo Contest

Photo by Valerie Millett

Photo by Valerie Millett

The 6th Annual Arizona Highways Online Photo Contest is coming to a close — and fast. Fortunately, there’s still time to enter. So far, we’ve received more than 3,700 entries and you have until December 15, 2013 (we’re shutting her down at 11:59 p.m.). With three spectacular prizes up for grabs, there’s no reason not to submit one (or more) of your Arizona-made photographs. Enter by clicking this link.

Still unsure about entering our photo contest? Check out what photographer Valerie Millett, a frequent Friday Fotos contributor, has to say about why she entered this year’s contest.

Why did you decide to enter the Arizona Highways Photo Contest this year?
Actually, I almost didn’t enter this year and not for any particular reason other than I’d had such a busy year that  I wasn’t sure I could devote the time I felt I needed to really sort through and pick images. Through the Arizona Highways Photo Contest in previous years, I’d had the pleasure of  viewing Dave Drost’s work and quickly became an admirer. So, this year, I searched on his name to see what he had entered and as usual was blown away with his images, which then inspired me to join in.

Tell me about the photos you entered. Why did you decide to enter those photos?
I believe I entered a total of 15 photos, most of which I entered in the last week or so, and most are fairly recent images. Of course, I’d like to think I’ve entered some of my best images technically, but there is no doubt that there in an emotional process here as well. I’ve picked images that are not only what I believe to be beautiful scenes from all over Arizona, but ones that have great memories and personal stories attached to them. I’m hoping that in the selection process, some of that emotion that will translate well to the viewer or judge. I’d like to think that by entering and allowing others to view the entries, those people will see a side of Arizona that may inspire them to come visit or explore or hike the same landscapes that I’m so enamored with.

You’re a frequent contributor to our Friday Fotos contest, as are a lot of photographers. Have you developed friendships with anyone?
I am a repeat offender of the Friday Fotos forum, yes. How can I possibly even start to tell the story of my evolution as a very new landscape photographer (only a couple of years ago) to where I am today, the friendships I’ve developed and the exciting community of photographers that I now feel very much a part of.  What a journey!

The Arizona Highways blog and the Friday Fotos arena have been a huge part of my emerging career as a landscape photographer. I remember, three years ago, when I timidly entered the contest with a “point and shoot” camera. When one of images would appeared on the blog or “Photo Of The Day” on the website, I would  become greatly encouraged.  Having been an avid hiker already, I had the Arizona Highways Hiking Guide, and I set out to do two things: 1. Hike all 52 hikes and chronicle each hike on my blog. 2. Get my photos to look like the images in the book. (I never finished all the 52 hikes because my quest to become a better photographer took over my life!)

I started studying the photography and noting the photographers’ names in the hiking guide.  I found many of them on Facebook or their personal websites, and I started picking their brains.  How did they get started?  What kind of gear did they use? How long had they been shooting? I read their articles and studied their personal philosophies on the landscapes and their photographic technique.  Through this process, I made friends with a few and developed a few mentoring relationships.  I’ve had the honor of being able to meet or shoot with Jack Dykinga, Kerrick James, Derek von Breisen, Paul Gill and Bruce Roscoe, to name a few, and  some of them have contributed greatly to my early development.

I’ve developed close friendships with many of the photographers I’ve come to know via social media, mostly Facebook, from all over the world. I shot with many of the names you see regularly on the Friday Fotos forum.

Where do you love to make photographs?
Anywhere I can. I’m up for exploring anything. Of course, I love the Arizona landscapes, but I had a chance this past year to see a bit of Utah and Colorado and had some amazing photographic adventures.  My favorite love in Arizona is the West Fork Trail in Sedona. I’ve been hiking and exploring West Fork for years, and I affectionately refer to it as the “Enchanted Forest.” Every time I shoot there, I see it differently and I never tire of it.

What inspires you about Arizona?
What doesn’t inspire me? Arizona just has so much to offer. I find the desert landscapes beautiful and poetic. Those who think the desert is dry and boring have not spent enough time wandering around in it.  After a rain, the smell of sage and the intense color saturation are spectacular. In the winter, the snow dusting the low deserts or beautifully offsetting the red rocks of Sedona are scenes, as a photographer, I can never get enough of.  I anxiously await our short burst of autumn like a kid at Christmas. I think the changing colors of fall set against a Southwestern landscape is one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen.  I’m inspired by the vastness of the landscapes of Arizona.

Why should folks participate in the Arizona Highways Photo Contest?
I think there is something for everyone. Do it to be a part of a great community that supports and appreciates our beautiful state.  I often read, especially after the contest opens that many feel like they aren’t technically advanced enough to participate or that only the professional photographers win. I’d never let those who are more advanced than myself be a source of discouragement. In fact, for me it’s just the opposite.  Those talented photographers (who win) inspire me to work harder at perfecting my craft. I love admiring their achievements and celebrating their success.  It just gets me excited about my own possibilities and helps me define the areas in which I need to grow. That’s how I look at it. Do it just for fun!

How long have you been shooting?
I’ve been shooting for about three years. I’ve been shooting seriously with a full-frame DSLR for less than two years. Before, photography, I painted watercolors professionally.  I think this is my third time I’ve entered the photo contest.

—Kathy Ritchie


Filed under Photography, Q&A

4 responses to “Q&A: Photographer Valerie Millett Talks About Why She Entered the Arizona Highways Online Photo Contest

  1. Love the photo and how passionate you are about photography! Fascinating how you started to learn. It sounds like you have made a lot of friends yet you seem to be a loner at least according to your blog. You give those of us in Medicine hope that we can be passionate about something else!

    • Valerie

      Thank you Rose! I am a total loner and I love my life that way, however I am friendly and have good social skills 🙂 ( just like my dog)

  2. As you know I love your work Valerie. I too love your passion. Nice piece here.

  3. Valerie

    Thank you John, it’s been my honor to be included with you and some pretty amazing talent on Dewitt’s Healing Images project. Thanks again

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