My next Inspiring Interview guest is so talented and her work is what I consider to be the true definition of “Inspiration.” Jennifer Morse Bland is also a native North Carolinian and her photography of the North Carolina coast is absolutely majestic!
This interview was conducted before the most recent events and originally focused on coping with the quarantine. But it is uplifting and inspiring, which continues to be my overall goal with the Inspiring Interview series. Let’s get started!
Hilary: Can you tell us about yourself, including where you’re from and where you live?
Jennifer: Like you, I was lucky enough to grow up in Washington, North Carolina – the sweetest coastal town in Eastern NC. I loved growing up on the waters of the Pamlico River.
After spending years in the Triangle area of NC, I moved to Wilmington, NC almost 3 years ago. I have less than a 10 minute drive to the beach from my current home and that’s perfect. I love living near the ocean and rivers and wetlands.
Hilary: I love Wilmington! It’s so gorgeous and sounds like a wonderful place to live. Can you tell us how you got started with photography? How long have you been a photographer?
Jennifer: After moving to a beach town, I had to drop one of my kids off for a 6am class one morning. On the way home from that drop off, I noticed how amazing the sky looked just before sunrise and went out to the beach instead of going home. That was the start of my daily beach walks which led to my daily beach photographs. I have been rising before the sun and getting out to the beach most every day since then. Knowing I get to see whatever the beach has to offer each day is so motivating for me and gets me out of the bed early without complaint. I find so much beauty and I love to share it with others who aren’t able to wake up to that each day. And a daily practice has been so good to help me grow as a photographer!
I’ve been playing around with photography for the last 15 years or so, on and off. After having kids, it was fun to share all of the cool things you get to introduce to them. Now that my kids are older, and less likely to let me photograph them, it’s been fun to explore all the interesting landscapes and wildlife around me.
Hilary: Your photography of the North Carolina coast, which happens to be one of my favorite places in the world, is absolutely mesmerizing. How do you determine what or where you’re going to photograph? Do you plan what you’re going to go out and shoot, or do you explore and see what catches your eye?
Jennifer: Thanks so much! It’s one of my favorite places too! I am very much a what catches my eye photographer. I let each day present itself and I look for the beauty. It’s interesting to see how different the same spots can look on different days. And it’s also a challenge to make interesting photographs of the same 4 mile beach each day.
Hilary: Oh, I love that! What can you tell us about the equipment and gear that you use to get such amazing photos?
Jennifer: I shoot with Nikon DSLR cameras – lately I’ve been using a D750. And I have lots of fun tools like filters to help take longer exposure photos or to reduce glare, tripods, different lenses, etc – the amount of equipment available to photographers can be overwhelming. I prefer to travel light so, most days, I have a camera body with a zoom lens attached and maybe another lens depending on what I expect to find.
And I use my iPhone (8+) as well – people are generally surprised that many of my photographs were taken using it. Phones are so portable and the photos can still be printed large enough to use for home decor without any loss of image integrity.
Hilary: What and/or who inspires you?
Jennifer: Being outside, in nature, inspires me. It brings me so much peace and awakens my sense of wonder. I had a friend once start laughing as I was pointing out a bird from the car window. She explained that I got a little more excited than anyone else she knew over things like that. She was right – and I love it. I regularly feel overwhelmed by all of the goodness that surrounds me on a daily basis. And so many people never notice it. I enjoy being able to share what I notice with others and I love to share the peace and calm that I am able to connect with in the midst of this chaotic life.
Hilary: That is really inspiring and beautifully said. What advice would you give to the novice photographer who isn’t sure where to start or how to get started?
Jennifer: Use what you have and start. I just had a conversation with a fellow photographer and we were talking about how to share this craft with others and thinking about how we learned. You can read and watch tutorials and all of that – which you should do – but sometimes it just sounds a bit meaningless. When you have a camera in your hand and you make adjustments and see the differences in your actual photos, that’s where you learn. It takes time and it takes you being frustrated and being excited and all of that to have a good understanding of what the tool can do.
Also, I am a big fan of using your phone camera. I think it is one of the best ways we have to capture moments that just catch our eyes because we usually have it with us regardless of if we were planning to take a photograph.
Hilary: Can you give us a tip for capturing the perfect photograph?
Jennifer: I find it super helpful to have gridlines display on my cameras – on my Nikons or my iPhone. Having gridlines will help you line up things like a horizon line or building.
Another tip is to try taking photos from lower or higher than you normally would – you can find a whole new world by just slightly adjusting your point of view.
Hilary: Those are amazing tips! Thank you. What is one thing that you wish you’d known when you started taking photographs?
Jennifer: You can’t get better if you don’t take the shot. It’s easy to feel intimidated when you are learning your equipment and working through disappointment when you didn’t capture something like you thought. But the experience you gain while working through all of that is what makes you able to get the photograph you are after in the end. It is just like any other endeavor – practice makes perfect.
Hilary: How are you staying inspired and positive during this time? There is so much going on.
Jennifer: I’m struggling with lots of things right now. It’s hard… but I’m also hopeful.
When I feel like I’m struggling, I know I need to get outside. Thankfully, where I live, we can still safely enjoy outdoor spaces. We have plenty of areas around to stretch our legs or ride our bikes and see nature so that is working for me.
I’ve also found myself turning more to poetry lately – especially work from Mary Oliver and Rumi as they speak to the connection between the natural world and our lives so well. I can easily get lost in their work.
Hilary: I absolutely love that! I feel the exact same, and I’m feeling hopeful too. And I am loving your poetry lately. Can you tell us where people can learn more about you and find your gorgeous photography online?
Jennifer: Right now, I am using my Instagram account – @jennifermorsebland – to share my photographs.
Hilary: Your Instagram page and the photography you share is so beautiful! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us about your work.
Inspiring Interviews Series
Thank you for reading and have an inspiring day!