Meet Photographer Joe Campanellie
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Meet Photographer Joe Campanellie

- edited by: Glenn Shuck

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Joe Campanellie is a Master Photographer, Photographic Craftsman, and Certified Professional Photographer with the Professional Photographers of America (PPA). He has the distinction of being 1 of only 110 individuals worldwide to hold the prestigious Fellowship Degree from the American Society of Photographers (ASP).

His introduction to photography happened quite by accident when he picked up a friend’s camera and began to “play” one day. From the moment he developed his first roll of film to his first black and white print, he was “hooked. For more than 30 years, Joe built a reputation as one of Maryland’s premier portrait photographers. After relocating to Florida in 2012, he was able to return full-time to one of his first great loves…nature and avian photography. For the past 49 years, Joe has been involved in photography professionally.

“The passion I feel for avian and nature photography is hard to explain. That time of day when the rays of the rising sun first become visible and the birds take flight in search of their favorite hunting grounds is indeed very magical. I stand at the edge of the swamp as the fog gently lifts off the cool waters. The wind is still and the air is heavy with the aroma of the lagoon. The birds are just awakening and stretching their wings. Some perch motionless with their wings spread waiting for the sun to gently touch and warm them before they take to the skies. The early risers are already busy looking for their morning meal. It’s a time when the water lies still and the reflections are almost life-like. The colors can move from cool to warm in the span of just a few moments. I become excited with the photographic possibilities and at the same time I feel helpless, knowing that I have so little control over my morning’s chosen subject.”

Passion’s Journey

Hi Joe. Cool to meet another Maryland dude and excited to finally chat with you! So to start, what part of First Coast do you reside in now, and how long have you lived here? 

We had a portrait studio in Maryland for almost 30 years that specialized in families, children, and high school seniors. We moved to Palm Coast in 2012 to be close to our 3 children and now 7 Grandchildren. It also allowed me to follow my passion for Nature Photography on a full-time basis.

What is your favorite part of the First Coast to photograph

Big Talbot and Little Talbot Islands have always been my favorite locations for scenic for me.  I also enjoy Huguenot State Park to photograph shorebirds, especially during nesting season.

What type of equipment do you use? 

I started in the film days hanging out of a helicopter with the doors pulled off with a Sinar 4×5 field camera. Along the way, I have used various Mamiya film cameras. Transitioned into digital in what I like to refer as the “bleeding edge of technology.” A time when a decent digital camera was $30,000! Been a Canon user since my film days. Now with digital my primary camera is a Canon R5 mirrorless camera, which has been a game changer for me with animal eye detection for birds in flight. On the lens side, all are Canon except for the Sigma 150-600, which I purchased to lighten the load a little. On the Canon side, I have a 24-105, 70-200, 100-400, and a 500mm prime.

How long have you been part of the hobby? 

Photography was a hobby for me throughout college. After graduating from Towson State with a degree in child psychology and sociology, I could not find a decent job that would support my wife and me. Went to work for my Dad in a custom photo lab and have now worked in photography full-time since 1973. In my case, I turned a hobby into a lifetime career.

Do you do any type of planning before you head out to take photos or do you just wing it? 

In my early days as a portrait and wedding photographer, you always had to have a game plan for a session. It’s no different now for my avian and landscape photography. I need to know all those things that go into coming back with some keepers. Wind direction, tides, sunrise, and sunset. So I always have some mental image that I am trying to create when I am out in the field.

Are there any constants in your photography, if so what are they? (ie. subjects, editing, lens, etc.) 

My favorite subject is birds. Sometimes I explore other avenues in photography but I always seem to come back to birds. I guess I just find these subjects very calming to me. Birds in flight especially which are so challenging but at the same time so rewarding when you can capture all of their grace and beauty when they take flight. On the ground, some species look like they can barely fly. But once they take flight, it’s a whole different story.

How would you describe your style of photography? 

With regard to my avian photography, I have had gallery curators refer to me as a minimalist photographer. With the use of foreground, middle ground, and background I like to use the principles of composition and design to separate my subjects from their environment. Aperture and lens selection are also an important part of this in order to minimize all of the distracting elements that may be in your viewfinder and distract from your artistic vision.

Do you edit your photos right after your shoot or do you let them sit for a while? 

I like to let them sit for a while before I get into the editing process.

Where is your favorite place (or type of place) to take photos? 

Love photographing sunrises at the beach. That time of day can be really magical as you await the colors from the rising sun. Also, a good time of day to catch the birds feeding at the shoreline in really some nice light and feeding activities.

If you could live in any decade (with your current photographic gear), which one would it be and why?

As a kid, I lived in Cocoa Beach, Florida.  I had a front-row seat from the roof of my house for the “Race For Space.”  I moved back to Maryland before the first manned launch.  With today’s equipment, it would be interesting to document those early launches.  I enjoy photographing the launches now.  

What photographer (current or historical) do you draw the most inspiration from? 

I have been very fortunate in my photographic career in that I have had many mentors. Both on the business side and on the artistic side. There’s an old saying that I have heard many times…” when the student is ready…the teacher will appear”. And so it was with me. When I was just about ready to pack it in, I discovered Tony Sweet and Arthur Morris, who gave me a new meaning and a new direction to my photography.

What do you think is the most important component to producing great results? (camera, lens, light, editing, location, artistic vision, etc.) 

Cameras, lenses, lighting, and all the technical things are important…but for me, artistic vision is the most important. Learning to use the tools of your trade to achieve your vision is the key. I know too many photographers who have let themselves get bogged down by technology that they have lost their artistic vision in the process. Don’t get me wrong…technology is important…but when it gets in the way of the creative process, you lose something in the end result.

Is there a ritual that you use to get into a creative zone? 

Burnout is something that happens to so many creative people. I almost got out of photography years ago when it became too boring and no longer a challenge.  I managed to find my way again through a lot of soul-searching and discovering what I wanted to do professionally.  The first step was establishing “play days” for myself.  I set aside at least one day a month to do something for myself.  Along the way, I discovered my love of Avian photography and talents which I never realized I had.

What outside (non-photographic) influences (if any) shape your photography? 

For me, that would be my family and especially my wife, who has always supported me unconditionally and encouraged me to achieve goals I never thought were possible. 

What advice would you give someone who just picked up their new camera on how to get started?

Learn the basics of F-Stop, ISO, and Shutter Speed.  Nothing more frustrating than having an artistic vision in your head but you don’t understand the technical means to execute that vision. You have to understand how your camera works.  You are basically holding a small computer in your hands, and today’s digital cameras are more sophisticated than ever. Shoot Raw…!

What is the goal of your photography? (A business, just to share on social media, gateway to adventure, etc.)

For me, it’s always been a business. With our portraits, it was to record important family milestones, which is what I do to this day with my own family. Family portraits have always been important to us as a means of showing the next generations where they came from and what their family history is. As a fine art photographer, my goal is to affect an emotional response from one of my photographs. An image that a prospective client can relate to and then in turn will want to look at that every day on their own wall. I like to think of most of my images as calming or soothing. 

Do you shoot with your editing style in mind, or do you edit based on the shot that you got? 

I always photograph with my style in mind. I try to keep my images as original as possible without a lot of editing past basic exposure adjustments.

Do you prefer to photograph alone or in a group? 

I’ve done both and they both have their advantages. In a group situation, you have the advantage of different photographers with varying levels of experience that you can feed off of and learn from. On my own, I tend to just get lost in the moment of what Mother Nature has planned for me that particular day. 

How do you feel like social media has changed photography and do you think it’s a good or bad thing?

I spent my life in photography and have seen many trends come and go.  We use social media to connect with friends across the country, and it’s a great source of education and help.  BUT…you have to be very careful of who you choose to listen to and if they have the expertise to evaluate your work.  Overall, I think social media has watered down “the craft of photography,” leading many to believe their work is stellar based on the number of “likes” from their family and friends. 

What is the best way for photographers to network? 

Networking for me in photography started with a local camera club, and then I got very involved with the Maryland Professional Photographers Association, the Professional Photographers of America (PPA), and the American Society of Photography (ASP). My wife and I are currently members of the Jacksonville Professional Photographers Guild.  Networking is important for education and growth.  I would not be the photographer I am today without such organizations as these.  They provided me the opportunity to tap into talents I never knew existed.

Do you enjoy books? If so, is there any specific genre? 

Not a big book reader. Just never seem to have the time.

What is your favorite photographic accomplishment? 

It’s tough to point out just one.  As a member of PPA, I hold the equivalent of 14 Masters’s Degrees.  As a member of ASP, I hold a Fellowship Degree. To date, only some 110 photographers worldwide have earned this elite degree which requires a thesis and a portfolio of 25 images to support your thesis. Here’s the link to my thesis and portfolio… Just click on the ASP Fellowship tab on the right-hand menu.

If you had a question you would like to ask another photographer, what would it be? 

“Why are you out here on the beach in the middle of the day in harsh sunlight trying to take portraits???”  One of my pet peeves since the quality of light will determine the quality of your images!  This goes for traditional portraiture as well as Nature photography.  If you want great images, you have to get up early or stay late…

What’s the best thing for you about living on the First Coast? 

Just not having to deal with the cold, snow, and ice that we dealt with while living in Maryland. That, and there is always something to photograph here and another sunrise to chase every morning.

Is there anything else that you want to tell everyone? 

Whether photography for you is a business or a hobby…the main goal is to have fun and do what you are passionate about.

How can we see your work? 

website: (Campanellie’s Fine Art)
FB: Joe Campanellie

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