Painting Photos with Light

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Many artists work closely with the San Francisco Bay and draw inspiration directly from the Bay. Stefanie Atkinson is a professional photographer and creative designer. Stefanie’s Birds in Flight series captures light and movement along the Bay. She creates unique visual imagery for cross platform use in print, mobile, web, television, and video. Her fine art work has been in many group and solo shows and is available for purchase.

How long have you lived in the Bay Area and when did you starting photographing the Bay?

I’ve lived in the Bay Area since 1998. I started photographing around the Bay and estuaries when I moved out to Mill Valley in 2006.

What inspires you and why are you so drawn to the San Francisco Bay?

We are very lucky to be surrounded by water and protected open space here in the Bay area. I have always loved being around, on or in the water. Water and light inspire me and are an integral part of my work.

How would you describe your style of photography?

I would describe my style as naturalistic impressionism. It really stems from my curiosity about the way I see and the way other species and people see. For me it’s really about sharing how we all see differently.

My interest is in capturing in camera — I don’t manipulate the image afterwards. To me, I am painting with light. When I’m capturing the birds I’m playing with time, depth and movement. My finger is not on the button like it’s a trigger.  I’m moving with it. It’s more like the stroke of a brush. It’s like a dance to me. I love having an idea of what I am going to get and then the great mystery that comes with it.

Walk me through a day of shooting out on the Bay. What is your approach and how do you capture images for you Birds in Flight series?

I love waking up very early in the morning so I have time to be out before the sun and people rise. I like to see and hear the birds and animals when they are not affected by us.

I enjoy walking by the Bay. I also sit still, listen and just watch. There is so much going on when I sit quietly with it. Being by the water brings such a sense of peace. I just love seeing how every day is so completely different on the surface of the water. To me, the water is like a mirror – it’s easy to see how everything is constantly moving and changing. I photograph along the way.

Do you have any upcoming projects that you are working on?

Yes, I have a few projects that I am working on right now. They all involve my interest in Biomimicry and Biofeedback. Looking through the lens of how nature solves some of our human challenges is fascinating and offers much to learn, teach and share. There is much to do and I enjoy doing my part in it.

Another one of my projects involves UV light and water. I am photographing around the Bay. It’s very illuminating how much more there is to see and I love learning to see differently as it opens up whole new worlds of possibility and wonder.