The Style Spotlight: Tara Miller
Capturing a moment is more than what we see behind the lens of the camera. As one photographer proves, it’s as much what we feel and what we want to bring forward that defines our work. In this installment of Style Spotlight, we sat down with the award-winning and legally-blind landscape photographer Tara Miller to talk about her journey. From her early roots in the medium, to her unique process and style, we discussed everything that goes into her breathtaking artwork.
“I was born totally blind, and my parents didn’t realize I couldn’t see until I hit my head when I fell backward at one year old. When my parents took me to the hospital, the doctors noticed I didn’t follow the light and discovered I had congenital cataracts that were removed from both eyes,” she explained. Although the surgery only gave her partial vision, it was enough to help her father with his landscape paintings. Using her father’s camera, Tara would capture landscapes for him to use as reference, which became a passion of hers until her sight worsened and she could no longer see the buttons on the camera. Her love for photography had to be put on hold for many years until, in 2008, her husband decided to pursue professional photography.
It was this career change that brought Lightroom into her life. She remembers vividly, “With skepticism I sat down and for the first time in my life, I got to see one of my images larger than the typical 4×6 print. It was a very emotional moment, to say the least, and then in the next five minutes my world got turned upside down,” she continued, “I think I spent about 10 minutes just clicking around the image in awe of things I have never seen before.”
With the power to pursue her passion within her grasp again, she had a second chance at photography. She’s worked in several fields commercially, but landscape photography has been where her unique style has earned her notoriety and critical acclaim.
Finding your style
Part of what makes Tara’s photography stand out is its vivid color schemes. While it’s the result of the editing power she has in Lightroom, the inspiration comes from her desire to show others how she sees the world. “I discovered about 8 years ago I can see ultraviolet. That is why, when I edit my images, I love editing with lots of vibrancy because that is the way I saw it,” she explained. “Like a dog that has lost its back legs and has to use wheels to get around, they struggle at first, and then they adapt. Soon, that is just normal life for them. Life is too short to let the little things slow you down, so just enjoy the best normal you know.”
When asked where she pulls inspiration from, she noted her affinity for the outdoors. “I would describe myself as an explorer. I love to travel around and photograph the world, but I also draw inspiration from our local parks and traveling with my family down the dusty gravel farm roads and capturing the breathtaking sunsets that we are lucky enough to have in Manitoba, Canada.”
Style in focus
Like most photographers, Tara has a lot of setup to capture her striking landscape photography. “For my commercial work, it is very stoic and planned out based on the look the client is going for, typically it involves about four strobe lights, sometimes a tripod and for most clients, we will tether live to Lightroom so the client can see the raw image and offer suggestions,” she said.
Once she has her equipment in place, it’s all about repetition, she explains, “I think of the different angles that I want to capture or the final image that I think I want to achieve. And, if I really love the scenery, I may spend 10 to 15 minutes in a 5-foot radius—just trying different combinations of settings, lenses, with a tripod and shamelessly crawling on the ground. I hate leaving an area thinking I wish I had shot it another way.”
Lightroom in style
Part of what separates Tara’s work from other photographers can’t be captured in a tutorial. By her doctor’s estimates, she only has 3% vision in her left eye and light perception in her right. So when she pulls her work into Lightroom at a larger scale, it’s the first time she’s able to see her photographs. Only by using a combination of a full-sized screen and Lightroom’s zoom feature is she able to check if her photos are in focus and begin her unique process of bringing her selections to life.
When asked what she uses as her guide in post-production, she informed us she brings all her senses into the shot, “Unless I am on the side of a busy highway, I am tuned in to the environment, the sounds, the smells, the feeling of the wind blowing on my face or the sun warming my skin.”
Bringing her experiences to life relies on the manipulation of two primary elements: clarity and light. Using dehaze, dodge, burn, and variations in contrast, she’s able to separate the foreground and background of her landscapes to create a tangible feeling of depth—even in shots where the natural light would cause natural features to blend together.
To demonstrate her process, she let us observe one of her edits and explains how each tool comes into play.
The love of photography
As a final question, we asked Tara what keeps her loving her craft. To her, It’s a way to embrace what she’s been given, “Photography allows me to create memories for myself that I can hold onto in my head and hopefully others will enjoy my images as well,” she said. Adding, “It gives me great self-esteem knowing that I can still do my job as a professional commercial photographer even without being able to see the images on the camera.”