Linda Fenton-Mendenhall looks at the world around her from a different angle through the lens of her camera. Fenton-Mendenhall, owner of Cozy Cottage Antiques and Collectables in Seaside and Astoria, developed a deep interest in photography by accident. She started taking photos with her iPhone camera when she had visitors from out of state five years ago. “I had guests and wanted to show them popular Northwest tourist spots,” she says. “I started taking photos and posted them in social media and got a positive response from friends and acquaintances.” Prior to that time, she had only taken what she calls “typical vacation photos.”
Fenton-Mendenhall is from Warrenton and photographs the local Astoria and North Coast area. When asked why she began doing it, she states, “I like a good challenge, so I challenged myself to take one decent landscape photo a day.” She has continued to take photos and to develop herself as a photographer and describes a bit about her hobby and how she captures successful scenic shots.
“I look at a scene in a non-traditional way,” Fenton-Mendenhall says. “For instance, I look for something unusual about a sunset instead of just watching the sun go down on the horizon. Most people leave when the sun has gone down. But some of the best colors appear after the sun has set. I watch to see if something else besides the sunset is happening, whether it might be reflections caused by the event or people watching it. For example, in Seaside one night, everyone was focused on the sunset and looking directly at it, so I looked the opposite direction. I noticed arches from the sun were glowing on the cement cutouts of the boardwalk wall and snapped a shot. I try to think outside the obvious.”
And that is just the advice Fenton-Mendenhall gives those who want to take photos, particularly photos with their phone. “Look at things from a different angle and don’t do the obvious. Watch for opportunities in everyday life, like street scenes, and observe to see what might happen,” she says. It’s important to be ready and to not give up, even when going about everyday activities such as grocery shopping or walking out on the street, she explains.
Timing is also crucial when taking photos, either to catch a subject in action or to get a landscape view that cannot always be seen. For example, Fenton-Mendenhall took one photo after observing a young man doing a back flip on the beach at Fort Stevens State Park. She waited and was ready when he did another flip and managed to capture an image of him upside down on the beach by the Peter Iredale Shipwreck during the sunset.
On another day, she took another photo at the same location of a piece of the Peter Iredale Shipwreck that is only seen every three to five years when the tides expose parts of the ship that are usually buried. She relishes taking advantage of these picture-perfect opportunities.
Fenton-Mendenhall also took a photo at Cannon Beach after a storm. Everyone else had left the beach and missed what she calls the best finale after the storm. But she was ready with her camera in hand to capture the superb moment after the storm when the lighting caught her eye and she captured Haystack Rock, the sky and its reflection in the tide.
In terms of technique, she tends to shoot a scene from an angle rather than dead on. In fact, according to Fenton-Mendenhall, being short of stature has its advantages, as she can shoot pictures from the ground up. She says she is always thinking about how to frame the photo in a different way to give the viewer another perspective.
When asked about how she became popular on social media, Fenton-Mendenhall explains, “People have a connection to this area, having lived here or vacationed here before. It sparks a memory — perhaps from childhood or otherwise — and makes them feel like they are here, back home or where they love to be on the North Coast.“ She feels that her photos represent the area at its best, and this is the reason they receive a positive response.
She has almost 3,000 followers on Facebook, receives an average of 200 likes on many photos and up to 30 shares. In fact, she has had one of her images go viral with over 25,000 views. She says that social media has been good for her personally, as it has allowed her to share her photography.
Fenton-Mendenhall also says she has progressed from her iPhone photo days. She now takes photos with more sophisticated camera equipment, although she hasn’t departed from the iPhone shots entirely. She says the new equipment allows her to take better quality photos that are easier to enlarge than photos from phone cameras.
Fenton-Mendenhall calls herself a semi-professional photographer, as she is now has been retained as the official photographer of the First Saturday Art Walk in Seaside where she photographs both artwork and artists. She also sells calendars and prints of her photos. She has become passionate about photography. “I didn’t realize I had an eye for capturing the beauty around me,” she states.