Here's an interview with ardent traveler and photographer Molly Seeling, the woman behind Cedar House Photography.
Tell us about yourself, and how you became involved in photography.
My love of travel was initially what got me interested in photography. I started out shooting in high school on an old film Pentax and dreamed of traveling to far-off places and photographing interesting people. Now, I live in Boulder, CO most of the year with my wonderful husband and three-legged dog. I specialize in senior girls + editorial photography and still try to travel as much as possible :)
Describe your photographic style and aesthetics.
For all my clients, I strive to create magazine-style images, or images that feel like stills pulled from a movie. That being said, my style really is constantly changing. I’m kind of a chameleon – especially with my senior girls, I try to tailor each session to their personalities and styles. A girl who is more conservative with a simpler taste in fashion is going to call for a different location, different posing, and slightly different edits than a girl who’s a colorful, creative, bohemian free spirit. I love working with all types of people and personalities, and one of my goals with each session is to create images that make my girls looks their absolute best, but still entirely like themselves, so each session is different. No matter what, I never want to over-edit, and I never want the retouching to call attention to itself. I am super intentional about seeking out or creating that lovely, flattering light – whether it’s clean and simple or more dramatic and moody, depending on the personality of the client and what the styling calls for.
How did you learn about the Petzval lens?
I read an article online about the Petzval Kickstarter – I don’t remember which article. By the time I heard about it, the Kickstarter had already ended, and I was so bummed that I hadn’t come across it sooner, but I was able to find someone on Ebay who had both the Nikon mount and the Canon mount, and only needed the Nikon one.
What is so special about the lens and why do you like it?
There is so much that I love about the Petzval. First of all, just the quality and aesthetics of the lens itself – whenever I pull it out of my bag, clients’s jaws drop. It feels really solid and just looks really beautiful and magical. It’s delightful. I love the dreamy, surreal quality of the images it produces, and shooting wide open can create some awesome lens flare, too. It’s a really fun thing to be able to offer my clients.
I recently did a shoot with some of my high school senior clients, loosely based on the children’s book “Where the Wild Things Are”. I’ve been wanting to do this shoot for months – I wanted to put something together that was youthful and fun, while still being surreal and eerie and sort of dark, and I knew the Petzval would be just perfect to get those vibes across for this shoot. I used a combination of the Petzval and the 70-200 2.8. I pieced most of the costumes together from Etsy and Ebay and made other parts myself, like the crown that “Max” is wearing, and then we built a tree fort in the woods by my house. The girls and I had so much fun!
You split your time between Boulder and an old gypsy motor home driving along the west coast. Tell us more about it, and how this adds a plus to your work.
Most of the year, we live in a house up in the forest a few miles west of Boulder. Last fall, we bought an old RV and completely renovated the inside – wood floors, colorfully painted walls, lots of Turkish pillows and rugs, installed solar panels on the roof. For months, we would work all day and then spend late nights ripping out terrible ‘80s wallpaper and repainting the inside of the RV by the light of a camping lantern to get it ready for the road. Then, from January through March, we spent three months cruising up and down the California coast, and totally fell in love with life on the road. My husband works remotely, so as long as we had internet, we’re good to go! We plan to do this again every winter, hopefully January through April or so when the Colorado winters are the harshest. It was incredibly refreshing for me to be able to shoot in new amazing places and to be able to spend lots of time outside, breathe the fresh air, and spend time under the stars, when I’m usually cooped up because of the weather. I was able to reconnect with lots of old friends and meet and shoot with so many new, creative, wonderful people. This year I hope to shoot even more portraits in new places while we’re on the road.
Any advice for those who are just starting to use this lens?
With the manual focus knob, and the increased focus falloff of the Petzval, it can be a little tricky to make sure that your focus is accurate and where you want it to be. I like to use the live preview mode and then zoom way in on the detail that’s the most important – usually my subject’s eyelashes – and then make tiny adjustments with the focus knob to make sure that my subject is sharp.
What are your next projects?
I have several fun personal projects coming up in the near future, and I will definitely be incorporating the Petzval in all of them. Personal projects keep me from getting stuck in a creative rut and also help show clients a wider range of all of the creative things we could do with their portraits. Even though personal projects are usually unpaid, I’ve ended up booking a lot of work from them afterwards – people see a styled shoot and want something similar, or it gets them thinking more creatively about what they want. I don’t like to get too much into the specific details of the projects before I actually shoot them – I feel like it almost jinxes it for some reason. But I do have tons of fun stuff coming up soon!