on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Finding Your Creative Voice

If you want to work on your art, work on your life

Colleen Miniuk-Sperry

Colleen Miniuk-Sperry fled the grey cubicle walls at Intel Corporation in 2007 to pursue a fulfilling full-time outdoor photography and writing career. Her credits include National Geographic calendars, Arizona Highways, AAA Highroads, National Parks Traveler, and a broad variety of other publications. She has served three times as an Artist-in-Residence with Acadia National Park.

Colleen is putting the final touches on her next book, Going with the Flow, a part-memoir, part adventure travel story on how she paddled her way out of adversity and into happiness on Lake Powell and the Colorado River.”


I never intended to become a full-time outdoor photographer-and once I left my uninspiring software engineering job at Intel Corporation behind in 2007 to do just that, I certainly never believed I had the capacity to be a creative one.

I initially took up photography as creative outlet-a much needed distraction from my stressful corporate job in 2001. As I learned what things like aperture, shutter speed, and ISO were, I often visited places familiar to me, like family properties and previous vacations spots, with my camera in hand. In doing so, I could easily describe what I was seeing and attempt to make a photograph of it. Later, I would compare my visualization with the results: did what I see come out of the camera? Lacking experience and technical expertise, more often than not, the answer was "No."

My photography knowledge expanded over time, and eventually, I began selling my work at local art shows and to local publications just for fun, but with surprising success. So much so, I escaped from the grey cubicles walls of Corporate America a mere six years after picking up photography as a hobby.

When I left my job at Intel, I asked a friend-a professional nature photographer for over 20 years-for advice on improving my chances of selling my photographs to national-level magazines. "Go around to all the icons in the Southwest and photograph them differently," she said.

So that's exactly what I did. I analysed photographs in magazines, calendars, and postcards. If the photograph appeared to be from sunrise, I photographed the same location at sunset. If it was made in summer, I photographed it in winter. If the photograph had been made during the day, I photographed it at night. Over time, I consistently made sellable and published images, but I never truly liked the photographs I was making-not a great way to start off a full-time career! 

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