Westbrook resident James O’Reilly, 41, has been selling his photographs for more than two years. For the past two months, O’Reilly’s photographs, which include shots of Westbrook, were on display at Freaky Bean Coffee Company on Main Street. Now, they can be viewed on his Web site, jimoreillyphoto.com. On Tuesday, O’Reilly sat down with the American Journal to talk about why he got into photography, what he likes taking pictures of and where he would like to travel with his camera.

Q: How did you get into photography?

A: I started doing photography as a hobby when I was very young – 10 or 12. It’s always been at the hobby level. A repetitive strain injury to both my arms from being on a computer all day took me out of normal work about two and a half years ago, and that led me to looking at it as a potential source of income. Many of my normal creative pursuits I could no longer do. I was unable to write. I couldn’t play the guitar. One of the few things I was still able to do was my photography.

Q: What subject matter do you like photographing most?

A: I definitely can’t deny that I really like nature and landscapes, whether it be wildlife or just some scenic landscape. I don’t limit myself to saying I’m a landscape photographer. I don’t put any limits on what I will do. I love working in my studio doing unusual still-lifes that I just dream up. I just get these ideas and follow through. I don’t try to fill any particular market niche.

Q: Has Westbrook proven to be a decent backdrop for your pictures?

A: It kind of has been, contrary to what I might have expected. I’ll just drive around or go on long walks and find situations I happen upon. It’s just a function of the fact that I live here. What I’ve learned is that, wherever you are, you can hunt out interesting subject matter, which isn’t to say I don’t like going to faraway places to take pictures.

Q: What are some places you’ve traveled to take pictures?

A: Some in just the past year are England and Scotland. I just got back from a trip to Montreal, which I’d never been to before. I love going to Baxter State Park. It’s a great spot for the nature subject matter.

Q: Are there any particular places you’d like to travel to take pictures?

A: There’s a lot of places. I’ve never been to the Grand Canyon. I want to go there. I’d like to go to some South American destinations, like Peru, and any destinations in the European continent. Right now, the American dollar doesn’t stretch very far in those places, so I’m not in any hurry to get there. British Columbia is another one, and Vancouver.

Q: Is there anything you look for in a place that makes you want to take pictures of it?

A: I’m not necessarily looking for anything specific, but one of the things I’m frequently motivated by is weather – when there’s lots of crazy clouds and impending thunderstorms. In terms of local photography, when I see lots of big clouds moving in, that’s when I’ll start looking around for things to shoot. Finding the spot isn’t always as easy. I’ve had some good opportunities recently that have worked out, but I’ve also found myself chasing my tail trying to find the spot and not succeeding. Another thing I’ve been finding interesting lately is the moon. I’ve downloaded some charts. I’m interested in capturing landscapes or cityscapes that incorporate the moon in its various stages. I’ve been spending a lot of time paying attention to where the moon is going to be.

Q: What do you hope people looking at your photographs will get out of them?

A: Probably like a lot of photographers, I hope they will feel something of the same thing I felt standing there and seeing the image – that whatever caused me to take that picture is conveyed.

Q: What advice can you give an amateur photographer trying to capture a landscape?

A: It helps to do it a lot and take a lot of pictures. It also helps to read photography magazines and books. Learning from professionals can help save you a lot of trial and error. Some of the things that make a great photograph probably can’t be taught, but I think a lot can.

Q: Do you enhance your pictures after you take them?

A: I switched to digital about a year ago, and all digital images need a little doctoring. You often need to adjust the contrast and saturation and the sharpness. Beyond that, it’s just your taste, if you want to see certain colors a little more or a little less. I’m trying for things to be not that different from how I saw it.

Q: How did you end up doing a show at Freaky Bean and where do you plan to show your photographs next?

A: I’ve been talking to a number of places in Portland. I just put my name in at the Freaky Bean and one of the managers contacted me. I’ve sold some pieces, which is nice, and some people e-mail me and inquire. It’s been a good thing.

James O’Reilly stands in front of one of his photographs of Westbrook hanging at Freaky Bean Coffee Company on Main Street.


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