Blossoming Through the Lens: Meet Susannah Herndon Peddie

By Wellness360 Magazine
Susannah Herndon Peddie

What began as a small hobby has turned into a huge passion for local photographer Susannah Herndon Peddie. From starting with just a point-and-shoot digital camera years ago, find out how she has developed an amazing eye for art, nature photography and even clothing design!

What inspired you to pick up a camera and start taking photos?

My husband and I took a trip to Bali, Cambodia, India, Turkey, and France 15 years ago. I was nervous about going to Cambodia and therefore lacked enthusiasm about going. My husband knew I loved art and creativity, so he got me a point-and- shoot digital camera and said to look at the scenery as art. I did just that, and absolutely loved taking photographs.

Later that summer, I used credit card points to buy an SLR camera. For the first few years, I used the fully automated settings. The auto settings were great until I signed up for a natural light nature photography workshop at Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, FL, and our shooting started at 6:30 a.m. My flash kept popping up and I panicked since it was a natural light class. One of the other participants came by and tried to help me, and I felt like he was speaking a foreign language. I played with one setting that weekend, the aperture setting, and got some of my favorite pictures to this day. I learned about one setting per year, and it was usually by accident. Another photographer friend taught me about F-stops and how you adjust to have a narrow or wide focus. It took me seven years to learn all the manual settings that I normally use, and I can now teach anyone all they need to know!

I tend to get very into my hobbies, so I started having art shows and putting art in restaurants.

I got asked to do solo exhibits at Bok Tower Gardens, the Matheson Museum, Gateway Bank and more. I also worked with the Harn Museum to make an exhibit for their Camellia Court Cafe. I have a grid of 40 mental prints on one wall and six other camellias around the Cafe. I very much wanted to make my living selling art, but quickly learned the meaning of the term “starving artist.” I realized that I would need to keep my photograph as a hobby, and if I sold things, it would be extra. I mainly sell art to hospitals, offices, and restaurants, but also to individuals.

Another foray from photography was designing clothing using Photoshop to make digital collages with elements of my photographs and to print those designs on fabrics. I love nature and photography gives me a reason to look for beauty everywhere I go. I love sharing my photography with others as I feel like it brings the outdoors indoors. Art is so important for people’s well-being, and I love capturing the beauty of nature.

How long have you been taking photos?

I have been taking photographs for 15 years.

What do you like most about photography?

I love how I automatically have a mindset to look for beauty when I’m taking pictures. Looking for beauty becomes intentional and feels like my own form of meditation.

What has been the hardest learning curve with photography?

My biggest, huge hurdle was learning how to use the camera. I could have worn a dunce-cap for the first seven years. Luckily I knew about composition from taking art classes throughout my life. People used to approach me at my art shows and exhibits, and would ask how I knew what to photograph- they knew exactly how to use their cameras, but they didn’t know how to capture a scene (to make it appealing and interesting). I gave composition pointers to them, and they gave mechanical pointers to me. Some of those people bought my coffee table books of photographs in order to study the compositions.

What type of camera do you use? Is there any other equipment you can’t live without?

I use a Canon EOS 5D. The lenses that I could not live without are my 100mm macro lens (for floral close-ups), my EF 24-70mm 1:2.8 (for scenery), and my EF 70-200mm 1:28 (for wildlife).

Who is your inspiration?

Mother Nature is my inspiration. Without beautiful nature, I would have nothing to photograph.

How has photography helped in your career?

I have used my photographs to decorate every single one of my rental properties. I was able to add a personal touch to each rental property. My goal with each property is to make them cheerful (especially if a family is staying due to health reasons).

Do you have a “photography bucket list” of things, places or people you want to photograph one day?

I would love to travel around Asia again soon. The temples, colors, traditions, patterns and everything else are amazing. The last time I traveled to Asia was when I went to Cambodia, Bali and India was with my point-and-shoot. I had the best time and I think I would thoroughly enjoy going back to those places and many more.

Where are your favorite Alachua County places to photograph?

I have two favorite places: Kanapaha Gardens and Sweetwater Wetlands Preserve. I love Kanapaha gardens for flowers and scenic pictures, and I love Sweetwater Wetlands Preserve for the wildlife.

What advice would you give someone who wants to start a photography hobby and what equipment would you suggest they get?

I would tell budding photographers to learn one camera setting at a time starting with Aperture Priority. Master that setting and then learn another… then master the next setting, and then learn another. If you master each setting, then your mind will know instinctively how to make all the adjustments for the perfect shot.

What inspired you to put your photos on clothing? Tell us about that and the process?.

I love taking pictures of single flowers and putting them on solid black or solid white photographs. I had a vision in my head of an off-to-the-side large floral print dress with the center of the flower cinching the waist. I shared a dress template on Facebook, and I got so many comments from people asking where they could get the dress. I didn’t know that I could get custom fabric prints, and most-importantly didn’t know how to sew. A friend, Kathryn Rush, commented that she had found someone who can print custom fabric or print on existing clothing. It took me five months to find a pre-made dress that would absorb the ink and not fade, but nothing was perfect. I then decided I would have to custom-make my own dresses and then send them to the printer to directly print on. I found several seamstresses online who could help me. I had to order rolls of fabric, send the rolls to the seamstress, the seamstress had to send the dresses back to me, I had to send the dresses and print files to the printer, and she had to send them back to me. The problem with this method was that it took a lot of time, and the print quality was not the best. I then remembered local clothing designer Jacquelyn Brooks and went to her shop. She made a few boat neck dresses for me. While there, I saw a kimono-style dress and had an idea. They were perfect for printing, so I ordered a few and they worked. I then had a sale at the Children’s Home Society Thrift Shop, and the momentum with the clothing started. Kathryn then told me about a printer who could print on rolled fabric (meaning that the clothing could be made after it was printed, not before, which would eliminate all white lines). Jacquelyn and I decided to team up as Strawberry Blonde Clothing (she was the blonde and I was the strawberry). We started with four fabric prints. We collaborated to come up with new fabric designs, using my photographs as the basis, and Jacquelyn designed new dress patterns each season. I had so much fun coming up with quirky prints, and we designed creative classy and elegant prints as well. I miss working with Jacquelyn. She learned how to make the designs and can still make Strawberry Blonde Clothing for anyone who still wants fun, wrinkle-free and fade-free pieces of clothing.



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