Tori Aspen of Roots and Twigs Photography was our March choice for the image of the month, and she is featured here as our webpage banner and also on the Facebook page banner. So who is Tori?  This week I connected with her to learn a little bit more about her.


Tell us a bit about yourself? and  Are you a hobbyist or a pro?

I am a wanderlust soul and have traveled extensively on a shoestring-budget, mostly solo. That said, my family recently put roots down in Northern Colorado for the long haul, after living entirely on the East Coast up until moving. My husband and I are proof that opposites attract; and we are raising a precocious first grade son and a rambunctious preschool-aged daughter, who are also completely different, resulting in fascinating parenting experiments. My daughter and I are both second children, which I believe translates to some pretty “special” qualities. We are both hard-headed, spontaneous, free-spirited daredevils. She’s a ton of fun and I like to think that I can be, too. During these child-rearing years, I am largely (though not entirely) on hiatus from my architecture career, but my full return to it is in the air. Beyond my family and photography, my deepest loves and interests include mountains, flowers, nature in general, national parks, international travel, biking, old time and bluegrass music, sustainability, and smart growth.

I became a hobbyist in 1989, but finally took the leap to “professional” in late 2013. About a year later, my business was shoved to the back burner for more than a year of chaos related to moving across the country, and again – unexpectedly – within our town. I am currently working to re-build my business in my new hometown.


Queen Anne’s Lace:     Macro photography affords the opportunity to observe and learn from nature at a scale we don’t often experience. This was one of my earliest macro shots and, before I took it, I had *no idea* that Queen Anne’s Lace ever (always?) has pink bits. Learning new things about nature is a primary reason I deeply love macro photography.


What will we find in your camera bag?

Right now, my bag contains spare carabiners, lip balm, sunscreen, and snacks for the kids. More interestingly, there’s a seed pack for this fall’s Giant Pumpkin contest. More importantly, my Nikon D750 camera body, Nikon 80-200mm f2.8 lens, and Nikon 55mm f2.8 all manual macro lens are usually with me, but my gear runs much deeper. I have been entirely Team Nikon since I began shooting film SLRs in 1989, and appreciate their backwards and forwards compatibility between lenses and bodies. I do have a few hand-me-down and collectible cameras by other manufacturers, but have never personally used any of them (yet!).


Suleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey:    Film As an Architect, I believe I see buildings and their details a little differently than most photographers. I am deeply drawn to the patterns in this carpet, gate, and light, as well as to the rich red and deep black in this image. I even love the textures of the concrete


Who inspires you?

Margaret Sartorand her husband, Alex Harris. They were steeped in the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University when I met them in 1993. Margaret taught my single college photography course that year, which was my 2nd and last photography course ever. She and Harris produced very direct documentary work in a variety of socio-economic environments, inspiring me to create photography that is impactful and provocative. Their academic pursuits in the area of documentary photography – both in years past and contemporary – also influenced my work and perspective greatly. I don’t recall knowing the first thing about Dorothea Lange’s or Walker Evans’ powerful WPA work prior to Sartor exposing me to them, but it opened my eyes to a whole world of possibilities and standing legacy of documentary photography. In recent years, my work is admittedly mostly tame and “pretty,” with clients and my young children being my primary subjects. Still, Sartor’s lessons inspire me today, and continually alter my approach, and how I envision my future work. I also often think of Sartor when I make decisions regarding grain and contrast in my finished black and white images, and those will be even larger factors when I open up my pending home darkroom! Thank you, Margaret!

Somewhere along the way – most likely in the early-mid 90s – I visited a highly controversial Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit, which included macro flower photographs. Deep down, his work surely inspires my own macro work. For landscapes, Ansel Adams inspires. I doubt the 35mm film and equivalent digital formats I have shot could ever compare to Adams’ film, but I also have no doubt I will forever chase his mastery in landscape photography, even given the same set of tools.He was an expert in light, detail, and finding the best angle for the shot.


.Childhood:     I didn’t even realize until we were outside that my daughter was wearing one of her first, hand-me-down, baby blankets as a cape. That, her sassy boots, and her brother’s balance bike make for a sweet little snapshot of her style and this chapter of our lives.


What inspired you to pick up your camera initially.

My Aunt Margaret (not Sartor!) gave me a Kodak 110 film camera when I was about 8 years old. Four or five years later, I took a photo with it that I fully believed could win a photography contest, for its emotional gravity. I shot regularly through the years, but didn’t take it very seriously until I started shooting 35mm SLRs in 1989 under the guidance of my wonderful high school art teacher. I processed black and white and color work in our dark room, and experimented with techniques such as double and long exposures. Simultaneously, I had a physics professor who was skilled and passionate about photographing things like water splashes, using flash and high shutter speeds. Science, experiments, and darkroom voodoo reeled me, but I connected equally well with people, when behind the lens. I photographed friends and family for fun, but began putting energy into candid street photography and also asking strangers to allow me to take portraits of them. Those interests grew much deeper with documentary, social commentary, and storytelling work under Margaret Sartor’s guidance four years later, when I became truly hooked for life.


Bison Close-up:    They say the best photography gear is what you have with you. The evening I shot this, I had most of my gear with me, but when I unexpectedly encountered this guy (gal?) moving towards my vehicle at a good clip, I had my 300 mm lens attached and no time to switch. I am thankful for that, because it inspired me to take this detail shot that I might not have otherwise considered.


Photoshop or Lightroom? and why that choice?

Both! I began using Photoshop version 1.0 or 2.0 in 1991, but not initially for photography work. I am a relative newbie to Lightroom, having picked it up in Summer 2015. I am still learning, but it has dramatically improved my efficiency and workflow. The majority of my images are now post-processed entirely in Lightroom, but I still take the occasional image into Photoshop, for more specialized edits.


Hardware The colors and textures in this simple composition serve as a reminder that beauty can be found at all scales, in all materials, and in all kinds of places if we just keep an open mind and an open heart.


If you had to choose one area of specialization what would that be and why?

HAD to? My interests are diverse, so this is a Hail Mary answer! If I HAD to choose an area, (today) it would be travelphotography. Travel photography would feed my wanderlust soul, allow for cultural immersion, allow opportunities for impactful documentary work, and – in a perfect world – allow a somewhat flexible schedule and opportunities for my family to tag along, as well. I could also shoot at all scales, from landscapes to macro, as well as nature, wildlife, and people. See what I did there? I inadvertently just bundled all of my work interests into travel photography, hooray!!


Apple, Fresh from the Tree:    I shot this image of my father-in-law, as he peeled an apple, picked right off his tree behind him, for my kids to eat. Where I come from, all the men have a pocket knife at the ready, at all times. They are essential for things like opening gift boxes taped tightly shut, whittling wood for all kinds of purposes, and for this exact need. My grandfather trimmed and peeled many a Granny Smith apple (or were they June apples?) for me when I was a kid, out in his yard, just like this.

To follow Tori, you can click on these links.

Website & Blog    Facebook    Etsy Fine Art Prints    Pinterest    Instagram


Share Six has the theme Water for the month of April.  Head on over to our Facebook page or our Instagram page and share your images for the theme water.  You may be the person whose is chosen as our featured photographer