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Guest Showcase

The World’s Most Creative and Inspiring Photo Adventure Vacations



United States

Jill Merriam joined us in 2012 for back-to-back Photo Workshop Adventures in Cinque Terre and Tuscany, Italy. Jill is a modest, yet incredibly talented photographer and artist, and a pleasure to work with. Her creative use of layers, colors and textures sets her work aside. She is a perfect example of a photographer who can turn an ordinary image into an extraordinary image. Croatia is perhaps next on Jill’s bucket list. It’s always a pleasure to spend time with Jill.

© Jill Merriam  |  La Spezia, Italy  |  Photo Workshop Adventures  |  Nikon D7000  |  16-35mm f2.8  |  f5.6 at 1/125 sec  |  ISO 800

The photo above is titled “Through the Harlot’s Eye”  Perhaps the most fun aspect of a shoot during a photography workshop is the spontaneity of capturing what you see. There is typically very little time for contemplation or planning. Reacting quickly to what draws one’s attention without thinking too hard about it more truly freezes that time. This photograph was taken with a Nikon D7000 in the streets of La Spezia, Italy. She just simply caught my eye, as well as the graffiti and torn, weathered posters. My D800 had not arrived in time for this trip, but two FX lenses did; so I used a slightly unorthodox combo! All images were shot with the D7000 – a few with an 18-200mm DX lens, but most with either my 16-35mm or 28-300mm FX lenses on the DX body. The advantage, since I particularly like to shoot architectural details, was that the 300mm lens became even longer.

“Jill’s magic”  Over the last few years, I have developed a post-processing style that seems particularly conducive to European and Cuban imagery. Initial processing is done in Lightroom (typically lens correction, luminance noise reduction, enhancing blacks, increasing contrast, saturating specific colors). The image is then exported into CS5 Photoshop, and the layering starts! First NIK Software Viveza to enhance the structure and correct contrast in specific areas with control points…then to NIK’s Color Efex Pro 4 where 1, 2, or sometimes 3 very selective effects are built up. Occasionally I’ll tweak things in Photoshop with blending layers, curves, or color saturation, but I don’t use any filters there. Instead I like to enhance the texture of my work, so I use one or more layers of Flypaper Textures (a great company in New Zealand!), adjusting the blending and opacity of these layers in Photoshop. Lastly, I run an action to sharpen the image and add grain so the photograph loses that digital quality. (see more photos below)


Jill Merriam Photography is a subsidiary of SHELL SYSTEMS LTD., a photographic arts and design studio in Richmond, Virginia. Images are printed as limited edition giclees on fine art watercolor paper and canvas. Over the last several years, I’m fortunate to have had a wonderful response to my European and Cuban work and have achieved a number of accomplishments: representation by a few galleries, some group exhibitions, and several awards at the Prix de la Photographie Paris 2009, 2010 and 2011 (three Honorable Mentions and four PX3 Official Selections). Publication of my work includes “FOCUS Fine Art Magazine”, New York (a 20-image Cuba portfolio), “Elaine Fleck’s Catalogue of Contemporary Fine Art”, Toronto, Canada, and the “International Masters of Photography”. Selections from Cuba are being published this Fall.


Why did you choose Photo Workshop Adventures?

Locations, locations, locations! Internet research for a photography workshop traveling to the next two places on my “travel bucket list” led me to Photo Workshop Adventures (PWA). After looking at the PWA website and emailing with Michael, I just knew it was a good “fit”. PWA workshops take you to some of the most fabulous and interesting places in the world. It is truly a complete package which was just what I wanted: primarily for the photography aspect – shooting, camaraderie, learning, sharing, experiencing… – as well as being shown the best spots, enjoying wonderful hotels, and delighting in the culture and cuisine. Michael is professional, unassuming, extremely helpful and supportive of your photographic endeavors, and has a great personality! Now back in my studio, I often “hear” Michael’s voice and remember things he told me on our adventure – his words of advice or encouragement. My favorite one when I’m looking at so many RAW images and am procrastinating on starting to post-process, he simply says, “Just pick one!”

What do you enjoy most about photography?

Beautiful reality. Memories. Capturing moments in time… From local urban views, to the Mediterranean and beautiful villages of Provence, to Venice, Burano, Cinque Terre and Tuscany, and most recently again to Cuba, my work has evolved into an eclectic mix of art and documentary photography. I love to “catch the vibe” in new locations, capturing images spontaneously. Back in my studio, imagery then becomes an artistic rendering of city/land/streetscapes, architectural details, textures, entropy, patina, and “street” portraits. Each photograph is processed individually, uniquely. All are natural light, documentary-style, captured moments (not “staged”)—reality with a twist.

What are your goals and ambitions as a photographer?

No deep philosophical or esoteric goals for me! I simply like to create images that resonate emotionally – that people can enjoy looking at. I am promoting fine art prints for venues including: boutique hotels + loft buildings, resorts/clubs/ bistros/restaurants, hospitals/hospice/assisted living centers, corporate spaces, and private residences; and I continue to process work from my travel adventures. Beyond that, I want to push my creativity further and do have several other projects in the pipeline: (1) a series of square-format graphic/abstract pieces intended for large format printing on canvas, (2) in-studio macro still-life photography, and (3) urban Manchester – industrial land/city/streetscapes, the Richmond district that my loft overlooks. Too many ideas – not enough time!

A complete collection of Jill’s photography can be viewed on her website at JillMerriamphotography.com

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