Fresh Perspective From Female Photographers

The Scout Guide was founded by a photographer, and the development of beautiful images is in our DNA. We’re always exploring the work of local creators and recently spoke with two innovative Boulder-area women – action photographer Emily Sierra and documentary photographer Amelia Ann –  creating fresh perspectives from behind the camera.


DOCUMENTARY | Amelia Armstrong | @ameliaannphoto

TSG: Can you help us understand how documentary photography is different from traditional family photography?

Amelia: Documentary sessions capture a slice of authentic life. The photographer becomes a member of your family as an artistic observer. I want to experience your life as it naturally happens; the chaos and the quiet – to capture relationships only an invested observer can see. A session can be as simple as a bedtime routine or an involved as an annual adventure trip. Practically speaking, a documentary session will involve less prep time than a traditional photography session. There’s a come-as-you-are approach to capturing raw moments.

TSG: How do you build the relationships with your clients that allow you to create these images?

Amelia: If someone is new to documentary photography, they may find “come-as-you-are” to be a little intimidating, or they might be uncertain what activities or moments they want to capture. My process involves an optional pre-session meeting where we discuss what they love about the dynamic of their household’s life. I like sharing stories about my passion for this style of photography, and why I believe these moments of emotion create amazing reflections as the years pass. As for gaining the trust of children, I always start sessions without a camera in hand! I just introduce myself and become a play partner. My camera comes out as the activity naturally unfolds. Deeper trusts develops as clients see what I’m capturing – how the ordinary moments in their days are actually emotionally moving.

Lovely little boy with a pout

TSG: Have you ever been utterly surprised by one of your images, or does one really stand out in your memory?

Amelia: I used to stay with my grandfather in his assisted living facility. I’d simply live his life for a few days with my camera in hand. We’d eat in the dining hall, go on his daily walk, take the shuttle to the grocery store, and play cards with his friends. This time with him enriched my life. I made a portrait of him as we were entering the grocery store; it captures his enduring patience and poise perfectly. I didn’t realize this at the time. The revelation happened months later as I was reflecting on his life, and I love this image.

Grocery portrait by Boulder, Colorado documentary photogrpher

TSG: We have learned that you spend a lot of time thinking about your art. In terms of specific projects, do you have any “high hard goals” you would like to share with us?

Amelia: I often hear how children (mis)pronounce certain words or form the darling sentences; I’m feeling a pull to tell larger family stories that involve video and audio footage. I’d ultimately create for my clients their very own cinematic family movie. I love the idea of multi-year relationships, where I document children as they grow. I also want to apply this passion to Legacy Stories – telling visual stories of the elderly in a way that illustrates who they are, what they believe in, and how they move through their world. I already cannot wait to tell these multigenerational stories.

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ACTION | Emily Sierra | @em.sierra

Road cyclist in the setting sun by Boulder, Colorado action photographer

TSG: Have you always known action photography would be your pursuit? 

Emily: Not really. My interest in photography sort of followed the path of what I enjoyed doing in my free time. So before I started riding bikes, I mostly photographed hiking and camping adventures. When I started mountain biking, I got so hooked on the sport, and in turn got hooked on shooting the sport. Frankly, I just love capturing athletes demonstrating their strength and joy in any active pursuit. 

TSG: There’s a lot of “action” here in Colorado.  Do you specialize in any particular activities or sports? If so, why?  What drew you? 

Emily: There is so much “action” in Colorado, which has made it really exciting to develop as an action sports photographer here. I have definitely zoned in on the cycling community, specifically mountain biking. Shooting a sport that I am personally passionate about is easier in many ways because I understand it, I know what to look for. However, if it’s outdoors and active, I’m excited to photograph it!

Female mountain biker image by Boulder, Colorado action photographer

TSG: As a female action photographer, have you faced any unique challenges as your career has grown? 

Emily: I was 5 months pregnant shooting at Red Bull Rampage in 2021. While I was actually celebrated by those there who knew about my pregnancy, I was determined to keep my “condition” under wraps out of fear that I’d be treated differently. I felt confident and safe scrambling on the ridgelines to get the shot, but I recognize that not everyone feels that way. Obviously this is not a situation that a male action photographer would ever have to face. Honestly, I feel very fortunate to have come into the action photography world at a time when it feels like there’s support to get more women into action sports media in general. I am grateful for those who have helped pave the way for women in sports and sports’ media.

Image of mountain bike jump by Boulder, Colorado action photographer

TSG: You’re a new mom! Is your daughter getting in on the “action” side of your life as well? 

Emily: Oh yes! My little gal is a year old and doesn’t stop moving. This winter we’ve been getting out cross country skiing pretty frequently. She has been such a tremendous sport in her ski chariot while I get to enjoy some always needed time in nature and exercise. This coming year I’m hoping for time in the backcountry together, and maybe even some bikepacking with her! Being able to recreate with her has been such a blessing. 

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