Friday, June 14, 2013

Off the Beaten Track: Danita Cahill, Western Photographer

We take great pleasure in welcoming the talented and lovely Danita Cahill who is a freelance photographer and writer specializing in all things western. 

Alli, thanks for having me today. What an honor!

How old were you when you got your first camera?

I got my first little Kodak point and shoot for my 10th birthday.

When did you start specializing in western photography?

I started “specializing” in western and rural images right away. My favorite subjects to snap photos of were the animals on our farm. 

Do you have a western background?

I’ve lived my entire life in the Pacific NW, all but my first two years in Western Oregon. Most of my life has been spent living in the country. My husband and I and our two sons live on five acres. We keep lots of animals, including two dogs, a horse and a small herd of alpacas.  I still love shooting photos of animals – mine and those belonging to others.

When I was nine, my dad hauled home a truck full of ponies. I bawled with joy. There was nothing I wanted more than a horse – and Shetland ponies fit the bill just fine! I’ve had at least one horse in my life pretty much ever since. My mare Koko, who I’ve had since she was three, just had her 15th birthday.
I rode Koko for over six years as a volunteer deputy with the Linn County Sheriff’s Mounted Posse. Together she and I did armed security duty (carrying revolvers in leather holsters, true old cowboy style), appeared in parades, did community-service functions, and most importantly, did wilderness search and rescue on horseback. 

What sort of photography do you do and how did you get started professionally?

I’ll answer the latter part of the question first. I’ve worked freelance and on staff for a dozen different newspapers over the past 30 years. I started out as a writer and sort of fell into the photography part of the program. When I started writing human-interest pieces, the editors wanted photos to illustrate the stories.

I’m also a photographer for Farm & Ranch Living, a national magazine, and a feature writer and photographer for Ruralite magazine, which is a regional. Sometimes my photos appear in Country and Country Living magazines.

Besides the newspaper and magazine work I also occasionally do wedding photography, and family and senior portraits. One summer I took photos of kids riding bulls for the riders’ parents and grandparents. (Please forgive the writing across the photos. I’ve had some trouble with photo pirating). Recently I did a dog photo shoot for a dog trainer’s website. 

Who is the pretty blond model in so many of your shots?

Ha! Thanks! That’s my daughter, Alyssa. She’s one of my favorite models. She’s a real cowgirl – a horse trainer, barrel racer and a past bullrider. Her husband, Kirk rides broncs. 

To see more of my photography, please check out my website:
And my miracles blog:
Follow me on Twitter: @DanitaCahill.
Thanks again Alli, this has been a lot of fun!

A couple of parting questions for the photographer inside your readers – how old were you when you got your first camera? And what is your favorite subject to photograph? 


  1. I made my first camera in photography club when I was in junior high. I love to photograph nature. Great post and photos!

    1. Thanks Paty! A pinhole camera? I did that in Jr. High, too. Took a photo of my mom's face superimposed over a bouquet of flowers. It was fun, wasn't it?

  2. I absolutely love your photos, Danita! My dad put himself through college photographing rodeos, and I love some of his old black and whites. I take a lot of nature photos, but could never pretend to know what I'm doing.

    1. Thanks Jenni! I'm sure you're better than you give yourself credit for. I'm betting you inherited your dad's eye.

  3. Great photos! I can't take a decent photo to save my life. I had to take photography while attending design school, and in those days it was the old fashioned way. We had to develop our own film and prints. I learned a lot about lens effects and double exposures, but truthfully, I'd much rather play with photo in photoshop. :)

    1. Thanks Karen! Anymore half the finished product is often attributed to the photographer's skill in Photoshop!

  4. A lot of my Facebook friends have responded to the questions - how old were you when you got your first camera and what do you most like to take photos of. I'll share their answers with you here.

    Shelly said, "10. My house."

    Wes said, "I was 16 when I picked up my first SLR, and love to shoot the history of old cemeteries."

    Belinda said, " kids....but I also like nature."

  5. More Facebook shares:

    Jessica said, "Must have been 10 or 11. Sports and family and if the two are combined even better."

    Ken said, "I was 18, in the Navy, and had a strong draw to black and white photography. Did my own developing and printing when I could and had an attraction for photographing animals in their natural environment."

  6. And yet more Facebook shares:

    Mary says, "2nd grade when I received my 1st Kodak instamatic. Moon, rocks. plants, water, and cats seem to my favorite subjects."

    Amy says, "I got a 110 when I was 7 and a 35 mm when I was about 12. And for the next 20 years I was the worst photographer ever. But lessons from my husband have made me competent. I now take a lot of pictures of my cat with my Canon 5D ... and weddings."

    Jennie says, "I was 7, and my animals of course!"

  7. September on Facebook said, "I was in grade school. Mom got me what she thought was a toy camera for $1.99. When I looked inside I could see it had everything it needed to work but it took me awhile to convince Mom, and get her to buy some film for me. I haven't been doing any photography for quite awhile but I always liked shooting places and people, and I LOVED doing still life."

  8. On Facebook, Allen says, "I was about 11 or12 I didn't get funds for developing and printing and replacement film so I had to be very careful about my film. Most of my pictures were of family."

    Chris says, "Fourth grade for Christmas... A Kodak 110..... The grand babies and landscapes."

  9. I was about 8 and I believe there were many photos of the family dog down at the beach - most of the shots were blurry but I still have the photos. Love your photos, Danita. You have a wonderful eye!

    1. Thanks Alli! It would be a lot of fun to see your family, dog beach shots sometime.

  10. Barbara said, "I was 10 or 11 when my sister bought me a Girl Scout box camera for my birthday. My first subjects were squirrels and birds. Later my baby and family. Now flowers and travel."