A Thousand Words: Olympian Delaney Hawley’s Journey in Photography

It takes a keen eye to capture life in a photograph, and that’s just what Olympia photographer Delaney Hawley strives to do. Her work focuses on people, primarily on catching moments with real energy and emotion behind them. Delaney is a lifelong lover of photography, and she even remembers the first moment she knew photography was going to be a huge part of her life. “I was in Montana and we were spreading my grandfather’s ashes,” Delaney recounts. “My grandmother was sitting on a rock and looked really serene and beautiful, and so I took a photo of her. People looked back on it later and were asking, ‘Who took that?’ because they loved it, and it really sparked some joy in me.”

That moment really defined photography for Delaney because she was able to use her creativity to freeze a powerful moment forever. As she grew up, she continued to practice photography for fun and finally had a chance to learn photography in high school as part of a photography class. She attributes a lot of her success to her photography teacher, who became a major source of inspiration to her as she learned the theory and technical side of this medium. This, coupled with her natural love of photography laid the foundation for Delaney to take her photography beyond a hobby.

She has been able to break into portraiture work, which she chose because of the human element that comes with it. Many art forms can be quite solitary, but photography and portrait work especially allow for a lot of interaction. Delaney really enjoys connecting with others and collaborating on ideas, so getting to know her photoshoot subjects has made portraiture even more enjoyable.

A self-portrait of Delaney Hawley, poised and pink-haired! Photo credit: Delaney Hawley

In addition to standard portrait work, she has also been able to get involved with the local music community by photographing musicians. This has become her favorite part of photography because of how influential music has been in her life. “I love the inspiration music gives me,” Delaney says, “like a line in a song will make me think, ‘Oh, I want to capture that!’”

Kayla Eyles served as a subject for this creative photo shoot. The shoot was done at a local field in the Boston Harbor area in August 2020. Photo credit: Delaney Hawley

Music has driven her photography even from an early age, so having the chance to be a part of the local music community has been an added bonus to her photography. Delaney recently became the primary photographer for local band Winehouse, where she shoots anything from album pictures to photos for their social media. Her favorite work involves photographing the band during shows because of the energy that it brings. “I love movement and the challenge of capturing a perfect moment is really hard, and I like that,” Delaney says about shooting live shows. “It’s not just a person standing still. It’s like an actual moment in time.”

Winehouse guitarist Josh Hill performing at Winehouse’s Debut EP release show. The show was in February 2020 at The Black Box in Olympia, WA.
Photo credit: Delaney Hawley

One of her favorite aspects of working with Winehouse is their mission to connect music to people in Olympia. By getting involved locally, Delaney has been able to connect with a wide array of people in the art community. “The community of people I work with all know each other, so it’s cool to work with a group of cool people that all have the same goals,” she says. Doing photography in Olympia has given her an opportunity to really thrive in the community, and she hopes to be able to return to this kind of connecting and networking more once the pandemic has passed.

A stunning black and white creative shoot featuring Olivia Kleven. The shoot was done at Sculpture Park in Seattle, WA in January 2020.
Photo credit: Delaney Hawley

In the meantime, she has been continuing to work on her own projects and is looking hopefully to the future. Photography has been a big light in Delaney’s life, and she encourages people looking to get into it to really be patient with themselves. “Everybody thinks it comes from a sheer plain talent right out the gate,” she says. “It’s a skill that you have to practice like any other form of art. Just keep practicing. It just takes time and understanding your camera!” Delaney currently shoots with a Canon 5D Mark IV and has taken a lot of time to properly understand its mechanics over the years. She states that this is investment of time is much more important than having the best equipment possible. Having the most expensive camera doesn’t mean someone can immediately shoot amazing work, so starting smaller and really taking time to learn the ins and outs of a beginner camera will be much more purposeful early on. Delaney says that she really only looks at upgrading her camera when she has outgrown what it can do, which often takes longer than people might think.

Sarah-Gabrielle Ryan struck a noteworthy pose for a creative shoot in Seattle. This was taken in Sculpture Park in January 2018. Photo credit: Delaney Hawley

Finally, she notes that aside from learning the equipment, the real difference isn’t really in what you use at all. “The camera that you have is the best camera, because it’s not the camera, it’s you.” She emphasizes that the desire and commitment is going to set you apart, and if you pour your passion and energy into something the way she has, you can find a lot of success in it too. For inspiration or to simply see more of her amazing work, follow Delaney on Instagram @delaneyhawley or check out the Delaney Hawley website.

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