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Gone in a flash

April 20, 2008|By JILLIAN E. KESNER

HAGERSTOWN - Dale Swope's career as a photographer started when he was stationed with the U.S. Army at Fort Sill, Okla., in the 1960s, taking photos for the Army's newspaper.

Now, 40 years later, Swope is bidding farewell to the business, but not to the camera. Swope has retired and sold his business to Mary Pat Kelley, a longtime colleague.

After his stint in the Army, Swope was hired by Potomac Edison as a corporate photographer, taking photos for the company newsletter, advertising and employee recognition. It was in the 1970s that Swope began shooting weddings and portraiture with a friend.

"I enjoyed it," Swope said. "It was different and allowed me to be more creative. I wanted to be a people photographer more than anything else." Swope said his interest in people drove his desire to be a people photographer.

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"I enjoy the interaction of working with people," Swope said. "It's gratifiying that people enjoy what I do."

In 1978, Swope opened Photography by Dale and continued to work at Potomac Edison for the first 10 years.

Since then, Swope has photographed more than 1,000 weddings and has made a name for himself in portrait photography.

Photography by Dale went completely digital five years ago. Swope attributes the transition to Kelley, who brought the company up to speed.

Swope says he was reluctant to make the transition to digital, but he realized it was necessary to keep up with the market.

"I wanted to make sure it was just as good or better than what I was already using," Swope said. "I have a reputation to uphold."

Swope said that many photographers are becoming too dependent on technology.

"Digital photography is converting some photographers into techies instead of artists," Swope said.

Swope said his philosophy on photography is to focus on what makes a good photograph.

"A professional photographer has to be more creative; an artist," Swope said. "The three most important things about taking a photo is composition, lighting and psychology."

Swope had no formal training other than workshops and conventions he attended. He essentially was self-taught.

Kelley has moved the business into her home.

"Without her, we wouldn't be nearly as successful as we have been," Swope said.

Swope said he agreed to stay on and help with any aspects of the transition.

His work with the Miss Maryland Pageant is what put him on the map, Swope said, noting that the pageant gave the business publicity and helped it grow.

Swope said his plans for retirement focus on slowing down, observing that he will stay busy doing something, but not at the same pace.

"I'm 71 years old. I don't have the same stamina," Swope said.

Plans include exploring other interests, such as Civil War history, automobiles and minor league baseball.

Swope said he and his wife, Regina, are big Hagerstown Suns fans and hope to go to as many home games as they can.

Since March 31, Swope has been moving things out of his studio and winding down business affairs.

"It's been a good ride," Swope said. "I can honestly say I never dreaded going to work. Looking back, I wouldn't have done anything differently."

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