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Break Time at Bruneau Dunes

Bruneau sand dunes

Bruneau Sand Dunes

Sometimes it is nice to just sit back and chill. I have realized that it is a necessity occasionally. Life moves way to fast and will get us down if we don’t take time for ourselves. It is refreshing.

Last month I had a chance to do just that. My wife and I took a weekend and headed out with no plan in mind. I did throw in my camera, but had no intentions or expectations. We just drove. We talked. No kids or responsibilities for a couple of days. It was wonderful. I returned with a renewed spirit and zest for life. It made me a better person and a better artist.

We drove southeast and, as the sun was nearing the horizon we came to Mountain Home, which is not far from Bruneau Dunes State Park. Christeena had never been there, so we decided to stop. It is reported that the taller dune is the tallest single-structured sand dune in North America, rising approximately 470 feet above the lake at its base. We arrived as the sun hit the horizon, so we did not have time to really look and seriously photograph, so we just walked around in the sand enjoyed the view. We had a great time!

Simplicity in Composition

Arches National Park

First Light, Arches National Park

One of the hardest principles of good composition to teach is that of simplicity. Elimination of everything in the frame that does not enhance the image creates a composition that will have much more power and impact on the viewer. Slowing down is the key. In today’s world, we are so used to multi-tasking that slowing down and simplifying anything is against our nature, yet doing so, I have found, allows me to enjoy life so much more. I see differently when I take the time. My vision becomes more clear. My photographs become more powerful.

This is an image that I made while at Arches National Park recently. I had hiked in to Landscape Arch in the dark in order to be there for sunrise. As the sky grew lighter, I turned around and this is what I saw. It was not what I had come for, but was a pleasant surprise. These four plants, catching the first rays of morning light as they grew out of solid rock were a better composition and much more powerful and meaningful than the arch I had come to photograph. So many times I have hit my own “Brick Wall” and wanted to give up, but persevering, stretching and growing, I was able to overcome and move forward, much like these plants in this sandstone environment. There are many images in nature that when simplified, can relate to our own lives. Parallel meanings are often hid behind confusion, that when we slow down, become observant and eliminate the excess, we will find. When we do, our art becomes powerful.

Foggy Morning, Bandon, Oregon


Shoreline at Bandon, Oregon

This happens to be one of my favorite images that I have made along the Oregon Coast. It was a cool, breezy morning and the marine layer was thick, which meant that I would have no dramatic sky. On the coast that is not unusual. I really like what happens here, though. The fog allows for the ocean to appear to vanish into the sky, creating a vastness that otherwise may not be apparent. The thick fog and bluish color of the image helps in creating a coolness, resembling my feelings as I photographed. My images are always about my feelings. It may be what I see, but even more about how I see and what I feel. This particular morning I was cold and wet as I walked the beach in search of an image. I knew, as I walked around the rocks to this location, that I had found what I was looking for. I must have spent 30 minutes or more just watching and dodging the waves as they rushed ashore, finding the correct angle for the composition that said what I wanted and timing the exposure to capture the motion of the water, creating an image resembling the feelings inside of me. When everything comes together as it did here, I am amazed at what can happen.

Photography is really not about the final image, it is about the experience, living the experience and then sharing it through the photographs created.

Living Life

Turret Arch through the North Window

Photography has been a major aspect of my life for a long time. I took photography classes in high school. I studied photography in college, receiving a BFA with a photography emphasis from Utah State University. I have worked as a custom printer, owned my own high end portrait studio for nearly 20 years and now teach photography for a living while pursuing my own fine-art photography passion. As far as a career field, it is all I know.

Arising early in the morning, long before most have even considered rolling out of bed, in order to be at a predetermined location to witness and photograph in the sweet light of sunrise is not a sacrifice for me, it is an opportunity! On my most recent trip to Moab, Utah, it was not uncommon to leave the hotel at 5:00 AM, drive to a destination and hike in the predawn darkness to get where I needed to be for the sunrise. The brisk, early Spring temperatures were quite refreshing. The lack of crowds that fill the parks during the daytime hours was wonderful. Working alone gives plenty of time for reflection and renewal of spirit. On occasion I would meet one or two others searching for the same thing as me. The morning I photographed Turret Arch was one of those occasions. I got a little late of a start that morning, so I was in a hurry to get to the North Window. While carrying nearly 40 pounds of gear, I rushed up the trail, realizing then just how out of shape I was in. I went through the arch and then began to scramble up the rock to a small ledge that allowed me this view of Turret Arch. I was the second photographer in search of that location, and thankfully the one already there was able to direct me to the easiest route up the rock. We shared a very pleasant morning and witnessed a wonderful sunrise. I continued photographing in the area for about an hour, then as the light became harsher I returned to the hotel in time for breakfast with my family.

Following breakfast, I spent the day with my wife and kids enjoying the incredible scenery in the area. We visited the National parks in the area together during the day, hiking in to several arches, picnicking together for lunch and then finding locations to view and photograph the sunset together in the evening. There really is no better life that I could imagine. Family, photography and nature. Life is good!

Long Exposures

Sea of Mist

Sea of Mist

I have often said that my favorite time to photograph is just after the sun has set. Well, often I will shoot long after the sun has gone down. This image is one of those times.

It is interesting to me that as many photographers are packing up and going home, I am often just getting started. I like what happens when long exposures capture objects lit with the delicate light coming from the moon. This photograph which is part of my “Shorelines” portfolio, was taken with nearly a 2 minute exposure. The rocks remain tack sharp while the ocean waves crashing ashore become like a sea of mist, soft and delicate. I love how the moisture on the rocks reflects the moonlight and really do look wet, so wet that you can almost feel it when you view the picture. There is also a gentle color shift that I find quite captivating. When I think of the ocean, this is what I see.

If you are a photographer, try not doing a custom white balance sometime. You might just like it! A custom white balance is meant to neutralize the color, making everything look normal, but who is to decide what normal really is. I photograph in this kind of light because of the color, so why would I want to neutralize it? Keeping my white balance in one of the daylight modes will render the colors more closely to how I visualize them instead of removing the color cast caused by the real color of the light that exists, making them appear “normal,” or neutral.