Q. If you had one specific picture of your own that you would consider your favorite, what would it be and why?
A. My favorite image to date was taken on a foggy November morning. It was freezing cold out and it was the first time I ever went out on my own just to shoot. The sun was burning through the mist over the lake and it was a nice scenic shot with beautiful morning light. Unexpectedly, a tugboat appeared out of the fog. I had literally 5-10 seconds to shoot it, leaving little time for camera adjustment. It was exhilarating to be in that moment. Tugboats have a long history on the local lakes and rivers transporting logs to the lumber mills. The last lumber mill on the lake shut down within a year of this shot, bringing an end to the local tugboat era. I was alone with my thoughts as I'm sure the tugboat captain was also. In that instant, in that solitude, I felt connected, and at the same time gained an independence as it related to my photography. Since that day, I shoot alone whenever I can. I find that my best images are produced on these shoots. This image has a lot of meaning to me, and has sold repeatedly.
Q. Who is/was your favorite photographer and why/how did they inspire you?
A. I have the utmost respect for the work of a photographer named Leland Howard. I do not know him personally but hope to meet him someday. He shoots here in Idaho mostly and has been very successful with his work. I think his style and subject matter is similar to my own, but he shoots with large format cameras as far as I know. We used large format in college, so I know the challenges that presents. When you can manage that in the backcountry locations that he travels to.....consistently producing beautiful images....that is impressive.
Q. Where did you attend college and what degree did you obtain?
A. I attended Spokane Falls Community College (SFCC) in Spokane, Washington, USA. At the time (late 1980's) their photography program was ranked 2nd in the nation behind the famous Brooks Institute. I got married during my first year of school and my first child followed shortly thereafter. I dropped out to protect my unborn baby from the chemicals. Very little of what I learned in college applies to my work today. Because of this, I consider myself self-taught.
Q. Did you always want to be a photographer, if not, what did you want to “be” before you “settled” for photography?
A. I fell in love with photography when I was about 13. My college experience was rather disillusioning, and actually destroyed my enthusiasm for a time. When my children were in high school and the whole world was going digital, I rediscovered my passion and I am proud of what I have accomplished in such a short time. It is a constant progression and I know I will be learning forever. I think 17 years of repressing my photographic desires has enabled me to re-enter the field with a determination to make up for lost time. Composition comes extremely naturally to me. I think everyone is good at something, but it might be hard to figure out what that is. Anyone who is "settling" on photography should find a different line of work. I never wanted to be anything else.
Q. Has there ever been a dangerous moment during a photography assignment? If so explain.
A. I am extremely scared of heights...and there have been a couple of times while shooting waterfalls near the edges of cliffs...when I became very dizzy and was too scared to retrace my steps to safety, requiring assistance. I did an assignment shooting grizzly bear habitat, and had to take bear spray...but thankfully saw no bears. I have fallen a couple of times with camera in hand, and always managed to sacrifice the body and save the camera. Most close calls have come in the form of bad drivers going too fast and on the wrong side of a winding mountain road, or me feeling like my lungs are going to explode from hiking a trail beyond my capabilities.
Update: I have actually had a bear encounter. When shooting in Glacier National Park, (July 2010), a black bear wandered out of the trees about 10 feet away. I had bear spray , but was able to shew him away. Now that makes your heart pound!
Q. How long have you been a professional photographer?
A. 3 1/2 years now. (2009)
Q. What kind of camera do you use?
A. I have used many cameras over the years from 35mm film to 4x5 view. My main body for landscape work is currently a mid-range Canon DSLR, with a variety of different lenses and landscape filters.
Q. In your opinion, Is there ever a better time to use a "point and shoot" camera rather then a high dollar camera?
A. I know photographers who carry a P&S with them at all times, just in case. I don't, because I prefer not to let myself get too lazy to set up the real gear and employ creative techniques. I can see the advantage if you don't want to attract attention to yourself in certain situations. I have considered getting a nice point and shoot, but since they have been doing away with viewfinders, I have not found one I want.
Q. Does music inspire your work? If so what kind inspires you the most?
A. I like music, I even played a trumpet allthrough my high school years, but it has no connection to my photography. I like the silence while shooting...just being alone with my thoughts. This is when I do my best work...when I am "in tune" with nature...as corny as that sounds. I seldom even listen to music while doing computer work.
Q. Is photography the only form of art you make/like?
A. During my 17 year hiatus from serious photography, I did a lot of craft painting and designing wood patterns. While I was pretty good at it, it did not give me the satisfaction that photography does.
Q. Can a photographer have a “photography block” like a writer has “writers block”?
A. I imagine some photographers do get a creative block....particularly if they are in the business of inventing photos (like conceptual stock or shooting for an ad campaign) rather than searching them out. For me it is more that I occasionally get bored with my local surroundings. Part of the fun is in the exploration. I study maps, find a road I've never been down. If I can get away for a weekend to somewhere new or even have a change of weather patterns I am usually re-inspired. Occasional the weather can become un-inspiring. If there is a slower time to my work, it is late winter to early spring, when the snow is no longer fresh and foliage and flowers have not yet awakened.
The most commonly asked question I get is "What kind of camera do you use?"
At first I didn't know what to think of this question. (Brand? Film or Digital? Point and Shoot, SLR, Medium or Large format, D-SLR? Number of Mega pixels? )
I answered this question in a variety of different ways, but I could tell by some of the resulting bewildered looks, that I was not answering the question the way some people wanted. One day while doing an art show, a young twenties something woman asked the typical question after gazing at one of my personal favorite images for a long time. I gave her one of my canned answers explaining that I have used many types of cameras. After a long pause she pointed to the image she had been looking at and said "But what kind of camera takes a photo like that?"
This is when it occurred to me. So many people think it is the equipment. A camera is just a tool. A camera does not compose, scout locations, wait for lighting conditions, or set selective depth of field, shutter speed, white balance, ISO appropriate for the conditions, and most importantly it doesn't see the photograph for you.
To those who truly want to better their own photo skills, let me say this. There is a lot that can and should be learned about photography that can be accomplished without a high end camera. The camera will not solve composition or lighting issues, and many consumers that buy a D-SLR will never take it off automatic, or understand what it can do. Once you have gained these skills you will know when a better camera will make a difference for your photography.