News & Stories

My First Two Weeks on the Road as a Full Time Photographer!

In January I finally left my day job and if you’ve been following my journey on social media, or even previous blog posts then you’ll know I have been loving life!

Back in December with my good friends Jesse and Duane we set out to Death Valley to explore and scout for a workshop Jesse and I were to lead in April. We only had a few days but it was enough to get me really psyched to get back and lead a big group of students around the park and teach them everything I know about photography!

Since January I have had a snowball of clients and students here in Moab and all over the southwest that have helped take away the anxiety I had initially about making the plunge. Its been amazing traveling for a few days at a time here and there but I was really excited about leaving for California for a couple of weeks straight, but also anxious about leaving my little family for so long.

The first leg of the trip was originally set for Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada just outside of Vegas, but after a chat with my buddy Dustin, who’s an incredibly talented Time-lapse Film maker and photographer, that plan changed and took me to a much more obscure and interesting place also outside of Vegas. The rock formations were amazing, like waves of sandstone that had been frozen in place. Luckily we had a great sunset, and clear skies for the early morning milky way!

IMG_1854IMG_2934IMG_4185

The next day I set out on the long and graded road back to I15 and onto Vegas to hang out with Ikan, Nisi Filters and Gnarbox at the NAB Expo where I was to present on my creative use of filters. I must’ve walked 7-8 miles in two days there, so much that my feet were badly blistered. I could not wait to get out to Death Valley and away from the crowds and eccentricity of Las Vegas.

IMG_1407.PNG

I left mid afternoon on Tuesday which gave me two full days of scouting and personal shooting before any of our students were set to arrive, and that first night was hot (107º) but it was beautifully calm and the sunset was epic! The next morning I set out to Stovepipe Wells Campground and Resort to confirm the use of the conference room and secure campsites since most of the students chose to camp. When I arrived all of the Stovepipe Wells complex was on generator power as a result of a downed power line from Furnace Creek. As I sat and ate lunch in the Saloon power would cut out and in every few minutes from all of the guests running AC and overloading the propane generator. Eventually they closed the restaurant down, and I spent the rest of the afternoon at the pool soaking up the sun and relaxing after the stress of Vegas and NAB.

Mud Crack Verticle Twilight Blue Hour copy

That night in the barren lot of a campground in the sandiest part of Death Valley with 100º+ temps I fell asleep in my van with all of the windows and doors open. Around 12:30am the winds came suddenly and slammed the doors of my van shut, scaring the hell out of me, and quickly followed by a cloud of sand and dust that coated everything within my van, including me as I laid there. It had flattened the tents I set up for the students!

IMG_9059.JPG

The next morning I spent hours cleaning off all of the vans contents, my camera gear, clothes, bedding. Thankfully there was a break in the wind for a few hours so i was able to make breakfast and chat with Drew, one of the students of the workshop that arrived a day early. Fast forward through a mostly uneventful day we set out that evening to the Mesquite Dunes to see what the sand had done and was doing out there to the dunes, and break in the Tamron 150-600mm G2 lens I had rented for the trip. It was a very bittersweet experience as the winds picked back up pelting us at a steady 40mph with gusts to 60+, and I made the fatal mistake of leaving my bag partially open and exposed toward the wind filling my F-stop bag FULL of sand. Another several hours spent cleaning gear….

Thankfully that night the winds had died down for good, or at least the hard winds, and I was able to get a nice relaxing night sleep and the temps had dropped into the 70’s. The next day, now Thursday, students began to arrive and we originally had a meet and greet set for the saloon at Stovepipe Wells, but due to the power outage we had to shift gears. Luckily Furnace creek honored our campsite reservations and we were able to move everyone there, which worked out great as we would spend most of our time in the field nearer there than Stovepipe, unfortunately the only food provisions that were open was the cafeteria style dining in Furnace creek, but none the less we all ate well, chatted, got to know each other and decided wed start a night early and wake up at 2am to set out for the milky way before sunrise, which worked out very well in the end giving everyone a great crash course in advanced astro photography.

BTS DV Crew.jpg

We set out to the once elusive giant mud crack playa for milky way where we covered all of the ins and outs of blue hour blending, stacking for noise reduction, focus stacking, and milky way shooting and the perfect conditions to do so! We then shot over to Zabriskie which challenged some of the wide angle shooters in the group which is exactly what I had hoped for, to challenge the group to see scenes differently, and to be diverse. Its easy to pigeon hole yourself into a specific FOV, or focal length and you can easily miss scenes within a grander scene.

Zabriskie Point Sunrise copy.jpg

an incredible smart phone shot by Brandon Black, one of the very talented students!

Zabriskie point is one of those places that doesn’t require a dramatic sky to make a captivating image, and the alpenglow that creeps down the mountains beyond the valley and Manley peak really add a great element to the more abstract landscape. After sunrise we had set back to camp where we all tried to grab a couple hours of shuteye and then an afternoon processing session at Stovepipe. Luckily they had the generator improved and we had power for the session and for everyone to recharge their camera batteries, and electronics.

Tall Dune Person MW Comp copy

During the meet and greet the group had decided that we would abandon one of our milky way locations for another, and since the group collectively had enough 4×4 vehicles to accommodate the entire group we set out for the amazing Race Track Playa, after sunset on the dunes. The racetrack is a difficult to get to dry lake bed famous for the “Sailing Stones” rocks that seem to move all on their own over thousand and thousands of years, when thin sheets of ice form encasing the stones and the pushed by the wind leaving tracks in the mud. The road is long, and it took us the better part of 2.5 hours from Stovepipe Wells after leaving the Dunes after Twilight. Getting us to the parking lot at around 11:30, and we would get back up around 1:15 to find our subjects! One of my favorites was these twin rocks that seemed to be racing against each other!

Twin Rock MW Stacked copy.jpg

We stayed out on the playa all morning until the sunrise which was pretty uneventful and no one had much interest in shooting it so we all went back to our tents and slept for an hour or so before we packed up and drove back down to the valley in time for our second processing session. We were all completely exhausted but writhing with excitement after shooting such an amazing place and having such a dark and clear sky. Easily the darkest night sky I have ever experienced.

Racetrack Single Stone Blue Hour Blend copy

That night we were heading back to the mud cracks to focus on composition, and shooting blue hour images to blend with the Milky Way. The warm sunset light was so nice and it was such a mildly warm night out there.

That night at camp we built a huge fire, and ate well since it was our last night we all sat and sipped on some some whiskey and laughed for a while until we all crashed out, setting out at 1:30 again for Milky Way and sunrise at Badwater Basin! We had scouted out an area back in December that had excellent patterns but when we headed out there the rain had left a moat of wet salt and mud and unfortunately it was too late for my trail shoes! LOL

The clouds began to move in as we arrived and the patterns and obscured the Milky Way, but we all shot and learned while we waited for sunrise. By then a couple of students had to depart for their long journeys home. I wish we would’ve taken a group photo at the beginning!

As a bonus we stopped at Artist pallet as the clouds had left the light very diffuse and it lended it self well to the abstract badlands. A pit stop back at camp and the last of the group said their goodbyes, a sad departure as in the course of a couple days some very close friendships were made, and I’m happy to say that I have a whole group of awesome, talented friends!!

Originally I had planned on spending a day recovering in DV before setting out to the Eastern Sierras but decided we can sleep when we’re dead and headed west to the Alabama hills, easily of the the coolest places I have every seen and I cannot wait to get back!!!! I consider Jesse my best friend, the kind of friend I can tell anything to without judgement, I cant wait to do this again and again with him!

Mount Whitney Telephoto Sunset copy

Boot Arch Vertical Sunset copy

In only 24 hours we had shot all of the planned images we had in mind, and were ready to move north toward mammoth with a couple of stops along the way!

Steamy Mountain Twilight copy

The brutal winds seemed to follow us wherever we went but thankfully they had calmed by the time we arrived at our last and final sunrise location before heading back for a night in Death Valley. But it was one of the coldest experiences of my life, manually focusing was brutal as my fingers stopped working after only seconds of exposure to the cold.

The next morning we set out back to Death Valley where I had hoped to finally get a full night sleep, and thankfully that happened! The next day I awoke and reorganized the van before setting out with the plan to stop in Valley of Fire for the night but weather didn’t really agree and gave me another opportunity to get some sleep before finishing the drive home to Moab the next day!

Back home and catching up on my honey do list and all things business that I had put off while traveling has kept me pretty busy!

Heres some really inspiring images from the students of the workshop!

Screen Shot 2018-05-06 at 3.00.34 PM

Ricks Instagram

Screen Shot 2018-05-06 at 3.01.29 PM

Jess’s Instagram

Screen Shot 2018-05-06 at 3.02.17 PM

Chris’s Instagram

Screen Shot 2018-05-06 at 3.03.02 PM

Brandon’s Instagram

Screen Shot 2018-05-06 at 3.03.52 PM

Tyler’s Instagram

Screen Shot 2018-05-06 at 3.04.47 PM

Matt’s Instagram

Screen Shot 2018-05-06 at 3.07.37 PM

Jesse’s Instagram

News & Stories · Uncategorized

My Top 20 Favorite Images of 2017

2017 was a year I will never forget, and one that will set the bar for the future! I was able to travel and see so much, make friendships and bonds, and experience some incredible things!

Here is a rundown of some of my favorite images of 2017, complete with the memories made!

Please Enjoy!

Mud Crack Sunrise copy
Nikon D810 | Nikon 14-24 | ƒ/11 (x4 for focus) | ISO100 | 14 & 24mm | 1/3rd & 1/20th seconds

•Poseidon’s Tomb•

Taken during a sunrise in Death Valley while scouting with my good friends Jesse and Duane. Jesse knows Death Valley like the back of his hand, he told us how to get here the night before since he wouldn’t be in until late. We hiked out on the playa looking across at the distant mountains that seemed to never get closer, soon we realized we had gone too far beyond where the massive cracks are and managed to find them just as the sun was setting. Before it was completely dark I managed to find the awesome crack and dropped a pin on my GPS so that I could find it for sunrise!

Tree in Hole Sunset copy
Nikon D810 | Nikon 14-24 | ƒ/11 | ISO100 | 14mm | 1/1000th seconds

•Vortex•

This image was taken while on a long weekend in Escalante with my girlfriend, adventure pup, and great friend Jesse. We Had hiked to reflection Canyon the day before, we were exhausted and sore but didn’t want to just head home so we stuck around GSENM for a few more days and hiked Spooky and peek-a-boo slot canyons the next day and then camped near dance hall rock so we could shoot the milky way over one of these awesome pot holes, and gnarly cottonwoods. While wandering around on this giant rock we stumbled across a crazy aussie looking for the same thing we were! We got to talking and hit it off and continued the search for just the right tree, in just the right hole! We managed to get an LED panel down in the hole, and that was an adventure all in itself! The next morning we went back up for sunrise and I managed to make this image. The colors weren’t very exciting and I almost binned this image but just when I was about to give up I quickly converted it to B&W and saw its potential in a whole new way!

Lake Blanche Vertical Comp Two copy
Nikon D810 | Nikon 14-24 | ƒ/8 (x3 for focus) | ISO200 | 14mm | 1 second

•Damnation•

What can I say about this image. This is Sundial Peak, carved by glaciers high in the Wasatch Mountains outside of Salt lake City. This hike was intense, grueling and extremely challenging. At 10,320ft, a 10.5 mile round trip hike with 4,300ft of elevation gain its by far the most challenging hike I have ever done, especially with nearly 70lbs of gear on my back. Lacey, Myself and the dog geared up in hopes wed find some wildflowers dotting the lake shore, but we were surprised to see that nearly no flowers exist up there at all at least close to the lake because of how trodden the lakeshore is by visitors. We setup camp along the lake, Lacey quickly passed out while I shot away as the Milky Way rose above the peak. I woke early for sunrise and was happy to see some nice clouds forming. Once the sun broke it casted beautiful, warm light on the tips of the peak.

Horseshoe Bend Sunset copy
Nikon D810 | Nikon 14-24 | ƒ/11 | ISO100 | 16mm | 1/5th & 1/20th seconds

•Afterglow•

Horseshoe Bend in Page, Arizona is truly a cool place. The view is astonishing but not quite as astonishing as the abundance of people there to watch the sunset. It’s no surprise though! On my very first visit to this famed location I was greeted with one hell of a sunset! I was shocked at the amount of people there, and how little space there was to squeeze in and get a shot. Not being the type of guy that just settles for whatever is easy I found a gap between a couple of other photographers. Not just a spacial gap but a literal massive gap in the rock, so I splayed my insanely tall tripod out across the gap and then summoned my best Jean Claude Van Dam and did a nearly full split across the sandstone. This Gap just so happened to be positioned in the near center of the ben allowing a full view of the entry and exit point of the river in the scene. We ooh’ed and awed as the sun got lower and light got better and better!

19780685_926689010807007_5024408580624511478_o
Nikon D810 | Nikon 14-24 | ƒ/14 | ISO100 | 14mm | 1/4 second

•Rebirth•

During our 8 day trip to Oregon in June we decided after a few days of shooting the Gorge that we would head north to Mount St. Helens. I mean, how cool is this place! A volcano!?!?! We sat, all by ourselves, 35º in the bleachers of the overlook and watched this beautiful sunset pass through, and a halo of clouds form around the crater. I felt that I wanted to showcase the destruction of the day that the mountain blew its top, and the lush greenery.

Swiss Cheese Falls Vertical copy
Nikon D810 | Nikon 14-24 | ƒ/16 | ISO64 | 14mm | 1 & 20 seconds

•Harvest•

This amazing set of falls have become somewhat Iconic amongst photographers in the southwest and in Utah. Known loosely as “Swiss Cheese falls”, is as stunning as it is challenging to get to. With a huge and very steep descent into a massive canyon, you wonder how in the world people stumbled across places like this. Once down in the canyon we were greeted by deep yellows and reds adorning all of the trees, vines and foliage in the canyon, and just the right amount of water to make this scene possible! The beautiful Reds of the canyon walls were complimented so well by the yellow cottonwoods.

Maroon Bells Epic Sunset copy
Nikon D810 | Nikon 24-70 | ƒ/16 | ISO64 | 24mm | 1 & 1/10th second

•Maroon Lake Reflections•

Oh man, this sunset was epic, and I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time! I had been in Aspen for 4 days, camping in the roof top tent and returning to the Bells each morning for just the right conditions. Waking at 4am for 4 days straight was taking its toll and dealing with the crowds here each morning really texted my patience. We had been searching for a grove of Aspens that sloped downward so that we may compose a scene of aspen trunks with the yellow canopy in the background, and hoped for fog. We were on our way to check out a spot above Maroon lake that might tick those boxes but when we showed up before sunset we saw the potential for an incredible sunrise, and it was!

Crystal Mill Fall Colors - Copy
Nikon D810 | Nikon 14-24 | ƒ/11 | ISO100 | 14mm | 1 second

•Crystal River•

The most photographed location in Colorado, the historical Crystal Mill has been on my list to visit for years. I realized one day that we know live only a few hours from this amazing place so we set out in August to scout, knowing I would return in Fall for the amazing color. I loved the soft directional light just before sunset that dappled across the scene, illuminating the yellows surrounding the old mill.

26114397_10215710171051035_7841791891084505632_o
Nikon D810 | Nikon 14-24 | ƒ/8 & ƒ/2.8 | ISO160  & ISO10k | 14mm | 1 & 10 seconds

•Fallen•

Last night I learned of the passing of my grandfather, a man I grew up loving more than life itself, but life and distance separated us for many years. When we moved here to Moab last year we stayed in Denver for several days visiting with him, my grandmother and aunts. I hadn’t seen him in nearly 15 years and it was as if I was 7 years old again riding in his big pick up heading down to the beach to catch crabs. My heart hurts as I write these words, and I dedicate this image to you grampa, I love you.

26114405_10215710171331042_9181176445576251598_o
Nikon D810 | Nikon 14-24 |Tamron 150-600 | ƒ/11 | ISO100 | 110 & 550mm | 1/200th & 1/10th seconds

•Unity•

The Total Solar Eclipse of 2017 was something I will never forget. My friend Jesse called me up just a few weeks before and asked if I wanted to bonsai up to Idaho for it, without any hesitation I said yes! So I booked a flight from Moab to Salt Lake, met up with Jess and we hopped in the rental and drove to Stanley, Idaho. We had talked about even heading up to Jackson, WY or the Wind River Range but we decided to just stay in Stanley! The tiny town was bustling with the anticipation of massive hoards of Eclipse chasers. The roads were lined with taco carts, coffee stands and bbq pits. The campgrounds and bam areas were crammed with people, but we found our little hideaways. We spent time at Stanley Lake capturing the stars, and a sunrise. We knew that with the sun being extremely high in the sky it didn’t really matter much where we watched and photographed it from as it would be extremely challenging to capture with a wide angle given the pinhole distortion. I wanted the eclipse to be the prominent subject in the image, so while we were at Stanley Lake I made this panorama during the twilight hours knowing that I would blend the Eclipse phases into it to reenact as accurately as possibly the mood and feeling of the eclipse. Its important to be honest when making an image that couldn’t have been captured exactly as seen in the image.

26198337_10215710171811054_1160292365895486638_o
Nikon D810 | Nikon 70-300 | ƒ/14 | ISO100 | 110mm | 1 & 20 seconds

•Eagles Lair•

Punch bowl falls cascade along Eagle Creek, above the incredible beautiful Metlako falls. Metlako was a dream to see however a short time ago the “overlook” collapsed into the deep gorge, and a clear view of the falls no longer exists. Punch bowl falls were so unique however this fall leaves a bittersweet feeling within me. Just a few seconds after shooting this scene I was wading further across the raging stream for another vantage point when my NiSi Filters 150mm square plate glass polarizer fell from my lens and was swept down stream never to be seen again. The rest of my waterfalls and seascape themed trip was made much more difficult without that unsuspecting piece of glass.

26197924_10215710172211064_5644107896656578156_o
Nikon D810 | Nikon 14-24 | ƒ/5.6 | ISO100 | 14mm | 1/200th second

•The Mighty Tree•

The famous Japanese maple resides in the Portland Oregon Japanese Gardens, and although its imaged often you’d never suspect how small and unassuming this tree is. I only found it because I bent over to tie my shoe and looked to my left! We had wandered around the garden for some time taking in the sights, and smells, I didn’t really think about even photographing the tree but once I saw it, and realized that it was adorning red leaves in June, I just had to!

26063460_10215710172411069_3054307371144189135_o
Nikon D810 | Nikon 14-24 | ƒ/8 (8 images for focus) | ISO400 | 14mm | 1/10th & 2 seconds

•Jurassic•

What a place this was! The Mossy Grotto was WAY high on my list of places to visit and at the time of visiting I had only seen one or two images of this place. I really wanted to create my own vision of this place. There a funny (now) story with this one, however. I didn’t know much about the hike, so I told my girlfriend it was an easy/moderate hike…well its not ha! It seemed like never ending switchbacks climbing hundreds of feet, a steep decent down loose rocks where rock slides had clearly happened in the past. After several days of car camping and non stop hiking she was a little irritable so the hike quickly ticked her off. We argued the whole way, and half way down the rock slide area she just sat down and pouted while I continued on. At the time I was fuming, I was upset that it mattered, I was clouded by anger and frustration so I was shocked that I walked away from that area with any usable images let alone one of my all time favorites!

26171489_10215710172451070_8598584613077898066_o
Nikon D810 | Nikon 14-24 | ƒ/8 | ISO200 | 14mm | 5 seconds

•Forged in Fire•

What an intro to Navajo Sandstone slot canyons this was! On a trip to Arizona we really wanted to visit one of the many slot canyons in the area but didn’t want the crowds at Antelope although I am dying to see that canyon for myself someday! This Canyon was short but sweet, the colors were outstanding, and the private acoustic guitar concert really helped me hone in on my creativity! Its funny, at the time of visiting this place I had seen exactly ZERO images, and only heard about the canyon just before the trip. I got home a day later and immediately process this and another image and posted it, then received a comment on social media that another photographer had taken an image of almost the same composition but hadn’t yet posted it, and another comment saying someone else had just posted the same composition that day. Its crazy that several photographers can visit a place and without any influence at all come away with an image of the same scene. Pretty awesome!

26116243_10215710172771078_1074252750241995739_o
Nikon D810 | Nikon 14-24 | ƒ/8 & ƒ/2.8 | ISO400 & ISO10k | 14 & 24mm | 1 second & 10 seconds

•The Labyrinth•

Goblin Valley State Park, near Green River, UT reminds me of the movie “The Labyrinth” Starring the late David Bowie, and the trolls depicted in the movie remind me of the hoodoos that fill this valley. I have been here many times but never really had much desire to capture an image, until this trip. I stumbled around for hours looking for a composition before stumbling on these 4 trolls, and when I saw them I felt like a little kid about to be bullied on the playground, they felt like 4 big, dominant figures in the night.

26063520_10215710173011084_3683335411256569728_o
Nikon D810 | Nikon 14-24 | ƒ/16 | ISO64 | 14 & 24mm | 1/60th, 1/4, & 1 second

•Sunrise Fire•

The view from a steep ledge along Lake Powell, the morning after we made the grueling near 10 mile hike to this spot outside of Escalante. Another awesome trip to GSENM with Lacey, the wonder pup, and good buddy Jesse! About 2 miles from our destination we came across a massive water hole in the slick rock that coolant have come at a better time, as I had jut taken the last sip of water in my second 3 liter reservoir. So we stopped, filtered water and even swam for a bit to cool off! It felt great to get the boots off and relax for a bit. Just after sunrise we broke camp and headed out, I could not wait to get back to the car and town for a giant, ice cold diet pepsi!

26114309_10215710173411094_7564337579552876265_o
Nikon D810 | Nikon 70-300 | ƒ/8 | ISO200 | 170mm | 3 seconds

•Deathly Shadow•

Deathly Shadow, a glimpse of predawn light among the Utah badlands. A place I’ve visited dozens of times and always can’t wait to go back. On this morning I met up with a couple of really inspiring photographers visiting from Oregon on a tour of the southwest.

26171145_10215710173331092_1044224033789298953_o
Nikon D810 | Nikon 70-300 | ƒ/8 | ISO200 | 290mm | 1 second

•The Ghost Ship•

The “Sinking Ship” of Bryce Canyon National Park. On my third visit to Bryce, my good buddy Derek and I met up with Dave Swindler of Kanab. The conditions were pretty mazing as we had pockets of dense fog and a break in the clouds allowing some soft sunlight to enter the canyon and highlight the hoodoos and formations. We ran around for over an hour snapping away like tourists!

False Kiva Sunset New Years 2017 copy
Nikon D850 | Nikon 14-24 | ƒ/11 | ISO100 | 14mm | 1/3rd & 1/20th seconds

•Sacrificial Sun•

Ive visited this amazing, spiritual place many times since living here in Moab, and each time its equally special. Moab received a massive snow storm just a couple of days before Christmas, but unfortunately I couldn’t make it out to shoot during the storm. A couple of days later I had a sunset free and Lacey and I headed out to this place hoping that the canyon and canyon walls would still be clinging to some snow. We were graced by an incredible sunset to close out the year!

Mesa Arch Twilight Sunrise copy
Nikon D850 | Nikon 14-24 | ƒ/16 | ISO1000 | 14mm | 10 seconds

•Collide•

Mesa Arch has been photographed an estimated 1 million times….and that was a completely made up fact, but its been shot 19 ways to Sunday so I really wanted to make something unique here. Ive captured the iconic sunstar, with pretty clouds and I love the image, but this, this image really made me smile to capture and create. Most of the snow had melted off by the time I was able to get out and photograph it but the clouds were perfect, the intense glow from the sun just below the horizon was really special.

 

Happy New Years All! Thank you so much to all of you that have followed my work, my journey and my passion. Those of you that have purchased prints, or taken a workshop, and those of you that have become my friends!

 

I hope you all enjoy this collection of my favorite images of 2017!

 

 

 

 

 

News & Stories

The Leap of Faith

A follow up to the article on FStoppers

Let me start by saying that I by no means feel deserving of the life I’m living, or the people in it.

I moved to Utah to leave behind a lot of bad memories, and to build new. I have had so many hobbies and passions in my life that have consumed me, they were “security blankets” things I could get lost in, to keep myself busy, my excuse to become introverted. But I always, always became obsessed and the introverted security gave way to insecurity and drive to be “the best”. Now that, being “the best” means different things to different people and to me it meant exploiting my own drive and will and every part of me to reach my own ceiling, my limit. Testing myself I guess, but in return it changed me, molded me into someone that thrives on singularity with the Achilles heel of loneliness. It caused me to push all of my life long friends away, and strain relationships with people I loved. It took me until I was in my mid 20’s to really realize this pattern of behavior, the trend that was taking me a direction I didn’t want to go, that requires daily self monitoring to keep at bay.

I found photography after struggling for years and years with obesity, and beating it, even if I still battle. The notion of starting and growing a real business based around a passion that I thought I’d inevitably leave behind kept me from really trying for a little while, but my drive to succeed pushed me more and more into working toward it. That, plus the unrelenting stress and depression of a day job, I began finding little successes, people wanted to follow me, learn from me, and befriend me. It very quickly became apparent that I could really make a go of it, that I could leave my day job, and focus on providing quality, legitimate instruction to people that genuinely support what I do and want to learn what I’ve worked so hard to learn and teach myself.

I’ll reiterate that I still do not feel deserving of the word success, like “I suck, why do people want to learn from me?” But I’m happy that there are those out there that do, and that my past students and clients appreciate and found value in what I have to offer.

I hear loads and loads of stories about workshops and instructors that may have forgotten their own values or reasons for doing this, and I just hope that I never lose sight of what and why I’m doing all of this. Firstly, to help others, secondly to help myself enjoy this passion for the rest of my life, and thirdly to support myself and family in a life full of adventure and meaningfulness. To quote a well known photographer, adventurer, and educator:

“Think about who workshop leaders tend to be…people who have devoted their lives to spending time outdoors to photograph special places and to share their knowledge with likeminded people.”~ Erin Babnik

This notion resonated within me so deeply, because it’s true or at least this is how it should be, not to make a fortune but to change lives through inspiration and transfer of knowledge.

The idea of success should only be measured by yourself, no one can tell you what success should look like for you, success is much like art in that it’s subjective, this idea is what holds sooooooo many people back from pursuing a dream, or goal. Sure, security in a day job is great, but when it’s all said and done, when you’re lying in your grave and reflecting on your empire will you be happy to say “sure I broke my back for pennies in a job I hate, or I made a billion dollars and have no one to share it with”? I want to lie in my grave and smile knowing that I lived my life beyond the ideals of success and that I left an impact. I left my mark, my legacy and if it made just one person strive to be their ideal of success than I have been successful.

FStoppers recently interviewed me about my journey, my work and my successful beginnings, but I was a little awe struck by the title they chose because I don’t really consider myself successful, yet anyway. I strive every single day to be successful but I don’t feel I’ve had enough of an impact on myself or touched others enough to be successful, but again that’s one of my ideals of success.

In short, please don’t ever sell yourself short, settle for less than you’re worth, or let others define success for you. Be happy, no matter what you’re doing, to be cliché, life is too short to not be happy. At this point I’d prefer to be homeless, with my little lady and our dogs and cat than be confined by walls, rules and someone else’s ideal of success.

News & Stories

Finding yourself in photography and exploration

IMG_9832
“Ice Cream Sunrise”~White Pocket, Arizona Taken with a Nikon D850, and 14-24mm f/2.8 lens

There’s a lot to be said about self discovery, and finding out who you are and your place in the world. I sure as hell am not a guru on this subject but I’ll tell you that 2017 was a year of personal growth for me, more than any one year of my life.

In 2016 I dropped everything to move across the country with my little family, leaving behind siblings and parents but with all of the support and love I could hope for. We set out to chase a dream, so I could pursue my passion in photography and grow a business that would allow me to flourish personally. At the time I was skeptical, something I’ve never really been but I’ve always worked hard for what I want and achieved it through adversity and challenges. I truly thought “Who the hell is going to want to learn from me, especially paying me for it?” “no one would ever want to learn from me, or take a workshop from me”. Honestly when I moved here to Moab, no one should have, my work was uninspired and boring, reflecting back. I have learned so much about photography in the last 18 months.

It’s been a year and a half since living in the desert and it was about 8 months ago that I had an “Ahah!” Moment, an event that completely changed me to the core. It took a handful of arrogant, elitist photographers to push me to my breaking point, I had a public melt down, and called them out on Facebook. I made an ass out of myself but I still stand by my beliefs, and don’t regret it. But it taught me that I was paying too much attention to NOT ME, and too much to others. I was so worried about others coming to Moab to lead workshops and whether or not they were putting the work in to be legal and legitimate like I was, I was worried they’d impact what I was doing and take away from my progress, and take money away from me.

I stepped away from social media on a personal level, I unfriended, and un-followed 95% of the photographers I had followed and left anything photography related. For the most part it wasn’t malicious, it was because I realized I was desensitized, and it was preventing personal growth. It was preventing me from even wanting to visit places because others had gone and been there, which is just plain silly. I thought “I cant improve on that”, and then I realized that its art, and I want to create ART, art is subjective, it cant be good or bad, so what was I comparing myself to? For some that desire to compete is a tool to improve but I now believe that if you can see that your personal work is an extension of you that you’ll truly be free to grow.

I didn’t know at the time but doing this, stepping back has allowed me to truly find myself, and discover my own style, techniques and compositions. I became too infatuated with everyone else’s images and progress that it clouded my own judgement and it was becoming toxic. I was fueled by jealousy and anger which is never good. In these last 8 months I’ve really become happy with my work and it has helped shape me into a better, more compassionate, wiser person. It’s allowed me to spend time reflecting on choices and human interaction which is important when you’re an educator.

Most of you know that I’ve left the stability of a day job to pursue my dream full time. Leading photography workshops has become my passion because I enjoy helping people, teaching people and providing memorable experiences in amazing places. I think I’ve finally started to dig my niche in the world, and although I’ve lost some “friends” and acquaintances, along the way I’ve made new and discovered who’s truly there to support me!

This journey has had a lot of ups and downs, financial, physical, and psychological. But in the end, at the heart of it, its been tremendous in teaching me ways to overcome, adapt and grow. Which is really what life is all about, right? Growth?  Learning to become who you are. To experience things, and places and be as happy as you can?

For some, they can go through life existing, coasting through and are fine with that, they can overlook their own short comings, attitudes, and the impact that has on others and that’s fine, but if you’ve ever gotten to a point where you think you know it all, have seen it all and don’t need to learn any more, or care about your impact then you’ve achieved something no one ever has.

I live my life by a few simple rules:

  1. Never stop learning, and growing.
  2. Never be afraid to fail, but hate failing so much that you succeed.
  3. Live like you will die at any time

and I’ll spare you the sappy stuff.

I find my solace, and am at my most peaceful state when I am exploring, and adventuring. Alone, or with my little family or the few good friends I have. Its the time I get to spend just turning off my brain and mentally relaxing, reflecting on where I am, what has happened and looking forward, positively to the future. To me there is no better way to discover yourself than when you can fade away into nature.

Tips & Tricks

Top 10 Tips for Photographing Waterfalls

Have you ever wanted to capture the stunning motion of flowing water falls, and the vibrant colors of the foliage that surrounds them? Or that awesome seascape with waves crashing over craggy rocks? Have you ever been intimidated by using filters?

Well here are my top 10 tips for photographing stunning waterfall scenes any time of year!

  1. Light! I find that the best times to shoot waterfalls with the most even light is around Sunrise, or sunset but an overcast sky can allow you to shoot water scenes almost all day!
    img_7680
    Taken mid morning during an overcast day. Settings: Nikon D810, Nikkor 14-24 f/2.8,  ISO100, f/11, 1/3 second, Nisi Circular Polarizing filter.  4 images were taken for focus
  2. Filters! Use a filter to soften and smooth water, but how much smoothing is personal taste! I like to maintain some texture so I aim for 1/3-1 second exposures and can typically achieve that with a Circular Polarizer, and 3 Stop ND combination!
  3. Tripod! Use a solid and sturdy tripod! This is of HUGE importance, and if your tripod isn’t the sturdiest you can help it along by placing a few rocks in a bag and hanging it from the center piece of your tripod! They also make “rock bags” for this purpose!
  4. Mirror Lock-up! Use Mirror lock up mode! This mode allows the mirror to flip up and out of the way on the first press of the shutter. Doing this and allowing the camera to rest for a second will help eliminate some of the motion blur that can be caused by the motion of the mirror slapping up. This can make a huge difference in exposures with longer shutter speeds!
  5. Remote! Use a remote or shutter release cable (the cheap Amazon ones work great!)! You don’t want your camera to move at all throughout the exposure, and in some cases the flowing water will already be a nuisance here so using a remote allows you to be hands off with the camera!
  6. Get low! Getting low and wide helps exaggerate and accentuate the flowing water feeling!
  7. Composition!Find an anchor. Finding a boulder, rock, vibrant leaf or even ripple pattern as your foreground anchor can really help the composition and take a flat documentary photo to a dynamic scene with loads of depth!
  8. Framing!Fill the frame, and frame the scene! Filling the frame is important in landscape photography but the trick is balancing the composition and flow without much “clutter”. Use rocks, foliage or even dodging and burning to frame the scene and direct the eye!
  9. Bracket! Taking multiple frames from dark to light allows you to harness the most dynamic range possible, and sometimes the scene is very dynamic with deep shadows and bright highlights so you can choose what information you need from each exposure!
  10. Work the scene! Move around and look for multiple compositions! A lot of times you may not be as happy with a series of photos at home in the lab as you were in the field so moving around and shooting multiple scenes can sometimes save a trip!

I hope you find these tips useful!

Gear Review · Uncategorized

A Bag Built for Adventure!

Luna and Me butte - CopyF-Stop Bag Review~My bag of choice!

To start of the series of gear reviews I'd like to talk about a brand of camera bags that needs no introduction, that's name has been drug through the mud by thousands of people that had no idea what they were talking about but who's caring employees have stuck by those patient customers while they sorted out their manufacturing issues. F-Stop gear makes camera bags that in my opinion are rivaled by no other, who's bags are designed by photographers for photographers. The Macedonian based bag manufacturer takes to heart the input of photographers from across the globe and applies them to the design.

My dealings with them have always been courteous, kind, and friendly. When I made my first bag order last spring I waited nearly 5 months for my Sexy blue Tilopa but never once did I get upset, despite my incredible impatience. Having worked in the manufacturing industry (aerospace, military electronics and rail car) I am aware of the challenges that can arise at any time. This made me very understanding especially in knowing that I was eventually going to receive a seriously awesome bag.

Screen Shot 2017-08-15 at 8.54.21 PM

All that being said, let's talk about the bags!! I've owned the Ajna, and the Sukha and now currently own the Tilopa and Shinn, both in Blue. Traditionally though I am not too into bright colors, BUT out here in the red desert, sometimes way off grid I wanted something that could potentially save my life or the lives of my clients or loved ones if need be. Its not just about looking cool its about practicality for me.

Luna and Me butte - Copy

My first F-stop bag was a first gen Ajna that I purchased second hand from another photog, it was the tan, and in great shape although on my 6'2.5" 250 lb frame fit like a toddler backpack. Although I took it on a few 5-7 mile overnight backpacking trips and I somehow managed to fit a large pro icu full of gear, a tripod, camping mat, sleeping bag, JetBoil Sapphire, tent, dog mat, dehydrated meals, and water into and onto it. However this bag is not designed or meant to carry 60+lbs of gear, the shoulder straps just aren't thick enough but a fantastic day pack! The ajna was a great bag and it showed me the quality and care that F-Stop puts into their bags, I knew I would always own one!

Screen Shot 2017-08-15 at 8.55.54 PM

Screen Shot 2017-08-15 at 9.01.18 PM

Bisti Tent MW copy Tk

Finally months later I received my Tilopa and it was even better than I imagined it would be! It was still a little small for multiple day trips but have done many overnights with it now and with the optional Gatekeepers you can strap all sorts of gear to it, however the Tilopa is a mountain series bag and has very thick and comfortable shoulder straps. It also has TONS of pockets! Weighing in at 40liters and 4.1 lbs it's not an ultralight mountaineering bag, but if you're a strong pack mule like me, you don't whine about it!

Screen Shot 2017-08-15 at 8.56.19 PM

Screen Shot 2017-08-15 at 9.02.19 PM

Narrows Selfie copy

Now I'd like to compare the Sukha and the Shinn, F-Stops two largest bags currently available.

I was gearing up for a 20 mile back country trip through the desert and needed a bag capable of carrying two days worth of enough gear, food, and water for my dog and I. I originally opted for the Sukha but once I received it I quickly realized it wasn't going to cut it. I was packing it full with an XL pro ICU, which consumed most of the internal storage of the bag. A quick chat with the always amazing leadership at F-Stop and the Shinn was on the way! When the Shinn arrived it was obvious that this massive 80 liter bag was going to do the job! I packed it chock full, even organized the ICU to accept my DJI Phantom 3 Pro! But I ended up not packing it in after all.

screen-shot-2017-08-15-at-8-56-40-pm.png

Screen Shot 2017-08-15 at 9.02.52 PM

Screen Shot 2017-08-15 at 8.56.49 PM

Screen Shot 2017-08-15 at 9.03.36 PM

Moonscape-Overlook-Me-Monsoon-TK-Panel-copy 18954654_10158956448945089_5501034824377696318_o

Suffice to say though, this bag is awesome, in fact sometimes I use it just for day trips when I don't want to transfer gear back to my Tilopa. I have flown with it as well, even though its an 80L bag but I wouldn't recommend pushing your luck!

SPECS:

Screen Shot 2017-08-15 at 9.00.13 PM

F-stop bags continue to create and produce bags with the photographer, and adventurer in mind, pushing the bounds, and exceeding industry quality standards. The customer service, and management are incredibly friendly and supportive, the company is heading in the right direction and they will always have my support!

 

Uncategorized

The Saga…Part II

img_7805After leaving Mount St. Helens we began our journey back south, and to the coast.

We had seen Bigfoot, a crater, waterfalls, mountains, and drank a LOT of coffee, so we were ready to see the ocean. It’s been a while and the thought of putting our toes in the chilly pacific was sort of an affirmation to us about where life is taking us.

We pit stopped back in Portland with another stop at R.E.I. A quick lunch (Pieology again!) and on our way toward the 101.

To be honest the coastal trip is sort of a blur for some reason but I’ll do my best to recollect it all as it happened.

The drive down from Portland to our first stop was fairly boring but not too long and I was honestly shocked at the state of the upper Oregon coast and the sort of disarray it seemed to be in. It was like they built it all for the Goonies and just left it to rot.

hqdefault

We stopped in a place called Mo’s seafood near Astoria, OR for our first taste of pacific clam chowder in a bread bowl, not exactly the seafood selection I was used to coming from the east coast but great none the less and very familiar.

After leaving MO’s we strolled the beach and then headed further south towards Yachats, and Thors well which would be the stop for the night. On the way we visited the Devils punchbowl and searched around for critters at low tide!

It was a really awesome place and somewhere I wish I would’ve spent some time with good light!

We also pit stopped by a really cool lighthouse, another place I wish I had the time to wait around and shoot!

Now we were on our way to Yachats a little further south and instead of car camping this night I decided to spring for an ocean front Inn, and I’m so glad we did. The room was awesome, the beach a stones throw from our balcony, tide pools galore and one of the best meals I’ve ever had!!

After dinner the sky looked grey and flat but I decided to take the ten minute drive to Thors well just in case it opened up. On our way it caught fire and we were running behind due to TERRIBLE directions we found online. But I made it just in time for the very last light, not at low tide but a few hours before high tide.

Thors Well, Cape Perpetua, Oregon.

The sky was on fire with soft whispy clouds, the surf was turbulent and waves were crashing and spraying 10 feet over my head but I finally got a frame with the motion in the water I really wanted to convey!

After a few fast, furious and stressful minutes of shooting the light was gone. We headed back to the Inn and I was pretty happy with the luck we had finding it at the last minute and the light we had.

The next morning after our first night in a bed in 5 days, sleeping to the sound of the crashing waves feet away from our balcony we set out further down the coast, and stopped for yet another coffee (coffee #22/46). We took our time stopping here and there but eventually ended up in Brookings, near the famous Wizards hat and Bandon Beach. We scouted the beach for sunset and ended up back at the car finding a quiet place to take a nap since we had hours and hours to kill. After the nap we drove back into town to a few shops, tried some interesting gelatins at a specialty gourmet candy shop and ate lunch at some dive bar. Again another town that time seemed to have forgotten.

Then we headed back to the beach and geared up. Unfortunately low tide and sunset did not coalesce, so I was forced to be further away from the iconic rock than I wished. I made several attempts to get the right streaks and water motion I was looking for. The birds were flying around, landing on the top of the rock adding to the scene. The sky erupted with golden crepuscular rays and textured clouds. Again I was very lucky.

The Wizards Hat, Bandon Beach, Oregon

While shooting the above photo of “Gryffindor” I was kneeling down with my camera fairly low. My knees and tripod feet were sinking in the sand when a rogue wave crashed into me, just missing my camera but filling my waders with cold pacific water. I took it as my time to pack up, and get back to the car and find a cozy place to park and sleep.

Sometimes car camping can be suspenseful, even though you aren’t hurting anyone its still fun to be taboo. Although sometimes paranoia sets in and its tough to sleep worrying about being hassled during the night.

The next stop in this tour was Samuel H. Boardman State Park, a massive stretch of coastline covered in amazing sea stacks, natural bridges and secret beaches. Although by the time we arrived it was grey, wet, and lifeless. We peaked around a little and decided to continue on to the redwoods knowing wed be back  on the way to Portland and hoped to have better weather later on.

Truthfully at this point I was beginning to burn out, mentally, physically, and creatively. Normally my creativity is in directly relation to my ambition, and my ambition was at a low.

Lacey Redwoods-1

By the time we got to The Jedediah Smith Redwoods the fog we’d hoped for was long gone, and the weather was a mix of grey, and stark sunlight. We hiked around but decided to try elsewhere, the Del Norte Redwoods, where the Rhododendrons were blooming making for a really nice forest scene, although without the fog, it was less interesting and I struggle tremendously with forest scenes. I just do not shoot them enough to see interesting compositions naturally.

Del Norte Redwood Rhododendron Horizontal - Copy
Del Norte Redwoods, California

ferns-1

After hiking around for several hours, with hundreds of mosquito bites we called it quits.  But I needed to make a decision, did we stay near the redwoods to come back for the possibility of fog in the morning, or did I head back north toward Samuel H. Boardman to hopefully catch better weather and maybe even some morning light and color?? It was a big roll of the dice for me. I decided to head back north, and find a hotel not far from SHB.

On the way back we stopped to check out what would turn out to be the best tide pools we had been to yet. Keep in mind that Lacey is a marine biologist and no star fish were harmed. (One big name female photographer unfriended me over this….).

 

But when we woke up to the sound of rain I knew I made the wrong choice, as per usual with weather. But Lacey convinced me to head out and try anyway, in the pouring rain we made our way to the spot, but along the way I experienced one of the saddest, most heart breaking moments and deepest connections with wildlife I have ever had. If you don’t know me well, perhaps this will help shape your idea of what kind of person I am despite my blunt brashness.

As we drove down the 101, nearing the Natural Bridge pull off we noticed a squirrel dragging itself across the road in the cold, pouring rain. This alone was enough to break my heart, but it was quickly apparent that it was just hit, and paralyzed from the waist down. I stopped the SUV in the middle of the road to prevent it from being struck again. I ran to it, and slowly picked him up, he didn’t fight, instead he curled up, stared at me and slowly took his last breaths as I shielded him from the rain. I sat there on the cold guard rail stroking his head until his eyes closed forever. I found a big fern in the woods near by, surrounded by a thick mat of moss, and cleared a small area to lay him down, to be reabsorbed by the earth. I was heart broken, completely overwhelmed by my passion for nature and animals. I know it may seem silly to you but for me, it hit home.

After this, we stopped back at the hotel, cleaned up, grabbed our gear and decided to head back to Portland where wed spend our last couple of days hitting the gorge again, finding better compositions at a few falls that I previously wasn’t too happy with.

Latourelle Falls Forest Comp - Copy
Latourel Falls, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Back in Portland we had our first Ramen experience at a mega hipster spot but were completely blow away by how good it was.

18922799_10158947439785089_1973590590458506761_o

We also decided to check out the Portland Japanese Gardens, and they were awesome, the famous tree was seemingly no where to be found, until I bent over to fix my shoe and looked over at the 4′ tall maple.

Portland Japanese Garden Maple - Copy 2
The Mighty Tree, Portland Japanese Gardens, Oregon

This trip was really special. 8 Days exploring the west coast, and photographing so many beautiful sights with the love of my life. I feel that the imagery I have created as a result of the trip is some of my most meaningful and most true to myself. Its always an amazing feeling being overwhelmed with inspiration and beauty.