Phlog #9: Smith Rock Climber

Revisiting some of my favorite older photos while filling in the back catalog of my blog here gives me such a peculiar feeling. I want to delve into the specifics of why I took the shots, but I struggle to articulate it. I can talk about the deliberate choice to include both snowy peaks in the background or waiting for the climber to strike a natural pose against the rock. However, while I remember considering these aspects at the time, I couldn’t tell you precisely why I chose when I did or what I was trying to convey.

I adore this photo, and it marks one of the first times I experimented with 3D capture. I had access to two camera bodies and duplicate lenses, so I constructed a custom rig. I set the cameras eye-width apart on a metal slide and used a remote shutter to trigger them simultaneously. The image displayed here is just one of those captured, but if you had access to a 3D TV, VR headset, or stereoscope, the experiment would be a resounding success. It would be fascinating to see it applied somehow.

Phlog #8: Snow Zone

I love many aspects of this photo. The mysterious way the trees disappear into the fog and the almost unnatural way the frost clings to the branches captivate me. I’ve been eager to witness similar conditions again, as I now have numerous ideas for a series of images inspired by this scene.

Phlog #7: MOMA Visitors

I’ve always had a fascination with silhouettes—specifically, near-silhouettes where there’s just enough shadow detail to see, but not enough to immediately notice.

One evening, while wasting time around San Francisco before dinner, I wandered through the Museum of Modern Art and came across these sculptures made of fluorescent lights. They are part of a series of 39 physical monuments created by Dan Flavin in 1964, dedicated to the Russian artist Vladimir Tatlin.

In hindsight, I wish I had put more effort into thinking of a meaningful connection between the art and my photo. Unfortunately, I only learned about the artist after the fact.

Phlog #6: Tacoma Museum of Glass

This is one of those photos I still like, even though it’s clear I wasn’t making deliberate choices when I took it. It’s funny how, as you grow as an artist, your older work evokes different feelings.

I shot it at f/2.8 even though the image has deep focus. I obviously had enough light to work with, since I shot it at 1/2500s.

Live and learn. Despite its technical flaws, I still like the photo.

Phlog #4: Mount Hood October 2017

This remains one of my favorite shots of Mount Hood. The motion of the clouds, the angle of the sun, and the snow level all came together perfectly. I wish I could be lucky enough to see similar conditions again, as I have grown as an artist since then. Now, I would pay much more attention to the edges and the shape of the trees.

Mid-fall, when fresh snow begins to blanket the higher elevations and the roads are still clear, has become my favorite time of year. This period usually lasts only about a week before the first big snow covers the mountain roads entirely. It’s a rare and fleeting occurrence, but it’s worth seeking out.

I entered this image into the Nature Conservancy’s 2017 photo contest and was chosen as a finalist.

Phlog #3: Portland Skyline 2016

This photo captures the Portland skyline when I first moved there. Back then, I wasn’t as research-oriented in my photography, but I’m glad I discovered this spot. Portland’s skyline has always been challenging to photograph. The buildings are relatively small, adhering to a city ordinance that limits most structures to 460 feet or less. Additionally, the buildings aren’t arranged in an aesthetically pleasing layout, particularly when viewed directly from the east or west, as you might from the esplanade. The best angles are diagonal, but finding a clean diagonal view is difficult.

Looking at past skyline photos, especially if you know the city well today, always gives me a strange feeling because so many buildings have changed. One day, I might replicate this shot, matching the framing, scale, and weather conditions, just for contrast.

Phlog #2: Venice Beach Skaters

I took this photo while traveling through Los Angeles. Wandering aimlessly, I found myself near the Venice Beach skate park and decided to join the crowd watching the skaters. As I observed, patterns began to emerge, and when the sun started reflecting off the concrete, I knew I had found the shot I wanted.

I spent about an hour photographing different skaters in various positions, aiming to evoke the feel of the Last Supper painting, but in near-silhouette. It was a deliberate choice to set the exposure to retain some detail in the shadows. I experimented with the composition, trying to center the prominent skater, but it felt unbalanced with the concrete backdrop. Eventually, I settled on this composition.

This photo was entered into the 2017 Monochrome Photography Awards and received an honorable mention in the “People” category.

Phlog #1: Northern Michigan Aurora

I want to start these image diaries chronologically, documenting my evolving visual style as an artist. In the beginning, much of what I write may seem nonsensical, but my goal is to develop my own style and voice through this process. So, let’s start:

This shot was one of the first I took when I began thinking about photography seriously. I was thrilled by the idea of capturing the northern lights. That chilly night by the lake, I took hundreds of photos, but only one turned out well.

The auroras were very dim—barely visible to the naked eye—so I relied on the camera’s long exposure to reveal them. What made this shot stand out was the shape of the lights. I love how the swirl is distinct and neatly centered over the low spot on the treed horizon. If you look closely, you can also see the Big Dipper nicely framed. The low clouds on the horizon are less distracting than in my other shots, and the streaks of scattered clouds high in the frame add texture to the sky.

With years of technical growth since taking this photo, I now realize I could have improved it by paying more attention to the reflection on the lake and adjusting my camera settings. Back then, I thought shooting wide open was necessary and was afraid to increase the ISO. Adjusting those settings would have likely resulted in a better image.