The value of mentors

June 15, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

I still have the camera my parents gave me for my 13 birthday, it is one of the few things that has followed me through my life. The high school I went to offered a photography class and I signed up for it. I shot a few rolls of film and got the opportunity to develop them in the schools dark room to see the entire process but I didn't pay much attention to things and moved on. 

I mentioned Noah Cheek in my last blog. Noah is one of my closest friends and to say we have helped each other through some tough times would be an understatement. Noah and I went hiking one day a few years ago (like 6 or 7 or 8) and he brought his camera and tripod. He told me about the photography course he was taking and explained all about the exposure triangle and ISO and composition. I remembered some of the terms from the high school class, but what I clearly remembered was I never understood what any of that stuff did when I had a film camera and I was apprehensive to tackle it again. Plus, I had an iPhone, what more did I need? 

Long story short, I ended up with a mirrorless camera. An entry level Sony A6000. Noah and I talked about the exposure triangle more and challenged me to take pictures. I took a few online photography classes and started figuring a thing or two out, then Noah moved to Portland and photography kind of languished for me again. I had the basics and I would carry my camera with me on hikes and backpacking, but that was it. My camera lived in auto mode during that time. 

Then by chance, one day I bumped into Arlene Chambers. I had known her years before but as life moves around, I lost touch with her. She was doing a shoot in Bothell and my co-workers saw her and commented on the lens on her camera. I looked up and said "I know her!". Arlene and I started chatting and quickly became friends again. A lot had changed in both our lives since we had last seen each other and one of the biggest was Arlene had become a successful photographer. I really knew very little about photography at the time, but I knew her work was amazing. She was producing pictures daily that if I took just one of, I would consider my photography journey a success and put the camera down. Her work is that good. 

I had only really taken landscape photos up to this point. Mostly backpacking, hiking, snowshoeing and climbing mountains. For the most part, if a person was in a photo I took, I didn't like it. My thinking was anyone could take pictures of people, I took pictures of mountains! Then one Saturday I was out and about and Arlene was at Gasworks Park shooting a wedding. She asked if I had my camera and if I did, would I like to join her to see what was going on and take some pictures. Well, I had my camera but I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt so I swung by Khols. Dressed smartly in my new shirt and pants, I went to Gasworks and met up with her....and had a blast! Through the stress and pressure of photographing a wedding, Arlene was extremely patient taking the time to explain to me what she was doing and encouraging me to take photos with her. Wedding photography was a lot of hard work but I learned more that day then I had in all the time I had the camera. You name it and it lands in wedding photography. Portrait photography, family photography, low light, flash, product photography....the whole thing. Arlene gave me a few jobs to do that day and much to my delight, she used a few photos I took in the albums, but what she did was teach me. She has invited me to more weddings and shoots always treating me as a peer and actually using some of my photographs to deliver to clients. The confidence I have gotten from all of this is remarkable as is the grace and patience she has with me. If you need a fun and energetic photographer for a wedding, senior, couples, engagement, maternity or boudoir shoot, check Arlene's work out. 


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Arlene Chambers Photography www.arlenechambers.com IG:@arlenechambersphotography
 


Noah has spent the past few years sharpening his photography skills with food photography and has a very successful Instagram account. We stay in touch and are always bouncing ideas and concepts off each other. We discuss gear and computers a lot. What we are thinking about getting and the question "why" always comes up. The challenge presented with the "why" is usually "is there something you already have that can do the job?" Trying to use what you have instead of spending money getting a new toy. We can also have the opposite effect on each other and help each other justify almost anything! It is a slippery slope sometimes. Noah has also ventured into video and has launched a podcast talking with people from the food and BBQ community. He is CheekyBBQ on all the social and video platforms. 

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Noah Cheek, Cheeky BBQ www.cheekybbq.com IG:@cheekybbq
 

I have had the incredible honor of shooting both Noah and Arlene for their websites and social media. The thought that I am shooting the people that I respect so highly and continue to teach me so much is really humbling. So get a mentor that will push you and challenge you in a positive way. 

 


 


The three photos that changed me

February 15, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

I was talking to a friend the other day about how photography is a journey and the path can be surprising. I took a photography course in High School and enjoyed it, but at that age I was very scattered and the concepts were too much for me to take in. Years later, my good friend Noah and I went on a hike and he brought his camera. As we were hiking he told me about the concepts of photography again. The terms sounded familiar but the processes behind them were still foreign and besides, I didn't want to haul a heavy DSLR on the trail with me. I always had my iPhone with me and the camera on that did just fine. 

A few months later I was hiking by myself and I came across a little bush with beautiful red berries and Mt. Rainer was in the background. Noah had told me that photographers saw shots in their mind and then took the picture. I saw the shot I wanted in my mind, but for the life of me, I couldn't get the shot with the iPhone. The shot I ended up with his below. 

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It was frustrating I couldn't capture what I wanted to. 

I was hiking by myself almost all of the time at this point and I loved documenting where I went, so I decided to start looking at cameras. My history in life is to immerse myself in something, buy absolutely everything possible to make myself better at whatever the thing is I am immersed in but then never learn the "thing" I am doing. I would get frustrated and declare it a failure and get rid of everything. I decided to approach photography differently. Research led me to decide I wanted a camera with interchangeable lenses. Then when I was faced with a shot like the berries where I couldn't take the one I saw in my mind, I would do more research to figure out what I needed. That strategy has served me well in photography and in life. 

Over time, my landscape photography developed and I came up with an idea that I only wanted to take pictures of landscapes with no one in them. For a few years, I was hiking by myself and taking pictures of only mountains and trees and the things around them. 

Then I climbed Mt. St. Helens with my friends Colton and Rebecca. We were probably mid-mountain as the sun was rising and Rebecca was looking at Mt. Adams and since I was with my friends, I wanted to take some pictures for them. This picture of Rebecca looking at Mt. Adams made me take pause because I captured a moment in time that I felt conveyed emotion. It is still one of my favorite pictures I have taken. 

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While the three of us were on the summit that day, we spent a lot of time looking at Mt. Adams and decided to attempt to climb it. Two weeks later we attempted Mt. Adams. Adams is a little different than Helens because you can actually camp on the mountain. There is a spot around 10,000' on Adams nicknamed "the lunch counter" and that is where camp is. Normally you climb to lunch counter, set up camp, get some rest then start out early for the summit. Summit morning we started out around 3:30am and were on one of the snowfields as the sun was rising. It was a beautiful morning and the sunrise had amazing colors. There were a few climbers going up the ridge to our right and I took a picture of their silhouettes. That really cemented in my mind that people were not only OK in photos, but to some extent, essential. 

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Since then I have taken classes on portraits and headshots and really enjoy working with people on shoots to try and delight them. The three photos on this page were vital to getting me where I am today. When I look at them, I am reminded to stay open minded and fluid because you just never know what photography, or life, has planned for you. 


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