Introduction to Photography: Interview with Keith

A few weeks ago I met up with Keith, my buddy from high school who now lives in Phoenix, and we took a week-long photography trip that included the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, and Arches National Park. Last night, I did a short phone interview with Keith as I wanted his perspective of what the trip was like from someone with no photography experience. Note that the landscape photographs are his.

Keith & Tim at Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah

Keith & Tim at Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah

Tim: So how much, if any, experience with photography have you had before this trip.

Keith: That would be zero.

Tim: How about art in general? You did some wood-burning and woodworking, right?

Keith: Yeah, I did some wood-burning. That was self-taught. And I’ve been to a few painting classes. But that’s about the extent of it.

Tim: Knowing that this was going to be a photography trip, what were you expecting?

Keith: I was expecting to carry all of your stuff! Like I was going to be your bag-boy, you know?

Monument Valley

At Monument Valley, goofing off while waiting for a cloud to move.

Tim: How closely did your expectations match your experience?

Keith: Totally opposite.  It was like, free reign. I thought I was going to be in prison and I was actually set free, you know?

Tim: Any particular memorable or exciting moment?

Keith: The thunderstorms. That was fun, yes. And probably, the four-wheel road in Arches, that was pretty memorable. And breaking down on the side of the highway in the middle of the desert on our way home. Very memorable.

Lightning Over Valley of the Gods

Lightning Over Valley of the Gods

Tim: Not in a great way though.

Keith: No, not really.

Lightning Over Valley of the Gods

Lightning Over Valley of the Gods

Tim: Maybe someday we’ll look back and laugh about it.

Keith: Some day, some day.

Tim: Not yet?

Keith: Not yet.

Tim: So what was your favorite location on this trip?

Keith: I’m gonna have to say the Grand Canyon.  I’d never been there, it was quite amazing.

Keith working a composition at the Grand Canyon

Keith working a composition at the Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon in B&W

Grand Canyon at Sunrise, B&W

Tim: Several of the sunrises and sunsets had what I call “peak” color, that lasts less than a minute, sometimes only seconds. Did you have moments where you found yourself scrambling to get the shot?

Grand Canyon Sunset

Grand Canyon Sunset

Keith: Yeah, when we were at Monument Valley at sunset, and our last sunset at Arches National Park. That Arches sunset came quick. I didn’t even get a photo of the rainbow.

Tim: You actually did.

Keith: Yeah, it’s very small. You can barely see it. Ashley was like, “That’s not a rainbow!”. I was like, “See, it’s right there! It’s just small!”  She was like, “That’s not a rainbow.”

Rainbow Sunset At Arches

Tim: So how does this trip change you look at a landscape photograph?

Keith: Totally different. I never really thought of a landscape photograph other than, you know, like if you take a picture of the sunset you take a picture of the sun going down; but if you turn around, you actually see all the colors that the sunset actually makes.

Monument Valley At Sunset

Monument Valley At Sunset

Tim: Were you surprised at the different colors and types of light?

Keith: Oh yeah. Yeah. I was very intrigued. It actually got me motivated to get my own camera and start taking my own pictures.

Tim: So are you ready for our next trip?

Keith: Yes! Are leaving next week or??

Ashley: No!

Keith: Oh, Ashley says no.

Storm At Arches

Storm At Arches

Thoughts on Shooting Palouse

The Palouse region is named after the town of Palouse in southeast Washington. It is a corner of the world that I didn’t know existed until I ran across a few photographs of it. I’m so glad I did. It is beautiful, American-proud farmland. Rolling green hills, miles of vacant dirt roads, curious horses, old red barns, and wheat. The air is clean and the folks are friendly.

Shooting Palouse

One afternoon while waiting for sunset, we drove into the small town of Fairfield (population of 612) looking for a restroom. There were cars parked all over downtown along the street but no one was around. “Where the heck is everyone?” We turned down a side street adorned with red, white, and blue flags and saw that the building labeled “Community Center” was in full swing with a big BBQ pit outside brewing some delicious smelling grub. A small community that lives like a community, enjoying one another’s company, celebrating our independence and freedom; and I suspect that most, if not all of them know each other. Down-to-earth people. I love that about the Palouse region.

Sunset from Steptoe Butte

Sunset from Steptoe Butte

While the area is absolutely incredible to drive through and experience, photographing it is challenging. Most of the roads go through valleys so there are only a few places to get a good overlook unless you have access to private property. Steptoe Butte state park is the best location for this.

The area also requires a lot of exploration on dirt roads.  Actual dirt roads, not gravel or rock.  If it rains, forget about it. I suspect most four-wheel-drive vehicles would struggle. The plus side is that you’ll rarely come across another person out there. At least that’s a plus until you break down. There is virtually no cell service other than in the towns.

Abbie and I shooting sunrise at Steptoe Butte... at 4:50 am.

Abbie and I shooting sunrise at Steptoe Butte… at 4:50 am.

By far, the hardest part about this trip was the incredibly long days and short nights. It never “dawned” on me that we were going to be shooting at the summer solstice in the northern latitudes. Nor did I realize how much of a difference that can make. So sunrise was around 4:50am and sunset at 8:50pm. So we were going to bed around 11 and waking up at 4. This was really difficult as I treasure my eight hours. Usually we were napping back at the hotel by 9 when the sun was already high and bright in the sky. Thank you black-out curtains.

The rewards of getting up early to catch the golden hour, 2000 miles of driving, and having to stretch my compositional creativity a bit, the resulting photographs from this area are awesome and I can’t wait to release them in September at my home gallery show. I hope you can attend!

Sunset At Palouse