Tag Archives: Dawn Kish

Q&A: Photographer Dawn Kish Discusses June Cover Shoot

Photo courtesy of Dawn Kish

Hiking in Buffalo Park with Anni and Joth Jacobson | Courtesy of Dawn Kish

Arizona Highways contributing photographer Dawn Kish was once again tasked with photographing our June 2014 issue (last year’s cover was another beauty, thanks to “DKish,” as she’s known around here). Below, Kish talks about shooting the cover and what it takes to get the right photograph.

It really feels like you were in your element when you shot the June cover. What were you trying to convey with your images?
I wanted it to look like someone was having fun in nature. Very natural moments are important to me. Even though we had it planned out, I really tried hard to make it seem documentary-style. Plus, I like rock-hopping myself. Rocks are fun, so I had the talent hiking around on the rocks. I feel like my work reflects me sometimes and how I feel about the natural world.

Did you do much scouting beforehand? Describe your process as you prepared for the big shoot.
I have been up in that park many times because I live at the base of it. I had seen these rocks before and wanted to make landscapes with them. So when [Photo Editor] Jeff Kida asked me to do photos of hikers in Buffalo Park, this is one of the places I wanted to go back to. I feel like the rocks broke up the photo nicely … not your same ol’ “hiker on a trail” photo. Plus, I did go up there to scout the sunrise and sunset to make sure I knew what I could expect from either that time of year.

What challenges did you encounter on this shoot, and how did you overcome them?
Well, when Jeff called about the June cover for 2013, it was shot in September 2012. This time of year is our big monsoon season, so getting the San Francisco Peaks in the background is a bit difficult when they are covered up by the rain clouds. In fact, we did get rained on that afternoon, so I had to fill in light with portable strobes. When he called me in August 2013 for the June 2014 issue, I knew we would possibly be in the same predicament. One thing that helped us was getting out early, before the rain. We got up there when the sun rose at 6 a.m. The models were not so stoked about that wake-up call — they were at my house by 5:30 a.m. Jeff, who was coming from Phoenix, got up at 3 a.m. to be here. Now, that is dedication. To make great photos you need great light, and sometimes that happens really early in the morning.

If I remember correctly, you did your own styling, besides working as the photographer. Are you often a one-man band?
I am usually working a bunch of angles to get shoots done. Usually there is no budget to hire a stylist, assistant, etc. I have done so many shoots and have learned that it is always good to think ahead. Like, what if your model comes to the shoot wearing a bikini, but the shoot is for a winter issue? OK, that is an extreme example, but it is always good to make sure the model knows exactly what you want or need to get the shot. Reshoots are heartbreaking, and I don’t want to waste other people’s time. Props are always important for authenticity, and I tend to use the talent’s gear as much as possible.  When I have a shoot, I usually send out an email list to the talent so they can come prepared with all kinds of things, “just in case” we might need something. Plus, I bring extra stuff too.

HIking in Buffalo Park with Anni and Joth Jacobson. | Photo courtesy of Dawn Kish

HIking in Buffalo Park with Anni and Joth Jacobson | Courtesy of Dawn Kish

Did any image stand out as a favorite?
I definitely like the cover shot because it looks natural, but there was this one moment when one of the other models saw a flower called Indian paintbrush. She was amazed at the beauty and took her iPhone out to take a shot. So I took a photo of her taking a photo because it was her normal reaction to nature. This is exactly what I would do hiking down the trail. I have tons of photos of flowers, lichen, rocks, leaves, etc. This is not the best photo ever but tells a little story about what happens when you go outside for a hike. Oh, and it was muddy too, so I took some shots of the hiking boots looking muddy, and I like that photo, too.

You’re an outdoors/adventure photographer … how did that experience help you nail the shot?
After many years, you learn how to hold ’em, learn how to fold ’em, learn how to walk away and learn how to run. Being observant is key to working with the outside elements. So, learning about different environments is a major part of that success. With photography you are always learning how to do things better or different or more creative with your eye. Plus, I picked “real” hikers. They love to do this stuff, and they are comfortable outside. In fact, Sheree, the cover girl, worked with Grand Canyon Youth (GCY). She was one of the lucky kids who took a Grand Canyon trip when she was a teen. Sheree was so inspired by nature, she became a GCY river guide. She is an outdoors gal now, rowing boats and hiking through the Canyon.

What three tips would you give to a novice adventure photographer?
1) Learn about light. Light is the most important thing in photography.
2) Know what you’re passionate about.
3) Have fun. Photography is fun, so this is what you should be having.

What camera(s) did you use?
I used a Nikon D700 with a 17-35mm Nikkor lens.

—Kathy Ritchie


Filed under Covers, Q&A

Arizona Highways Contributor John Sherman Talks About the #SlideFire

John Sherman

John Sherman

Contributing Arizona Highways photographer John (a.k.a. “Verm”) Sherman was in the Verde Valley when the Slide Fire started. Over the next couple of days, Sherman captured several photographs of the fire. Since it was first reported, the fire has burned 20,369 acres of forest. Below, he talks about what he witnessed:

I was in Page Springs down in the Verde Valley, shooting near the fish hatchery on Oak Creek, when the fire started. I could see a cloud building up over the hills north of the hatchery. The skies were clear everywhere else, and I thought, “Oh, no, that must be a fire.” Dawn Kish and I had planned to climb Oak Creek Spire the next day, but the smoke descended into Sedona (as seen in Ted Grussing’s fine aerial shots), and we scrubbed that plan. Instead, we went out to the Cottonwood-to-Clarkdale scenic drive to try and shoot the fire at night. I had driven it a couple months back and thought it would give a view of the fire atop the red cliffs. I shot with two cameras that night and exposed thousands of RAW frames in hopes of assembling time-lapse sequences later.

The next morning we woke to irritating smoke, so we escaped over to Prescott so we could get some climbing in. It gave me a chance to to review the first set of images, then plan to try for more fire and stars shots. I had heard about the much-anticipated Camelopardalis meteor shower due Friday night and was thinking it would make unique shots to record that celestial event happening above the fire. We drove up to the top of Mingus Mountain for the meteor show, set up our cameras and lawn chairs, and waited for the show. As it turned out, the meteor shower was a bust. I only saw one shooting star, and that one failed to grant my wish for hundreds more to bless my images.  Nevertheless, I shot through the night and into the dawn, which was when I saw the big plume form. It bubbled up into the sky looking like a mushroom cloud from a nuclear blast, then stretched out to the east with wind shear up high (as the lower part of the plume slowly moved west).

John Sherman

John Sherman

John Sherman

For the sake of our lungs, we moved around based on wind direction. We got back to Flagstaff on Sunday night, and it was a bit smoky downtown and around NAU, but relatively clear in the town’s higher elevations. By Monday morning, the winds had shifted enough that Flagstaff was clear. The mood here is good, and we’re thankful that the winds shifted and lessened – and, of course, thankful for the hard work of the firefighters. It’s scary to think of how bad it could have gotten if the winds had stayed as strong as the first few days.

John Sherman

John Sherman

As to what was going through my mind — at first it was mostly trying not to botch the tricky exposures. Then, once things were set up and the camera was doing its own thing, I would ponder the aftermath of the fire. As you know, I love photographing wildlife. I had gone down to Page Springs to photograph the common black-hawks raising their family when the fire started. I wondered if the smoke would cause the black-hawk parents to flee. And of course, I couldn’t help but think about all the other baby animals that couldn’t escape the fire.

On a positive note, we stopped at Kaibab Lake on the drive back to Flagstaff, where I checked to see if the smoke had driven off the ospreys. I’m glad to report that I saw a parent tending the nest, so they hung tough through the smoke.  I haven’t been able to check in on the black-hawks, but I hope they’re doing well.

To see more of John Sherman’s work, visit: Vermphoto.com or to watch a time lapse of the fire, visit http://www.vermphoto.com/blog/2014/5/burn-baby-stop-timelapse-from-slide-fire

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Filed under Eco Issues, Photography

Photographer Dawn Kish Gets Beat Up on the Job

Photo courtesy of Dawn Kish

Photo courtesy of Dawn Kish

You’ve seen photographer Dawn Kish’s work in our magazine. She’s a fantastically talented photographer, always willing (and ready) to do what it takes to get the shot. In this case, she may have gone a little too far. Find out what happened to her below:

Wow, those are some shiners! What happened?
I smashed my face with my camera in a big ol’ Grand Canyon rapid. I just got a new underwater housing for my camera and was so excited to shoot in the rapids. I was too busy trying to get the shot and didn’t hold on tight. We hit a big hole, and wham. I hit the cooler with my camera in front of my face. Ouch!

Have you ever been injured on the job before?
Not like this. I have never had a head injury before, either — I looked like an eggplant. I have dropped my camera on rocks, but it was just fine. I do know other photographers who have broken limbs to get the shot. I guess after 25 years of taking photos, I finally got hurt.

What would you do differently next time?
After I posted my battle wounds on Facebook, I didn’t realize that others had done the same thing. One photographer told me that it happened to him, and that when you have a waterproof housing around the camera, you must hold it away from your face when you’re shooting in rough water. I was too busy looking through the viewfinder and didn’t see the big hole in the rapids coming up. All of this trauma for the love of making photos. Next time, hold on and keep the camera away from the face. I got it!

So, what’s the reaction like around town?
Holy guacamole! I wish I had a video of the reactions. Some were worried, some were shocked, some thought I was tough and some thought I was dumb. It was funny, though; most people thought I still looked good. My boyfriend, John “Verm” Sherman, took a bunch of zombie photos of me. Those are fun shots. Everyone kept asking me whether it hurts. I tell them, “Not as much as my ego.”

What camera did you use to sustain your vertical face-plant?
I was shooting with a Nikon D7000 and a 12 mm to 24 mm lens. It still works great. Go Nikon!

You can see Dawn’s work in the August issue of Arizona Highways.

—Kathy Ritchie


Filed under Inside Scoop, Photography

Arizona Highways on NPR

Dawn Kish, Baby Sue, Kelly Vaughn Kramer

(L-to-R) Dawn Kish, Baby Sue, Kelly Vaughn Kramer

In the upcoming March issue of Arizona Highways, Managing Editor Kelly Vaughn Kramer writes about a Havasupai medicine woman named Dianna Baby Sue White Dove Uqualla. In November, Kramer ventured into the Grand Canyon to meet with Baby Sue and receive a blessing; however, she wasn’t alone. Joining her on the 8-mile journey to Supai (plus another 2 miles to reach the campground where they stayed) were photographer Dawn Kish and KJZZ reporter Laurel Morales, who reported the story for Fronteras: The Changing America Desk.

Baby Sue, Laurel Morales, Dawn Kish

(L-to-R) Baby Sue, Laurel Morales, Dawn Kish

“We have a relationship with KJZZ here in Phoenix, wherein they track a few of our stories,” explains Kramer. “The trip to Havasu Canyon to visit Baby Sue seemed like the perfect fit for a collaboration because hers was such a great story and the trip itself would provide some great opportunities for audio.”

Morales captured Kramer’s blessing and talked to her about the experience, giving readers a glimpse into both an Arizona Highways writer’s experience and process, and a world that so few of us will ever see.

You can listen to Morales’ report here.


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Filed under Inside Scoop

So What Makes A Good Photograph? We Ask Dawn Kish…

Arizona Highways is known for our photography … so, from time to time, I like to chat up our photographers about their work … you know, get the inside scoop from them about a particular photo shoot or subject. In this case, I hit up Dawn Kish and talked to her about her March 2012 shoot involving Fred Phillips. Phillips helped transform some 400 acres of riverfront land in Yuma from an invasive tangle of non-native vegetation to a vibrant wetlands area.

So what makes Dawn’s eye so unique? According to our photo editor Jeff Kida, “It’s her unique way of seeing and compositionally putting things together within a scene. Sometimes it’s a different angle of view and sometimes it’s what she chooses to include or exclude.”

Below, Dawn spills the beans about her watery photo shoot and shares some behind-the-scenes photos from her trip to Yuma and the Colorado River:

This looks like a fun shoot… How did the concept evolve?
When I received the assignment, the first thing I do is read the article. I like to get as much information about my subject before the shoot as possible. I like to get ideas flowing and I even went on Fred’s website and Googled him for hours. Sort of like a like a stalker … Fred Phillips has been working on wetland projects along the Colorado River for over 15 years. He must like to get his hands and feet wet. My first gut feeling was a portrait IN the water. So, I proposed the idea and emailed him a photo I did of a woman in the Colorado River, fully clothed and soaked to the bone.

Dawn at work

How did you get your subject to play ball in the water… Was he expecting this?
Fred was game from the start. He emails me back with a list of clothing options and possible places to shoot. Obviously, he can see the fun and creative shot that can happen. I think it helps when your are in the river too.

What challenges did you run into and how did you over come them?
I never know what the location looks like until I get there, so it is always a challenge. I like to scout the place first. I want to know where the light is going. You can set up a time and place, but on the hour of the shoot, the light might be drab or the weather might be cold. A freezing subject is not a happy one.

Fred is soaked, I can see his body shiver and his body is stiff. So, I make him swim (fully clothed) up river against the current. It worked. He can move now and be a little more comfortable during the rest of the time — about a half-an-hour — in the water.

Dawn loving her day job.

Top 3 do’s or don’t’s for a water shoot?
DO wear your bathing suit and water shoes and make sure your team has the same. DO carry waterproof bags to put your gear in. DO bring extra clothes to change into after — for everyone — because you WILL get cold. Towels too.

DON’T dunk your flash into the river. It will never work again. Really! My lovely assistant somehow lost the flash into the river. KurrrPlunk. Now, I’m hoping a new NIkon SB-900 Flash will appear in my mailbox. Ha Ha!

Dawn is back at it... working to get just the right shot.

What did you love most about the final product?
They look GREAT! I had a great subject and couldn’t go wrong. I’m so delighted because Fred was really into it. To have a subject willing to go along with your creative [flow] is the best.

When you go into any shoot, how do you prepare?
I make sure I double check everything the day before. Make sure all your batteries are charged. Your digital flash cards are empty, formated and ready to go. The gear bag needs to have all the flashes, AA batteries, tripods, stands, tape, clamps, drop cloth, zip ties, etc.

What kind of camera did you use?

What time of day was this?
Sunset! The best time to shoot anything, anywhere. It’s the magic light.

Want to learn more about Dawn? Check out her blog.

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Filed under Photography, Q&A