Tag Archives: Q&A

Q&A: Tucson Photographer Seth Critchley on Photo Contests and His Upcoming Show

A hackberry emperor butterfly prepares to take flight in Oracle. | Seth Critchley

A hackberry emperor butterfly prepares to take flight in Oracle. | Seth Critchley

You might recognize Seth Critchley’s name. A frequent contributor to our Online Photography Contests, Critchley earned an honorable mention in last year’s contest for his photo of a walking stick. This year, he’s at it again with a photo (above) of a hackberry emperor butterfly — one of 10 finalists in the Macro category. (To see all the finalists, click here.)

Critchley’s work will also be on display in Tucson, at DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun‘s Little Gallery, from Sunday, January 26, through Friday, February 7. The show, titled From Arizona, is his first as a photographer. We asked him a few questions about the show and his craft.

Q: Tell us about yourself, your history with photography, and how and why you started submitting photos to our Online Photo Contests.
A: I was born in Maricopa County in 1976. My parents, both musicians and “free thinkers,” raised and surrounded me with music, theater and art in all its forms. With my head in the clouds and art in my blood, I moved to the Midwest when I was 17 to pursue a career in music. All the while, I was drawing, writing, and making photos.  After 10 years as a bass player in a successful regional band, but not feeling fully in my place, I decided to return to my home in the desert. Constantly torn between the regular corporate have-to-pay-the-bills grind and the desire to fulfill my artistic needs, I left a fairly lucrative career in project management to pursue a career – with the help and support of friends and loved ones – in photography.

I started submitting photos to Arizona Highways toward the end of 2012, just to push myself to develop. Seeing my work up against some of the best photographers in the country has a way of accelerating your learning and sharpening your focus. It’s also a great way to network and meet other photographers and new friends who have similar interests and goals.

Q: What can photography enthusiasts expect at From Arizona?
A: It will include everything from massive three-piece canvas landscapes to tiny creatures and flowers of the desert printed on metal. Many of the photos that will be on display were taken as I walked the same hills as Ted DeGrazia himself. Some people see Arizona as nothing but a dry desert without much color. The essence of this show is to expose Arizona’s natural, rugged beauty in a modern way, hopefully giving the audience a new appreciation for the place I call home. I am honored to be a featured artist, and cannot imagine a better location for the next step in my career as a photographer than at the iconic DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun.

Q: How would you describe your photographic style, and what, to you, makes a photograph successful?
A: I am compelled to tell a story with my images, whatever the subject matter. The only way I can do that is to “get into” the moment — follow that butterfly and see what its agenda is for the day, or sit with the mountain for a while and be ready to capture what it wants to reveal.

The final images that I publish are harmoniously vibrant and dark. I often use shadows and silhouettes against vividly colorful backgrounds to celebrate and illuminate the range of the environment I am in. There is no light without dark, and as a photographer, my basic function is to play with that light, attempting to convey the true spirit of the moment and/or subject of my focus.

Q: What one piece of advice would you give a novice photographer?
A: Keep your hands dirty and your gear clean. What I mean by that is, don’t be afraid to crawl on your belly or climb a fence post to find the best way to shoot a subject. I often lay my camera on the ground, albeit carefully, for a different perspective. Also, general maintenance and cleaning of your equipment is a no-brainer, but also know your camera settings and how to navigate through them quickly. Be willing and able to change your direction on the fly. This goes for editing as well. Find a way to streamline your workflow so as not to interrupt your artistic “flow” when putting together your final images.

Q: Where else can people see your work?
A: My website, my Facebook page and on Twitter. And I’d like to thank Arizona Highways and the DeGrazia Gallery for providing such amazing opportunities, such as the annual photo contests and the Little Gallery presentations, as an outlet for local budding photographers and artists to illustrate their talents and engage a broader audience.


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Q&A: Research Geologist’s Findings Help Explain How Grand Canyon, Colorado River Were Formed

Photo courtesy of Kyle House

Photo courtesy of Kyle House

Rivers have long been a source of fascination for Kyle House, a research geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. House’s research focuses on the Lower Colorado River, and his paper on the river’s formation and how it helped shape the Grand Canyon recently won the prestigious Kirk Bryan Award for Research Excellence from the Geological Society of America. (For a complete look at House’s project, click here.)

House’s findings have helped revitalize interest in developing a more complete understanding of the Lower Colorado River’s geologic history. We asked House a few questions about his background, his research and what’s next:

How did you get into geology, and how did you come to work for the USGS and at the Grand Canyon?
I became a geologist upon leaving the flat plains of Enid, Oklahoma, after high school to attend college in Bellingham, Washington. I attended graduate school at the University of Arizona, where I studied the history of various rivers in Arizona over a range of scales in space and time. This experience earned me an M.S. and a Ph.D. in geosciences, but it also engendered awareness that rivers are fascinating. They are systems that can create, destroy and regenerate landscapes, and their records of doing these things are decipherable when viewed through the prism of geology. I mapped several desert river and lake systems at my previous job, at the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology. I was on a mapping project when I stumbled upon key evidence for the origin of the Colorado River and became entranced by the problem. I spent several years working on it while at NBMG, and then, a position focused on the river opened up at the USGS in Flagstaff. Thus, I was faced with a chance to move to a favorite place and continue to study a favorite river. Obviously, I took it!

What was your goal when you began researching the geologic history of the Canyon and Lower Colorado River?
Initially, my goal was to map some well-exposed sections of what I thought was a well-established stratigraphic record. Once I learned that it was practically untapped or only well-known in select but disparate areas, I realized that there was a scientific mother lode at my feet. The fact that it spoke to the history of the Grand Canyon was a fortunate side effect. Lots of geologists study the Grand Canyon; only a few of us prefer to venture deep into the desert to study where all the mud, sand and gravel went, and how and when it got there.

The evidence you uncovered supports the theory that the Lower Colorado River has held its present course for between 5 million and 6 million years. What does this tell us about the river, and about its role in carving the Grand Canyon?
My study area lies from the mouth of the Canyon to the river’s delta in the Gulf of California. This is the reach of the river through which essentially every drop of water and every grain of silt, sand and gravel that exits the Grand Canyon must pass. The vast majority of those grains make it all the way through to the delta and the sea beyond, but some get stored in the series of short canyons and relatively long, broad valleys that characterize the valley of the Lower Colorado. There, the physical stratigraphic evidence for the evolution of the Lower Colorado River and Grand Canyon can be seen.

What we have known for some time is that beginning immediately below the mouth of Grand Canyon, there is a suite of physical evidence clearly indicating that no through-going Colorado River passed through this critical area prior to about 6 million years ago. Thus, we can assert with fair confidence that prior to this time, the size, shape, and continuity of Grand Canyon was considerably different than it is now.

Our new findings were discovered in a geologic mapping project in the area of Laughlin, Nevada, and Bullhead City, Arizona. It was a joint project between the Arizona Geological Survey and the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology that was funded primarily by the USGS. Our “golden section” was found adjacent to a casino (Harrah’s) in Laughlin. There, in a short, steep and sun-baked ravine, we found a stack of geologic deposits containing a clear record of this sequence of events: no river present in the valley; occurrence of large flood from upstream; formation of a lake; drainage of lake; thick sedimentation associated with a permanently through-going, large river.

This finding offered tremendous support to an idea of river integration via spilling lakes. We eventually determined that there was no river present downstream from Hoover Dam before about 5.5 million years ago, but within less than 1 million years, the river had arrived in full force and filled the valleys with hundreds of feet of sediment.

Did your findings surprise you?
The discovery of the “golden section” next to the casino came as a huge surprise. You never know what you may find when mapping the desert. Our findings contrasted sharply with conventional wisdom about how this part of the system evolved. The predominant line of thinking involved a complex series of steps involving inundation by the sea; erosion of an early river; drainage capture near the central Grand Canyon area; retreat of the sea; advance of the river; and uplift of the general region of the lower river.

In contrast, the “spilling lake” model requires no advance and retreat of the sea, no headward (upstream directed) erosion through steep mountains, and no regional uplift. Thus, it is a far simpler explanation for the stratigraphic record and the modern landscape.

What’s the next step in this area of research?
The Lower Colorado River Valley is a critical national resource for water supply to some of the largest cities in the Western U.S. It is also a key recreational resource. We need to have a clear understanding of the geologic and hydrologic history of this important area. Our recent work has highlighted this area as one containing a spectacular geologic record. This, in addition to its value as a resource to the American people, has led to the development of a USGS geologic mapping project focused on the valley and its geologic history. Last year, we began a project to map the entirety of the lower river, from Hoover Dam to Yuma. It will be the first such project to focus on this reach as a whole.

Anything else you’d like to mention?
The Lower Colorado River is a true natural wonder: a large river that heads in the Rocky Mountains and ultimately courses through one of the Earth’s hottest deserts. Of course, it is highly regulated now, but to see it during its heyday — as it carried large pulses of snowmelt runoff through the sweltering, foreboding desert landscape of its lower valley — would have been a deeply awe-inspiring experience. Creating geologic maps that document the evolution of this interesting natural system is the closest that we can come to understanding its history, its grandeur and possibly its future.


—Noah Austin

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Q&A With Paul Markow… Our Photographer for Best Restaurants 2013

screen-shot-2013-02-27-at-12-28-16-pmIf you haven’t picked up our April issue, featuring our photographers’ favorite places to eat in Arizona, well, you’re missing out. It’s a wonderful issue with several tasty and unexpected dining options (Thai food in Williams? Mark Lipczynski swears it’s delicious!). Once again, we’ve utilized the brilliant photographic services of Paul Markow, and once again, Paul did great work. This year, he traveled 1,768 miles — from Sonoita to Flagstaff to Oro Valley and Marble Canyon, Paul certainly made the rounds. “The joy I receive from this sojourn around my home state always makes me feel like one of the luckiest photographers around,” he says.

Below, Paul shares some outtakes from the shoots and talks about his assignment:

How did you approach this assignment?
The process starts with me making a phone call to the chosen restaurants and asking for the owner. After assuring them I am not a telemarketer, the best part of my job is telling the owner that Arizona Highways wants to feature them in an upcoming issue. Giving people gifts is not a bad gig and the response is always pure excitement.

What do you love about the final product?
I love the process of actually getting to the printed piece— traveling, photographing, then waiting to see which images the Arizona Highways gang picks and how they are presented. Once I turn in the photography, it’s usually out of my control. It’s always a little like Christmas when you finally have the issue in your hands. And it never gets old standing in the check-out line at Safeway, seeing your cover right in front of you. Well, maybe the standing in line part does.

How did you overcome challenges along the way?
Challenges are why we are hired to do projects. I thrive on them and I get a great deal of satisfaction from solving whatever is thrown my way. At Cliff Dwellers Lodge, for example, I left Flagstaff at 6:30 a.m. thinking I would be there for breakfast. I arrived just after 9 a.m. and I was told that they had started winter hours… the restaurant was only open in the early morning, so I had to settle for an exterior shot. Fortunately, Arizona Highways is a magazine about place and the Vermillion Cliffs, where Cliff Dwellers Lodge is located, served as a very nice backdrop.

Food is a tough subject to shoot. What tips would you give to aspiring food photographers?
There are only a certain number of ways to shoot food, and when you shoot food for Arizona Highways, while it may be a food shot, it’s a food shot in a place. In other words, you need to show a sense of its environment. So for me, here are the big questions: is the food attractive enough to shoot and how much of the restaurant do I want to show? I always bring lights just in case the ambient lighting is no good. However, I try to use as much natural light as possible, so I am always looking for window lighting. Another important tip is food styling. The way the cook or chef brings out a dish is usually unshootable. You have to take the dish and reorganize everything on it. I typically tell the chef to bring me his dish of choice, along with a second dish with all the components on it. I reorganize the dish to be true to the original, using the greenest lettuce, nice looking tomatoes and the best parts of the bread, etc.

Did you change up your shooting style from last year or the year before?
In this business, you always need to improve upon your work and stay fresh, so yes. Hopefully I get better every year, and I do try to change how I approach the shoot, especially in the case of the Best Restaurants issue. You’re always trying to bring a fresh perspective. I definitely did not want this year’s issue to look like last year’s issue.

Any surprises along the way?
Not really. Although sometimes you walk into a place and you find something really fantastic. For example, at Los Hermanos in Superior, there was this great bar area,which I shot. Of course, the best surprise was Ben Mason, our wonderful model and a true Arizona cowboy — he made my day.

What kind of camera did you use?
I shot 95 percent of the issue with my trusty Canon Mark III Ids. It is my oldest digital camera, approaching a million shutter clips, and soon to be retired for the Canon 1ds. My lens — the Canon 24-105 f/4 — is one of the two I use for almost everything I shoot.

—Kathy Ritchie

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Q&A: A Conversation With Photographer Matthew DeYoung

Matthew DeYoung

You’ve probably never heard of Matthew DeYoung. Actually, I had never heard of him either until I saw some of his work and thought: “Hmmm, interesting… I should talk to this guy.” Matthew has been creating some wonderful photographs using light. His series, The Exploration of Light, are whimsical and beautiful. “It is one of my favorite series to work on because it lets me experiment with new techniques all the time like using sparklers, flashlights, spotlights and even flying airplanes,” he says.

Below, Matthew talks about his craft and what it’s like to make a name for himself in a very competitive industry:

How does Arizona inspire your work?
One thing I hear a lot from people is that Arizona is just a big dusty, dry and dirty desert.  My goal as a photographer is to show them a different side of the desert.  I want them to see the hidden beauty that is the Arizona desert… what lies under all that dust, how the sky looks when a Monsoon is about to hit or when a crisp, lightning crack flies across the sky.  I grew up in Arizona and I could not imagine living anywhere else.  I enjoy the days when I wake up and think I really want to go photograph the pines and I can drive two hours from Phoenix and see pines. Arizona has to be one of the best states to live in to be a photographer because there are so many locations and places that you can go to take pictures.

Any favorite scenes around the state you like to shoot?
That’s a hard question. There are so many locations that I love photograph all around the state.  I really enjoy photographing around and in Oak Creek Canyon in Sedona, I enjoy seeing the beautiful Saguaro near New River.  One of my favorite things about Arizona is that you can always find wildlife. I was out photographing near Buckeye a couple weeks ago for a new series called Left Behind, and while we were out in the middle of a field that was filled with trash people had dumped, we spotted two baby burrowing owls just sitting around watching us and posing for photos.  I enjoy running into nature like that. It’s absolutely breathtaking to see these creatures up close and personal almost anywhere you go in Arizona.

Talk to me about your Exploration of Light series … how did it come to be?
This is a series of photographs that are taken at night using long exposures.  Most of the photographs in this set take between thirty seconds and five minutes each.  The majority of the photographs are taken in the middle of nowhere using only moonlight to lighten up the image.  “Even in the darkest night, His light will always shine.” A simple saying that is the backbone of this series — no matter how dark a situation or time in your life is His light will always guide you in the right direction. It is one of my favorite series to work on because it lets me experiment with new techniques all the time like using sparklers, flashlights, spotlights and even flying airplanes.  Having the ability to experiment and see how many different ways you can work with light is simply amazing. It really opens a lot of doors for different types of photographs.

Matthew DeYoung

What are some challenges that you face as a photographer who is trying to make a name for himself?
It is incredibly hard to get started. I feel that if you can get in one location to show your work or simply show your work to someone it gets easier from there because someone has already given you a chance.  I hope and pray every day that God will open doors for me and my career. I know not to expect it over night but I have a lot of goals for my photography.  Something I have learned that I wish someone had told me sooner is that not everyone will enjoy my art. Since I have learned that, I have come to realize that I photograph more of what I like and more or what I would hang on my walls at my house.  You can’t please everyone with your art so don’t change your style of photographing just to please one person.

What kind of camera do you use?
I have always used a Canon camera. I started with an older 35mm Canon Rebel; my father then bought me my first digital Canon Rebel, and now I currently photograph with my Canon 7D’s.  I have and will always be a Canon photographer.


Upcoming exhibits featuring Matthew’s work:

Left Behind – August 1st – August 31st
Friday August 3rd – (8-10pm) Opening Night Reception with Matthew DeYoung and The Marissa Lynn Music Band
Elevate Coffee Company (Next to the Harkins Movie Theater)
2530 W Happy Valley Road #1273, Phoenix, AZ 85085
Hours: Mon-Fri: 6am-10pm – Sat: 7am-10pm – Sun:8am-10pm
Our Light – November 1st – November 30th
New City Studio
812 North 2nd Avenue  Phoenix, AZ 85003
Friday November 2nd – (6-10pm) Artist Reception With Matthew DeYoung & Kylie McCarthy

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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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Students In India Learn English Using AZ Highways

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When our friends at Off Madison Ave told us about a former intern of theirs who taught English in India, we thought that was pretty cool. When they told us that she used Arizona Highways as a teaching tool, we did a double take.

It was the summer of 2001, and Alexis Brunstedt was ready to see the world. She had already been bitten by the travel bug thanks, in part, to her own family who had hosted foreign exchange students before and her father, who would often bring home exotic treasures from his business trips overseas.

After talking to her parents, she was given the green light to pursue her dream during her summer semester.

Below, we talked to Alexis about her trip, how she used Arizona Highways to teach English and how the experienced changed her life.

What inspired you to go to India for a year to teach English?
My father made a deal with me that if I found something that included room and board, he and my mom would help with travel expenses. I spoke with my favorite English professor at Yavapai at the time, Nick Nownes, and he allowed me to earn school credit for the work and study I would  accomplish overseas. The next step was to find the place to go. I did a lot of searching online for schools overseas offering room and board in exchange for teaching English. When I found a school in South India that also housed an orphanage and was owned by a church looking for a female to come teach English in exchange for room and board, everything fell into place. As preparation for my travel continued, I would meet people who had gone to India and they were elated to help me prepare both mentally and physically for my trip. Looking back I realize now that people who travel to India are a breed of their own — you have to be kind of wacky in a wanderlust charming way. After India, I went on to study ethnobotany in Ecuador, Fine Art in London and I worked as an Au Pair in Germany.

Why did you decide to use Arizona Highways as a teaching tool?
Growing up, Arizona Highways was a staple in our home in Prescott. I loved the beautiful photography and how proud it made me feel about being from Arizona. I thought it would be helpful to share with the children where I was from using the text and images in the magazine. This would also give me an opportunity to build on stories the images told and build on vocabulary.

How did the children respond to the photographs?
Arizona Highways allowed me to create a deep connection with the students, as I was excited to share a part of myself with them. When I arrived and realized there was very little on the classroom walls, the pictures began to be celebrated as decoration. It was wonderful for each student to build a connection with a particular image and begin building vocabulary centered around their chosen image. They also became aware of a beautiful place called Arizona! For many of the students, India is all they will ever know — they will probably never even see the Taj Mahal — so, showing them vibrant images of a real place was very exciting.

What did they love most about the photographs?
In India, color is very important so capturing brilliant colors together was much appreciated by the students. I think they also liked having something that felt like their own, getting to pick the picture, to hang on the wall and to use in class.

What surprised you most about the experience?
I was fascinated to find a place that was so untouched by Western influence and I was overwhelmed by the hospitality of the East Indian culture. I also had the chance to learn India’s National Dance while I was there, The Bharatnatyam, and perform it for the school.

How did the experience change you?
This experience changed me profoundly. There was a phrase that was often said in the home I stayed at and in the school, “Be free.” It means to not worry, help yourself, be yourself, relax. I think as I get older, fear gets in the way more and more. It was a beautiful message at the time, as I was sick much of my trip and far away from home. Today, I remember to try to “be free” as in India and continue pursuing my aspirations.



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