Photographer Spotlight: Aaron Davis
Photographer Spotlight: Aaron Davis
By Graham Blus
Aaron, you are living in the Portland area. Can you tell us more about how Portland has shaped your photography and creative skills?
I’ve been living in Portland since last summer (2017), so while I haven’t been here long, the city and its surroundings have definitely lived up to all of my expectations as a photographer. I grew up about 75 miles south of here in Corvallis, so growing up it was always a treat to get to visit the Columbia River Gorge, Mt. Hood, and all of the beautiful lakes and rivers that are now basically in my backyard. My favorite thing about living in Portland thus far is just how close you are to everything - I can be out in the mountains in under an hour, not a soul in sight, or if I’m feeling like taking it easy I can be downtown in 15 minutes enjoying a cup of coffee and walking through the park shooting whatever sparks my interest. There are so many things to do here and I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of what I can shoot!
Is there a "must-go" place to visit in the Portland area? Food, exploring or just insider knowledge?
I love the Columbia River Gorge. My favorite thing to do with a few hours of free time is just drive out along the historic highway and listen to music. Some of my favorite shots have come from afternoon drives that I just happened to have my camera along for. I also really like driving random backroads out towards Mt. Hood, but one of the main things I’ve learned living here is that you have to be careful about when you go anywhere or you risk being completely overrun by tourists. Getting well-known places to yourself for any length of time around here is definitely a thing of the past.
Other than that, I don’t have much insider knowledge. I feel like I’m just starting to get my bearings here and am slowly becoming a local. Coming from a pretty rural town it’s been a huge change living in the city, but so far it’s been a very positive experience.
Your website shows a wide range of your photography — personal photography, travel photography and nature photography. Where do you hope to take your professional work and what do you love most about working as a photographer?
That’s a great question. Honestly, I don’t really know what I want to do with photography right now. I’ve shot weddings, concerts, engagements, parties, portraits… you name it. But my favorite subject matter is pretty obviously nature and landscapes - the main problem with that being that mountains don’t pay you to take their picture. My biggest inspirations are guys like Alex Strohl, Andrew Kearns, and Jared Chambers, who all do incredible travel/lifestyle/landscape work both for commercial clients and their own passions. I would love to someday be able to support myself 100% off of photography projects and would love to spend more time traveling to other countries, but for right now I think I’m happy just experimenting and continuing to find my style. Lately, I’ve been much more focused on my post-production workflow than actually shooting new content, and that’s been incredibly rewarding. I’ve put a ton of time into learning Photoshop and going back through all of the photos I’ve taken in the past 6 years to try and find any cool ones that I may have missed or not originally liked when I shot them. I also have a full-time job in marketing, so getting out and shooting has been less of a priority. I guess I’ll just keep working hard and see where it takes me!
Where is one of your favorite places you have traveled or explored — local or afar?
Iceland is definitely my favorite place I’ve ever been. Growing up in the PNW has given me a ton of opportunities to see some incredible stuff, but nothing prepared me for the sheer beauty and size of everything in Iceland. It’s so bleak and gloomy and beautiful and I have to go back.
What is your favorite piece of photography or multiple if you have more than one?
That’s a tough one! I definitely have a few. The first one that comes to mind is this photo from a trip to Glacier National Park with my dad and brother. I took my sleeping bag out on the shore of the lake we were camping at and waited until the Milky Way lined up perfectly for the shot. There were fires going on in the park at the time, and the red glow you see on the clouds was the flames being reflected off of them at night. It was just an all-around fantastic experience and I am really hoping to go back there soon.
Another one that I love is from a random trip in the middle of the night to a lake that I spent a lot of time camping at with my family growing up. My girlfriend had never done astrophotography before and wanted to try it out, so we jumped in the car and just sort of drove until we started seeing the milky way clearly. At one point it was so bright and beautiful that I just stopped the car in the middle of the road and we got out and shot photos for a while. This one took a lot of editing to really take shape, but I’m super proud of the final result.
When it comes to life what is your one piece of advice you would give to somebody else about life or photography?
Maaaaan I feel like I’m still just figuring things out! I guess my advice to new photographers would be to be patient with yourself and your work - buying a camera and expecting to immediately be sniping bangers and blowing up on Instagram is a great way to let yourself down. All of these things take practice and dedication. Being good at anything takes time and a fair amount of failure before anything else. Shooting every day to improve is a generic piece of advice we hear all the time that is actually extremely true, but rushing yourself or your projects is never worth it. Take your time, critique your work, improve, repeat. Being patient with yourself is actually so important to creating work that you’re proud of and that will stand the test of time.
Check out Aarons Website for prints and social media!