Sandra with Organ Pipe Cactus

Who I Am

When I look back on my childhood, I don’t remember ever being bored. We lived in a neighborhood full of kids, all close in age, whose playground was the entire neighborhood. We spent our days playing softball, building forts, riding our bikes, or skipping around the neighborhood singing “No Bears are out tonight” – and fearing the appearance of said Bear. Imagination was everything.

Weekends were often a time when we would be packed up into the station wagon, or the Willies Jeep, to go into the Owyhee Country of Eastern Oregon to seek out the latest rock or mineral dig location. During those rockhounding years, we spent countless hours with our parents in places not recorded on maps. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of being on those adventurous trips in places so remote that only the hawks and coyotes knew we were there. 

While the grownups spent their time digging, I spent mine exploring the area around us. The closer I got to the rocks, plants and animals around me, I discovered that there was incredible color and life in those lonely places. The passage of time was marked by the changing colors and shades of light on distant buttes and hillsides. I think those days in the desert inspired my love of color and texture and the magical effects of Light. And I still love rocks!

The road to Bruneau Canyon, Idaho.
Into Leslie Gulch...
Spring Creek, Oregon

When I was about eleven years old we visited a relative who was an abstract painter. I was thrilled when he took us into his studio and I was mesmerized with the space, and the smell of turpentine and paint. I fell in love with that place and decided that I wanted to be a painter! And… I tried. Granted, I was only eleven, but I got frustrated and just couldn’t muster the patience to learn how to put what I imagined to canvas. Instead, I got a Kodak Instamatic camera and decided to take photos to record all the things and events that I wanted to remember. My idea was to hold those images as inspiration until I could finally take the time to figure out how to paint the way I imagined. There was something that I was seeing, but I didn’t yet know what it was or how to express it.

Visiting Uncle Harold’s studio. Painting is “Birth of an Iceberg”

Why I Do It

I have spent more than fifty years behind the lens of gradually more sophisticated cameras. I am not a “perfect” photographer. In fact, I keep my mistakes, because often there is something in them that inspires me to see things differently. I don’t plan my shots. The photos are an in-the-moment meditation and memory of a place. I like to go, sometimes numerous times, to a place that attracts me. I take photos of what appears as I explore where I am, walking about and noticing whatever grabs my attention. Sometimes I have a vague idea of what I am looking for, but most of the time I don’t. I finally accepted that photography is my primary medium, and it is, and always has been, a life affirming part of my life. Taking photos is a constant that has kept me sane during times of confusion or challenge in my life. Seeking out the interesting or beautiful around me has always brought me peace, awe, and joy.

I remained a dedicated film photographer until my boss at my “day job” asked me to help select a digital camera to take photos of employees for an online photo directory. It would require the use this program, Adobe Photoshop, to fine tune the images once downloaded from the camera. My eyes were opened to the potential of digitally working with photos. I bought my first PC and my own copy of Photoshop and started scanning and learning how to work with images there. As I learned the capabilities of the program, I was immediately excited by the possibilities it presented. I decided I wanted to use it as an artistic tool to create the images I imagined, rather than to perfect my photos.

Through much trial and error, and nearly giving up photography altogether (the early challenges of printing digital photos), I discovered that by manipulating filters, saturation, and color settings I could change them into something looking more like paintings than photos. I loved that! I could play with my images to bring out the colors, textures and patterns I loved. They became something different that allowed me to interpret what I wanted to see. I have been an artist for as long as I can remember, and this technique gave me the satisfaction of taking what I captured in my camera and giving it my own expression of the moment. I could finally paint… digitally!

What I Do

I like to take a photo and explore the ways that changing hues or varying colors can create different impressions. I manipulate my photos digitally to create highly saturated, almost graphical images, to expose unexpected vibrant colors within. I loved manipulating photos to find the hidden surprises within.  But there was a part of me that longed to put my own hand to my images. One day I took a deep breath and experimented to see what would happen if I printed one of my modified images on matte paper then used pastel to hide different parts of it. That mixed media technique gave me the tactile connection with a digital image that I was craving. I am also experimenting with placing multiple layers of a subject together, then to manipulate the visibility and colors of the layers.

I love color, texture, pattern and light. My goal is to inspire you to look at the World around you playfully and joyfully and to see it in brilliant, highly saturated, vibrant color. I love to capture rocks, trees, animals and plants, or even the unexpected, like buildings, and to explore what is within. I am drawn to see what is around me in its own special and unique beauty. And I want to share with you that beauty and connection, to encourage you to look for the different expressions of life, and to celebrate what is out there in colorful and unexpected ways.