Sage Brown: Honoring Mother Nature


Sage Brown is a Portland, Oregon-based photographer and art director. Raised in the Appalachian Mountains, Sage launched a personal project called “Places I Am,” a series of beautiful images taken a couple of years ago in Oregon and Washington. He not only created a set of stunning postcards, but a website as well specifically for this project.  atlas talks to Sage about how his photography career has evolved and what inspired him to launch the “Places I Am” project. (Editor’s Note: As we roll into 2017, we wanted to get re-inspired by some of our favorite features from the last year. Enjoy these brilliant images from the gifted Sage Brown!)

How did you first get started in photography? Did you have a prior job/career before you started photography?

Sage Brown: When I was sixteen I enrolled in a black and white dark room class at the local community college. It was great. I spent all my free time in the darkroom making prints and stacks of them are still sitting in my closet today. My interests wandered for a good number of years and I wasn’t shooting very much until I dug my old AE-1 out of the closet again five or six years ago. I went on to study graphic design. For the past ten years, I have worked as an interactive designer but photography was always something I did on the side. Last year I was ready for some change and decided to take the leap and pursue photography full time.

How would you describe your photography?

Most of my work has come from the time I spend outdoors. I shoot a lot of landscapes and outdoor lifestyle, but I think that’s just the beginning. I never want to define myself by one type of work.

© Sage Brown

You grew up in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia. Has growing up in that region of the country made an impact on your photography? If so, how?

I do not think it has made a direct impact, but I can certainly credit my love for exploring the outdoors to my upbringing. I had a pretty non-traditional childhood. Many of my days were spent traipsing around the woods surrounding our home, building tree forts, and fishing. I think to some degree I am still running around in the wilderness exploring in the same way I was as a child only now with a little more purpose.

You recently completed a personal project called “Places I Am.” The “Places I Am” series as a whole is a gorgeous piece of work. Tell us more about this project. How did this project come about, what was your inspiration? How long did it take to complete?

Thank you. I initially started the project just about a year ago, but due to a myriad of reasons, I was not able to finish it until midway through 2015. At the time, I was a little frustrated with my full time job and was really tired of sitting at a desk all day. I was struggling with some health issues and had started making a list of “places I’d rather be” – places other than my desk. The project took off from there and I continued to solidify the idea. Instead of focusing on the places I’d rather be, a small change in the wording to “Places I Am” made the overall concept much stronger:

Places I Am is a series of photos celebrating places that capture my spirit. Each moment I spend exploring these beautiful places changes and inspires me. With each visit I leave a small piece of myself; these places become a part of me and remain so forever. The memories haunt me and propel me to continue searching for what’s next. I am here always.

I wanted the project to have both a physical and digital component, so I decided to see if I could sell a set of postcards. I had never tried selling any of my work before and figured it would be a good experiment. It was a fun way to push myself to make some personal work to share with the world. I am not sure how many sets of postcards I sold, but I think it was a good exercise for myself to work through a concept and self-publish it.


How did you go about deciding which images to photograph for “Places I Am”?

The process was pretty simple. I culled the list of places down from 20-30 to a manageable number, and then I dug through my work from the past year pulling images that fit the final list of places. Since most of the places were based on trips I had taken, it was pretty easy to find images that fit what I was thinking about. All of the photos were taken in Oregon and Washington in 2014.

Are there any photographers that have influenced you? If so, who?

This is such a hard question for me. I feel overloaded by outside influence these days and I have a hard time filtering through the noise. As I dive back in to the self employed world, I really admire anyone who is following their heart and doing what they love.

How do you see your work evolving over the next 3-5 years?

Right now I am very interested in photographing people more — I want to shoot more portraits. I think the outdoors will always play a part in my work, but at the same time I am interested to see how I can use my work as an means to travel, meet people, and explore new cultures.

© Sage Brown

What is your next project?

I hope to self-publish a book in 2016.

If you had one piece of advice for a novice photographer, what would it be?

Just go for it. I’ve never been much of a planner and have always followed my gut. It’s not always easy, but it usually works. Follow what you love and see where it takes you. Life is too short to wish you had done something else.

Thanks for being our featured photographer of the week, Sage!

For more information about Sage, visit his website. All images © Sage Brown.

Matt Wallace: Adventure in the Bolivian Highlands


Matt Wallace is a photographer based in Switzerland. He first became interested in photography at age eight when his parents took a photography class. Since then, Matt has never looked back.  Trained as a health care professional, Matt’s interest in indigenous health motivated him and his spouse to travel to Bolivia. He often photographs during his travels around the world. Matt talks to atlas this week about how he came to capture profound images of the indigenous culture and the vast and gorgeous highlands of this South American country. (Editor’s Note: This week we are sharing another favorite feature of ours from Matt Wallace. Enjoy!)

How did you first get started in photography?

Matt Wallace: My interest in photography started when my mother and father took a photography course together when I was about eight years old. I recall them taking pictures all the time and I was fascinated by the entire process. Later I was really into skateboarding and my friend and I used to take photos of each other doing tricks. I think this helped me learn about composition in a very organic way.  It made me visualize how to best capture a scene and made me aware of how certain techniques can dramatically influence how a picture turns out. This led me to take up photography in my final year of school (2000). It was in school I learned about the chemistry of film and basic developing techniques in the darkroom. I loved working in the darkroom so much that I would cut class to develop prints and became obsessed with all aspects of film photography.

How would you describe your photography?

I do not think photography can be easily defined as one particular genre. They all overlap. Landscape can be documentary, documentary can be street, and street can be travel or portraiture. I just take photos of things that interest me or are related to a particular topic or project that I am working on.


You have travelled all over the globe, including Bolivia. Your images from Bolivia, including images from Salar de Uyuni are spectacular and masterfully composed. Can you tell us a little bit more about your photographs from Bolivia? What inspired you to travel to Bolivia in the first place? How long were you traveling in Bolivia? How did you decide which photos to capture while you were there?

Thank you, I think you are too kind! Bolivia is a very amazing place. It is extremely photogenic. At the time I had just finished working in remote indigenous communities in Australia where I specialized in indigenous health. My wife was interested in child labor and indigenous rights and in the process of writing her thesis. Bolivia is known for its strong indigenous culture, so this made it a place of interest to both of us and we spent a few months there. I was most interested in the remote highlands, very vast empty spaces. In these areas, I find that you can see how people interact with their environment. The photos I took in these areas felt more genuine because they are more obvious. They are about these empty isolated spaces that portray a sense of isolation and being alone. The photos are generally composed very simply and often with a central focus.

Did you face any challenges while shooting in Bolivia? If so, what were they?

No, not really. Like anywhere you have to be respectful. One can sense if it is the right time and place to take candid street photos. I think if one is respectful, confident, and able to read people and a scene you will not have any problems. I feel most people do not mind having their photo taken. But if you are disrespectful about it or intrusive then they may feel you are taking advantage of them and will take exception. Basically, do not think you are Bruce Gilden. Battery life was a challenge as it was cold and we often had long intervals between having the opportunity to charge. Also it was very dusty in some places, so my gear took a bit of a hammering.


You shoot exclusively in black & white. In fact, your Instagram page is filled with stunning black & white images. Do you prefer to shoot in black & white? Do you ever shoot in color?

I do really like color photography. Most of my favorite photographers shoot in color.  I am never satisfied with the photos I take when I shoot in color. I go through phases when I shoot only color but I always find myself returning to black and white, even my digital cameras are set to monochrome at the moment. I still shoot a lot of film, and black and white is easy to develop. Overall, I like how it looks and the feeling photos have in black in white. I think by shooting in black in white you are not making an exact replication of the scene. Instead you are simplifying it and bringing the elements that you want to be exhibited to the forefront. This attracts me as I like simple composition and simple photos.

Are there any photographers whose work have influenced you? If so, who?

So many! There are too many to mention.  I find myself reading American Power by Mitch Epstein over and over. Another book I come back to is William Eggleston’s Guide. I am a fan of topography photography, particularly Bernd and Hilla Becher.  Other photographers whom I admire are the New Typographic exhibitors such as Robert Adams, Stephen Shore, and Nicholas Nixon. In addition, the Swiss photographer Ludovic Stefanicki has been a source of inspiration recently. The great photojournalists from the Vietnam era have also been and remain a huge influence on me.


Are you self-taught or did you have a formal education in photography?

I did photography at high school (a long time ago) but other than that I am very much self-taught.

What advice do you have for aspiring photographers?

Read and study photo books! Be obsessed. Do not just take photos. Think of projects and topics that interest you and then take photos that demonstrate these things. Start with film, learn good techniques, and then move to digital. Have fun. Don’t submit photos to critique groups on social media. Get critiques — get a lot of them — only from people whom you respect.

Thanks for being our featured photographer of the week, Matt!

For more information about Matt, visit his website and Instagram. All images © Matt Wallace.




Derek DiLuzio: High on Action and Adventure

Landscape image of Craggy Gardens

Landscape image of Craggy Gardens

Derek DiLuzio is a highly regarded photographer based in Asheville, North Carolina.  He has shot images for some of the top editorial and advertising clients, including Bike Magazine, Men’s Health, Patagonia, Sotheby’s International Real Estate, and Teton Valley Magazine. After a few stints of guiding trips in New Zealand and Central and South America, Derek decided to devote full time to photography. This week Derek speaks to atlas about how he transitioned from guiding trips to photography, what a typical day is like for him on one of his shoots, and what he’s working on next. (Editor’s Note: As we enjoy the holidays this week, we revisit one of our favorite features from the past year. Enjoy!)

How long have you been shooting outdoor adventure photography?

Derek DiLuzio: Until I was about twenty, photographers bugged the hell out of me.  I would watch all these people take pictures and completely miss moments going on all around them.  Around that age I guided a trip abroad in New Zealand.  I brought two disposable cameras and rather than just taking a picture of what was in front of me, I tried to be different.  The images I made were unlike everyone else’s.  I was hooked.  I continued to photograph trips I was guiding to Central and South America and quickly realized I was so focused on photography that I was not giving my clients the experience or care they needed.  I quit the guiding business and jumped into photography.  I have been doing it professionally for just over ten years now.

You shoot landscapes, lifestyle, portraits, and adventure. Which genre do you enjoy shooting the most?

Must I pick one?  Most of my work begins with the landscape. That being said, as soon as an athlete begins to interact with the landscape whether it be on foot, pedaling a bike or simply having a cup of coffee, the picture truly comes to life.

Dani Giannone mountain bikes near Brevard, NC.

What is a typical day like for you on a shoot?

It is a very long and physically demanding day.  As photographers, we live and die by the light.  That means I have be on location not only from sunrise to sunset, but twilight to twilight, setup and ready to go.  Often that means getting out of bed at 3:30 am, loading the truck, driving an hour to the trailhead, pedaling or hiking to a remote location by twilight. Next, setup and be ready to shoot as the sun is cresting the horizon, and that’s just the morning.  Typically we will have a second location for the afternoon and evening and we will not break down until after sunset.  It is a ton of hard work but it is truly exhilarating to create images in those types of environments.

Zachary Simon ski's off a cliff at Grand Targhee Resort.

What kind of camera and equipment do you use?

I have used Canon equipment for years and it has served me well.  However, the systems are going smaller and lighter as technology continues to evolve.  I have been more and more intrigued by the Sony systems and seem to be moving in that direction.  Right now, it is a combination of Canon and Sony gear.

Are there any photographers whose work inspire you? If so, who?

Yes and no.  Lately I have been moved by the work of Parker J. Pfister, William Huber, and Sterling Lawrence.   I tend to gravitate towards other mediums of art for inspiration, including music and fictional storytelling podcasts. Tanis is one I have been listening to most recently.

Will Harlan runs at Lake James, North Carolina.

Are you working on any new projects?

Yes, but they are under wraps as I am currently rebranding and redesigning the website.  Hopefully, everything will go live towards the end of July with plenty of new and exciting images.

Auroras over Grand Teton National Park

If you had one piece of advice for an aspiring photographer, what would it be?

Do not show up to your next dinner party.  I have found the best light to shoot is often at the most inconvenient times.  Cancel your plans, get out, and create!

Thanks for being our photographer of the week, Derek!

For more information about Derek, visit his website.  All images © Derek DiLuzio.