Human Interest

Local professional photographer Derek Von Briesen recently added another spread to his published work, this time a package of photos from Red Rock Crossing in Arizona Highways February edition.Red Rock Crossing was the subject of Derek Von Briesen’s feature in the February issue of Arizona Highways magazine. Von Briesen said it was a privilege to know his work has inspired others.Von Briesen began working with photography professionally shortly after moving to Sedona in 2003.

His background in the art dates back much further, though, having gone on “photo safaris” with his mother, who was a landscape painter, since the age of 5. Growing up along the Pacific in California, these often incorporated the beach lifestyle. During that time, surfer magazine spreads were the basis for inspiration and he still finds the work in some of those publications to be the best photographers have to offer.

Von Briesen teaches workshops at the Sedona Arts Center, captures promotional images and was also published in National Geographic’s Earth: The Biography, in 2007, using an image of Antelope Canyon.

The canyon is one of the hallmarks of area photographers’ portfolios, and Von Briesen said that it is always a challenge to find new viewpoints for popular landmarks.

“It’s always a challenge. We joke about tripod holes that have been made by all the photographers before,” he said.

For the Antelope Canyon shot, he said it was beneficial that it was not as popular when he submitted his work but that patience is key in finding just the right place and time to shoot. He said it can take hours or days to find the right moment to capture the light, sometimes waiting a year to find snow-covered areas or a monsoon storm.

“You have to know what you want and be willing to wait for it,” he said.

He recalled what it felt like to be published in National Geographic.

Someone on the editorial staff of the magazine had apparently found some of his work online and reached out to him in an email. After calling and confirming that the email was not a joke, he turned to his wife and said, “I think something really big has happened.”

Von Briesen said he has enjoyed working with editorial staffs, particularly with Arizona Highways. He said the staff is photographer-friendly, which to a photographer means retaining the framing of the shot, keeping a correct color balance and simply listening. He credits the magazine’s photos for the increase in state tourism over the years.

The dawn of digital photography has impacted Von Briesen. He recalled when he got his first one, being “captured by the immediacy and control” of the camera.

Since then, phones have even become capable of producing high-quality images, which Von Briesen said helps democratize the art.

“More people than ever are enjoying photography,” he said, making an aside on the wealth of information for future generations stored on cameras and online.

Though he saw the positive to the expansion of the medium, he said there will always be challenges in store for those wanting to be published more than once.

“Great pictures, magic moments ... will always require an infinite amount of patience, vision, talent, hard work and suffering,” he said.

As far as his own work’s perception, he feels it is a privilege to know he’s inspiring others, whether it’s to visit the places he’s shot or to pick up a camera themselves.

Though his portfolio is well-developed now, Von Briesen said he’s always on the hunt for a new shot, and has been planning out a new series.


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