This is a question we frequently get asked and I think it’s pretty interesting story. Both Adrian and I had the idea to tell this story because, it’s our 10th anniversary, so we’ve teamed up as co-authors to tell the story of how Photo Cascadia was formed and why it’s stronger than ever ten years later.
The story begins around 2004. The original six members, Adrian Klein, Kevin McNeal, Zack Schnepf, Chip Phillips, David Cobb and Sean Bagshaw were all part of an online photography website and forum the Nature Photographers Network, better know as NPN. Digital photography was still very new, the iPhone hadn’t even been invented yet, and obviously there was no Instagram, or Facebook either. NPN was THE leading online place back then to share all types of nature photos from flower to wildlife and of course the ever popular landscape forum. This was not like what we know with Facebook, Instagram and other social sites today with messages only showering you with glowing comments of appreciation or trolls trying to piss you off. The main purpose was for growth and critique, as an honest and safe place for it to foster. Those of us who were lucky enough to be around back then look back at this time as the golden age of modern digital nature photography. Many influential landscape photographers of the time were active members of NPN like Guy Tal, Marc Adamus, Marsel Van Oosten, Adam Gibbs, Ryan Dyar and so many more. We were all learning together, people were generally willing to share their knowledge to help everyone be better photographers. It was a formative time and we all progressed quickly in our photography.
During this time, we were all pretty active on the local PNW forums of NPN. We got to know each other discussing various topics and sharing images. Some of us started getting together to photograph. Sean and David met and organized some photo trips together, Adrian and Kevin did the same, and I met up with Adrian and Kevin to photograph as well. It was Adrian who first had the idea to get a group of us together to have a collaborative team website and blog centered around Northwest landscape photography. This idea was inspired by several things.
After leaving a corporate job of many years, Adrian worked as a fulltime photographer taking photos of high school seniors, kids and weddings, and of course landscapes when he was out hiking and backpacking. Some of his contacts in the Portrait photography scene invited him to be part of a team effort they were planning which included a website and blog around sharing their work, stories and tips for other professionals and amateur photographers. Only weeks before this came about Adrian had made the decision to get out of that side of the business, he politely declined the offer.
During a trip to Mt Rainier with Kevin, Adrian asked him about starting a similar group of landscape and nature photographers. Kevin thought it was a great idea, but who to include? At the time, there were already a few well known teams of nature photographers like Time Catchers and Mountain Trail, but they were focused on different regions, there weren’t any in the Northwest. Adrian thought about all the people from the PNW he was interacting with on NPN, the different personalities, style of work and the likelihood a half-dozen would get along long enough to give something like this a go. Without getting ahead of things, everyone first would have to say yes. Thinking it through Adrian landed on the following in no particular order; Kevin McNeal, Zack Schnepf, David Cobb, Sean Bagshaw, Chip Phillips and himself. With all honesty he really had no idea what each of us would say, other than Kevin. At that time Adrian had been out photographing with Kevin and Zack a number of times. The rest he knew only through our NPN and email interactions. He reached out to everyone individually and much to his surprise it was a unanimous and eager yes from each person. Photo Cascadia was about to be born!
This was also an interesting time for many us because, we were in various states of transition in our professional lives. I had just finished my college education and was working as a freelance photographer in Portland, Adrian left his corporate job to pursue photography full time, Sean had quit his job as a science and math teacher in Ashland and was starting a photography business, David was getting his Best of the Northwest photo workshop business going, Kevin was moving out of a job in the medical field and was trying Photography full time and Chip was pursuing photography to supplement his income as a musician in the Spokane Symphony. Looking back, it’s interesting to see the parallel interests that helped lay the foundation of our collaboration.
Our first meeting took place in the spring of 2009 at David Cobb’s house in the Columbia River Gorge. It was the first time many of us had met in person and I remember being super excited to meet everyone and figure out what we wanted to do together. During that first meeting we came up with ideas for the name of our group and tried to figure out what we wanted to accomplish as a group. Here is list of some names we thought up to choose from:
We narrowed it down to 3 to vote on:
There was a tie between Photo Cascadia and Northwest Light Chasers. To break the tie, Adrian put two pieces of paper in a hat and his three year old daughter picked Photo Cascadia. I think we can all agree we missed an opportunity to be the Landscape Bandits. If only Gene Shagbag had his way, but from then on, we were Photo Cascadia. We also decided on our mission statement “learn, explore, create”. This has always been a guiding principle and continues to be to this day.
Over the next several years we built our website, made our public announcement, started the blog and started collaborating more with each other. We taught more workshops together, worked on several group projects, wrote blog articles, planned photography trips and landed some group licensing contracts. In the process we became a pretty tight knit group and close friends. Once a year we get together as a group to hang out, photograph and talk business. It’s always been one of highlights of the year and a ton of fun. Things hummed along like this for many years.
Sometime during 2014 David wrote an article for the blog titled “Female Landscape Photographers Who Inspire” Erin Babnik was on the top of that list and for good reason. Her knowledge of art history and compositional theory is impressive to say the least, and the way she applies those concepts to her photography really helps her work stand out. After that article, David met Erin in person during a visit to Hood River and was very impressed. At one of our annual Photo Cascadia meetups, David told the rest of us about his meeting with Erin. Most of us were already big fans of Erin and her Photography. Previously, we thought she was a European photographer, but we learned that she was an American living on the West Coast.
Early in 2015 Erin reached out and asked if we would ever consider her for a 7th spot on the Photo Cascadia team. We’ve been contacted by many photographers over the years wanting to join the group, but we’ve always declined wanting to preserve the atmosphere that we’ve carefully cultivated over many years with the original members. Erin was different. We were and still are huge fans of Erin and her photography. We also thought a woman could strengthen the group and add a new perspective, but at the time we didn’t know enough about her and didn’t know if she would mesh well with our close knit group. We wanted to get to know her better before we made a final decision, but we invited her to write a guest article on the blog. As we got to know Erin and more of us met her in person we came to realize that she would be a great addition to the Photo Cascadia family. During the summer of 2015 the original six members got together on a conference call and took a vote to allow her in the group, it was a unanimous decision. We reached out and invited her to join Photo Cascadia. She was a little surprised, but also thrilled to join the group. Erin fit right in and proved herself to us and our audience with some truly excellent articles on the blog. It has been one happy family ever since.
Here we are ten years later and Photo Cascadia is still going strong. The members of Photo Cascadia are still great friends and genuinely enjoy working together. In fact, we’ve been working on several group projects recently and will be announcing them soon on the blog and social media. Here’s to ten more years of Photo Cascadia.
Location: Bend, OR
Zack is an award winning photographer specializing in fine art landscape photography and post processing. “Art is in my blood. My father is a well known poster artist and painter. My mom was a painter, and print maker and my brother is an art director at Facebook. Art is a way of life for my family, and I will hopefully pass it on to my children as well.”
“The love of nature is also something that my family and I are passionate about. I’ve been hiking, biking, rock climbing and backpacking since I was little. From an early age, I learned to appreciate the beauty in nature.”