Orange Juice, ETC

The blog of Elias & Theresa Carlson

Tag: Photography

These Are The Days


The problem with digital photos is that often people never get around to having them printed. Even though Elias and I primarily shoot film, we send it to the lab to be developed and receive digital photos in return. A few years ago I made a book of our photos using Blurb for Elias birthday gift. The book turned out beautifully and it was so much fun to see our pictures in print. We decided then that we would make a book every year so that some day we would have photo albums to look through as we do with our parents.

As it turns out, every year is a little ambitious, but two years later we have another book of memories. We maxed out the page limit Blurb offers with a 240 page hardcover book made up entirely of film photos. Blurb is the only online bookmaking site I have used but I cannot say enough about the quality. For both of our books we chose the linen hardcover with a dust jacket. Though I would prefer the dust jacket to be matte vs. glossy, I am sold on the linen hardcover. We have chosen the standard paper quality and though higher quality might be nice, we have not felt the need to buy up.

A couple of people have expressed interest in purchasing the book so we decided to make it available for sale to those who are interested. Please know that the cost of the book is strictly Blurb’s price, we make no profit off the sale of the book.

Purchase here.

Please feel free to view the book in its entirety below (its best if you view it BIG!).









Impromptu Portrait Session

Sometimes inspiration strikes and you’ve just got to go for it. While taking an afternoon break from work I came across the incredible photography portfolio of Ramon Haindl and was intrigued by one of his portraits.


I was struck by the simplicity of the lighting in this particular portrait which uses a sheer curtain as a backdrop, and a handheld LED panel for a fill light. The curtain acts as a giant softbox and provides beautiful wraparound rim light on the subject. It seemed like a fun style to emulate, since Theresa and I have a large sheer curtain hanging in the main window of our apartment. So we grabbed Theresa’s black sequin jacket and a LED camping headlamp and started playing around.

I couldn’t achieve the same fill effect with my tiny lamp, in part because the bright afternoon sun was simply to strong to overcome the minimal output of my headlamp, but it did serve to add a bit of sparkle to the jacket, and gently highlight a few strands of hair. After I’d satisfied my curiosity with the first setup we started to play around with the curtain. It’s amazing what a difference you can achieve with a few adjustments in position and exposure settings.





A Redwood Wedding: Gabe & Bri Cortez


As you may recall, weddings aren’t typically my thing. If I’m gonna break a sweat shooting a camera I’d rather it be the result of elevation gain and not a button-up & tie. I’ve learned to love them, but they’re a lot of work. And as the photographer you kind of miss all the fun stuff because you’re so busy trying to get the next shot.

But under the right circumstances I’m game. This time around my brother Joseph sweet-talked me into helping him out after he committed to act as photographer for his pal Gabe Cortez. Having never shot a wedding before, Joseph quickly realized he was in over his head and called for backup (that’s me). It wasn’t a hard sell. Gabe and his then-fiancé Brianna had reserved a spot at Stones & Flowers, a little retreat nestled beneath towering Redwoods near Santa Cruz, California. They also wanted us to shoot the entire wedding on film! Since I much prefer shooting film to digital, the opportunity was too tempting to pass up. As an added bonus Joseph and I would be driving up the California coast with our friend Ryan Tuck – who you may remember from Rivers & Roads – and the three of us had already conspired to sneak in a little fly-fishing on the way back should time allow.

I’d met Gabe briefly earlier in the year when he manned the studio drums for Joseph’s in-progress EP. He’s a dapper guy, with an excellent beard, bright eyes, and a quick intelligent way about him. I get the impression he’s “the cool one” in whatever crowd he finds himself, but not in an aloof, douchey way. It’s the result of his confident, direct manner more than any conscious effort. Cliche as it may sound he’s one of those guys that just seems to effortlessly exude cool. Maybe it’s just the beard, I dunno.

Prior to the wedding I’d never met Bri, but it didn’t take her more than a couple seconds to win me over. She’s adorable, kind, and sweet in the most genuine sense. She’s clearly a match for Gabe in the cool department, in fact as a graphic designer in San Francisco she may well have the market cornered; I’m pretty sure that’s the definition of cool these days. However, what I appreciated most about Bri was her ability to focus completely on whoever she was with in a given moment. Several time throughout the weekend she would stop to chat with Joseph and I and each time I was struck at how personable and thoughtful she was. Even on her wedding day it never seemed to be about her.

Needless to say it was a delight to spend time with Gabe and Bri over the weekend, and a joy to shoot their wedding. The location was incredible, the people were beautiful, and it was a complete honor to witness the outpouring of love and support from the community of people who gathered to celebrate them.

Shooting the entire wedding on film proved to be a delightful challenge. I’ve always enjoyed how film forces you to slow down, and while it didn’t make covering the wedding any less hectic, it certainly made the results more rewarding. As for Joseph? Well, he did great, and came away with a new appreciation for all the works that goes into covering a wedding. He even had enough energy left to dance the night away.

I’m pleased to be able to share a few of my favorite photos with you here. Many thanks to Gabe and Bri for welcoming me so warmly on this special day.

NOTE: All Black & White photos + opening shot by Joseph Carlson.


























California So Far


We have now lived in California for a little over three months. I think it is safe to say that we love it here!

So far: It has rained about four times – We have felt one earthquake – We have gone camping in Joshua tree (post coming up, when we get photos back from the lab!) – We have taken up skateboarding – We live in shorts and tank tops – We are tan, and its only May – We have a favorite taco stand, and we eat there at least once a week – We have friends that we can call up to hang out – We have seen five whales and numerous dolphins – We have developed a particular fondness for Bougainvillea and Jacaranda – The temperature has reached 100 degrees – We have gone to the beach most afternoons.

These photos are all the product of Elias’ various film cameras, no digital. He is so good at grabbing his camera whenever we go out, something I would often rather save for particularly epic adventures. I am so grateful that we have these snapshots of every-day life. I would recommend that you check out his personal tumblr where he shares big, beautiful photos on a regular basis. All photography is his own, minus one or two that I have taken of him.


























Upland Bird Hunting in Eastern Washington for Filson


A few weeks ago Seattle based clothing company Filson commissioned me to do an editorial photo essay on upland bird hunting. Filson is pretty high on my list of favorite brands. They make the kind of clothing that lasts a lifetime. And that’s not hyperbole. To say I was thrilled would be an understatement.

I accompanied my brother-in-law Josh and his dad Tom, who are avid bird hunters for a day in the field. I’ve shared a few of my favorite photos here, but I’d recommend checking out the full post on the Filson Life blog.

For you photo nerds: all photos were shot on Kodak Portra 400 medium format film using a Bronica GS-1 6×7 camera.










A Rooftop Wedding in Portland


I used to hate weddings. Well, hate is a strong word. I used to be indifferent about weddings. But time has a funny way of changing tastes. I’ve come to find that weddings are pretty great when conditions are right. Summer? Portland? Rooftop? All of our Seattle friends in attendance? Yes please.

Theresa and I were honored to shoot Jon & Annie Fox’s wedding this August. We usually turn down weddings. They’re stressful, long, and stylistically quite a bit different from the type of film photography we prefer to do in our free time. But when Annie reached out to us Theresa and I were both immediately excited. Jon and Annie were a part of a circle of friends we’d developed here in Seattle, and while we weren’t close, we knew them well enough to understand that their wedding would be exactly the kind we’d enjoy shooting. We weren’t wrong.

Annie is a bundle of infectious energy. I couldn’t help but pre-visualize her beaming face, which you’ll surely see within five minutes of meeting her, and is impossible to forget. Jon provides a perfect contrast to Annie. A little shy, soft-spoken, and crazy smart. You’ll like him immediately and keep discovering new reasons why as you get to know him. They are a great couple.

I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever enjoyed a wedding more, either as a guest or photographer. It was beautiful. It was heartfelt. It was joyous. And we danced all night. Well, not me, I was too busy snapping photos. But that didn’t stop me from enjoying the party. I was even able to sneak in a few 6×6 film photos. Annie and Jon were extremely laid back about our approach, and basically gave us free reign to shoot the wedding as we saw fit. What a privilege. I’m extremely proud of the results, and I hope you enjoy them.

Maybe this wedding photography thing isn’t so bad after all…































Kings Canyon in Three Parts (3/3)


Part 3 by Joseph Carlson

“Good poetry has layers that take time to perceive and enjoy. So a person who reads a lot of good poetry has often learned patience and comes to take joy in growing slowly.”
–Tommy Givens

The forever-maddening part is being able to see them, the trout that is. The crystalline waters of the Kings River are particularly unforgiving in this respect. The aquamarine depths of even the largest pools yield themselves easily to an eager and educated eye. Similarly the clear, quick currents of the shallower runs were hosts to the shimmering’s of smaller trout. Beyond that, Kings Canyon just feels fishy. Like you should be getting into trout right and left. Tucked between Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks, the LA Times once called it the “forgotten National Park”. To be perfectly honest, I’ll be more than happy if it stays that way; more trout for me and mine.

Anyway, back towards the trout. Long ago, I recall reading in a book, “If you can see the fish, they can see you.” Maybe, that was the reason Kings humbled us. Those clear mountain waters are surely a two-way window. Or, maybe it was the heat, or that last glass of whiskey the night before, or the extra sleep. Abandoning deep runs as dusk descends and choosing instead the evening hunt for prime spots to take photographs certainly doesn’t get one any closer to a full creel. Magic hour applies for photography just as much for fishing. Regardless, we saw plenty and caught few, and I’ve been haunted by the place ever since.

The Brown Trout I caught was the biggest I had ever hooked, nothing to brag about, but a healthy 17 inches. The one I lost after him was the biggest trout I’d hooked on a fly rod. He laughed at me after a bated-breath, ecstatic, and tremulous-1-minute stroll he took up the pool I hooked him in. I thought I was doing an exemplary job ‘playing’ a trout that was clearly out of my league when, with a flick of a palm-sized tail-fin he snapped my 6x tippet like it was gossamer and left me weakkneed and love-stricken. His nonchalance was the hardest part to swallow. Grieving that loss as I was for the rest of the trip did nothing to diminish my gratitude for each decidedly smaller fish I gently cradled, thanked, and relinquished back unto the river.

Granted, I never truly got into “fish-mode”, where one is fully baptized into the present moment, abandoning human cognition to adopt trout-like perspective. But, I doubt it would have made a difference; to catch fish on the Kings in those conditions you have to slow waaay down, and this trip was about brotherhood more than it was about fishing. It meant just as much to sit on the bank untangling knots for Jeremy, or rigging up two and three fly set-ups for Elias, or smiling to myself after they let me “coach” them on how to effectively nymph. Such are the layers of slow poetry. I’d be lying if I said that I’m a patient man when it comes to flyfishing, and so many other things, when measured against those who have dedicated themselves to the art. Yet, the prospect of being able to take joy in growing slowly when it comes to trout, mountains, rivers, and my brothers (either by blood or time), is a joy I’ll gladly sacrifice for.
















For the photography nerds: All photos taken with a Pentax Spotmatic on 35mm film.

Joseph is a man of many talents: singer-songwriter, fly-fisherman, writer, and deep-thinker. When he isn’t writing clever, thought-provoking blog articles he can be found over on tumblr waxing theological, sharing the latest great music, or spreading some form of truth, beauty, or justice. If he’s not there, you’d best check the nearest river.

Kings Canyon in Three Parts (2/3)


Fishing the Run Well by Jeremy Spyridon

Let me tell you what happens when you fly-fish for the first time in your life. You will fall. You will hook more rocks than fish. You will catch your rod on branches. You will tangle your line into knots you never knew existed. Your skin will burn beneath a merciless sun. Your body will be beaten, your skin will be scraped, scratched and scarred. You will curse the name of God on a whim. And then you will have the audacity to look up as a hundred swallows ride currents rising from the canyon floor into the golden beams of a setting sun and wonder if it all was worth it. And not just this day, but each day that had come before it.

Such was my state of mind as I limped pitifully back up the canyon walls. In the end, it was not my smashed knee that slowed my pace. It was not the gear that clung to the sweat on my back. It wasn’t even my wounded pride. It was my will, my worth, my identity. For the first half of our journey back to the car, I was able to keep up with my companions. But as our ascent continued, my spirit dove deeper and deeper into shadow. Thankfully, Elias and Joseph did not wait for me and continued at their own determined pace. As they rounded the next switchback, I stopped and accepted my fate. I chose to be left behind.

As I looked down into the canyon, watching the swallows dance in the diminishing sunlight, I reflected on the day. It had worn on me in ways I could not have imagined. After 6 hours of fishing and not even a single bite, I decided to lay down my rod and rest beside the river. With my hand in the current, I recalled bass fishing with my Dad. I remembered the excitement of rising before the sun. I remembered the joy of being on the water. But then I remembered something else. I remembered enjoying casting, but always hoping I wouldn’t catch a fish. I remembered taking long breaks just to enjoy basking in the sunlight. I looked forward to the next can of Diet Coke, but rarely the next cove. And above all, I looked forward to the long drive home that included a stop at Pizza Hut and hours spent listening to The Blues Brothers. But I never wanted to catch a fish.

I wondered what that meant about me. Was it true that I didn’t want to catch a fish? All these years, was I truly not competitive? Or had this always been a way to protect myself from defeat? Am I weak? Is this why I fear intimacy? Am I going to die alone? Fuck. 28 and single. My gaze rested on the golden peaks surrounding me. How like life, to survive so much pain and suffering and loneliness and, in the end, all you get to take with you is a few faded memories of some nice views that will someday pass away with the rest of you. Deeper and deeper I dove. Here I was, in one of the most breathtaking places I had ever beheld, questioning my next breath. I suddenly resented Joseph’s passion for fishing. I coveted Elias’s obsession with film photography. I hated what I had become. And so I looked at my feet on the cliff’s edge and thought, “it’s just one step.”

It had all begun with a simple question. Somehow, asking myself if I wanted to catch a fish had led me to question living another day. Of course the thought was no more than a selfish, self-indulgent pity party, but it happened. And it wasn’t out of nowhere. There was a chain reaction of thoughts that led to that moment, and I ignited the fuse each step along the way. Like a game of telephone, lies become evidence for more lies, and in the end, you’re left with something that makes no sense at all. You see, the mind is a powerful thing and yet it can be so stupid. Did you know that your body cannot tell the difference between reality and imagination? It’s true. Your body reacts the same way to a real tragedy as it does when you speculate worst-case scenarios. You experience the same stress when you lose your job as when you worry about that unsettling look your boss gave you yesterday. Finding out a loved one has been in an accident leaves the same scar as when you wonder why they didn’t answer your phone call. The difference is, you can imagine the worst over and over and over again. And when you do, you’re literally traumatizing yourself. Over and over and over.

The next morning I awoke bruised and beaten, but with a miraculous hope for a fresh start. We would give the river one final go before beginning our journey out of the canyon. We followed the river and found the run we were looking for. This was it. I was going to catch a fish. I even prayed for it. And then, to the amusement of God and all His angels, my very first cast, I hooked the tree above me and broke the line. I began to curse… and then took a breath. I felt my thoughts getting away from me again, so I stopped. Like the rudder of a ship, the slightest degree can have you end up in Iceland or Africa.

I took my rod and broken line to an isolated area and sat for awhile. I remembered something Joseph had said the day before as we descended into the canyon. He spoke of “fishing the run well.” You only get one, maybe two, chances to get a fly in front of a fish before he knows you’re full of shit. You study the environment. You observe the insects nearby. The formation of the river. The structure beneath its surface. Each bend, each shadow, each ripple. You consider the life of the fish and where they might rest. You take this all in, make your judgement, and then commit. You comb the river, bit by bit. You lose yourself in being present. And you watch your line with all your might. Then you move to the next spot and do it all over again. You fish the run well. The context was fly-fishing, of course, but we all knew there was something greater at stake.

Sitting alone with my pitiful situation of a rod, I decided to take a moment to start over. I remembered the knots I had learned the day before and went to work. After some grueling moments of patience, my rod and my spirit were ready. I spent the rest of the morning fishing the river on my own, reading the current, choosing my strategy, and then deliberately executing it to the best of my ability. I fished that river well. Up and down, near and far. I began to understand my rod. I felt the fluidity of my movements. My fly began to land exactly where I’d intended. And I loved every second of it. I loved it so much, in fact, that I over-fished the same runs simply out of the sheer joy of being able to cast without catching every single branch, log and rock I came across. And I thanked God for it. I never did catch a trout, but I learned that fishing a run well has absolutely nothing to do with what you catch. At least it didn’t for me.














For the photography nerds: All photos taken with an iPhone 4 and edited using VSCO.

Jeremy is a talented graphic designer by day. You should really check out his portfolio. He recently made a playlist called River Teeth inspired by our trip, which you can listen to over on his music blog, Icarus & Occident.


Kings Canyon in Three Parts (1/3)


In June my friend Jeremy and I decided to fly to California to pay my brother Joseph a visit and engage in some kind of fly-fishing based adventure. We found ourselves in Kings Canyon, somewhere between Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks, deep in the Sierras. We have each undertaken to write about the trip from a more creative standpoint vs. the typical documentary style you might expect. Accompanying each of our writings are photographs taken by the author of that section, with a variety of cameras. Jeremy is a crack shot with an iPhone, Joseph’s battered old Pentax Spotmatic 35mm rarely leaves his side, and I insist on lugging around heavy medium format cameras on even the steepest hikes (seriously though, it’s so worth it).

We hope you enjoy our efforts.


Part 1 by Elias Carlson

The light in Southern California is qualitatively different than the light in the Pacific Northwest. A warm, dry light, it pervades every corner of the landscape. Even the shadows can’t escape its influence. I’m convinced “The Golden State” moniker refers, not to the fabled gold rush, but to the gilded Californian light.

Before I continue, let me set a few things straight. As a Northwestern son, born and raised, evergreen sap and rain pumps through my veins. Cut me deeply and you may discover North Cascade granite where you might expect bone. The air I breathe is silver and cold, it is wet with fresh rain. I’ve been fortunate to travel far and wide, but I only begin to feel at home when my latitude nears 47 degrees.

Despite my dyed-in-the-wool Northwestern ways, California, and the Sierras in particular, have begun to carve out a warm golden niche in the corner of my heart. The language of glaciers and granite is my native tongue and the Sierras speak a familiar dialect. We’ve only just begun the conversation, but it’s clear we’re going to be fast friends.

Blame John Muir. The wily old prophet of the mountains first piqued my interest with his legendary memoir My First Summer in the Sierras. With a brother in Pasadena, it was only a matter of time before “The Range of Light” and I became acquainted. My first glimpse came last September on a five day fly-fishing road trip from Seattle to LA. As Joseph, Tuck, and I wound down the 395 at the foot of the Eastern Sierras I began to fall prey to the same spell that enchanted Muir. Even from a distance the siren song of the mountain range beckons.

My enchantment with the Sierras has only increased after three days in Kings Canyon. It is a photographer’s wonderland. Golden light ricochets between towering clefts of granite, each peak and crag daring you to capture its brazen majesty. These types of conditions are what I live for. They are my drug. Yet even in the midst of such staggering natural beauty lies conflict.

Perfect light, majestic scenery, and adventure aplenty combine to bring out the best and worst in me as a photographer. I find myself struggling to balance competing desires: How can I ever hope to create a truly meaningful picture when the grandeur before me is overwhelming to the point of numbness? How do I actually experience a place, or a person, when I’m constantly viewing life through a lens?

I fear I’ll always be chasing a cliche. I fear I’ll miss a truly great photograph because I’m only paying attention to the obviously good ones. I worry that I’m not being present with the people I love because I’m distracted by the light. I haven’t yet found a solution to these problems. Maybe that means I’ll never be a great photographer, doomed to dabble forever in the shallow end of the pool. Or perhaps struggling through these conflicts time and time again is the path to greatness. I don’t know. I suppose only time will tell. In the meantime, I’m sure enjoying the view.




















For the photography nerds: All photos taken with a 6×6 Minolta Autocord or 6×7 Bronica GS-1 on Kodak Portra 400, Kodak Ektar 100, or Fuji Pro 400H medium format (120) film.

Kauai: Our Quick Guide to Paradise


At long last! We have finally made time to sit down and sift through the 150 or so film photos we captured while in Kauai, and we’re ready to share a few of our favorites.

If we hadn’t made our point clearly enough in our last post, Kauai is incredible! Rather than go on about how wonderful it is, we’d like to share a few of our favorite spots on the island, should you be fortunate enough to find yourself there.

The North End: We love the North end of the Island. Yeah, the south side has its perks (see Waimea Canyon below), but it does not compare to the tropical beauty that is found on the North side. For those of you who know Washington, we found ourselves comparing it to Western Washington vs. Eastern Washington. One is lush, green, mountainous, and damp, the other is brown, flat, and dry.

Hanalei Bay: This is our favorite place to setup camp and swim for the day. We have now been to Kauai in both August and March, but Hanalei Bay has never been very crowded. The bay is beautiful and naturally more protected than the open sea which makes it a great place for swimming. You are close to town so you can easily walk in for a snack or meal during the day and there are always a few surfers which makes for good watching while you lay on the beach.

Ke’e Beach and Hanakapi’ai Trail: Ke’e Beach is located at the Northern most part of the Island. If you are looking for good snorkeling, this is your spot as the beach is protected by a reef that creates a barrier to waves on calm days.

Only about 3/4 of Kauai is accessible by car, the North Western portion of the island can only be accessed by boat or on foot. Ke’e beach is your starting point if you want to go in by foot. But fair warning, it isn’t a walk in the park! Get an early start on the Hanakapi’ai Trail to beat the heat. There are a lot of ups and downs on this trail which are manageable but its the slick red dirt that will get you if you are not careful!

There are a number of stopping points along the way so you can turn around at any point. We hiked the 2 miles in to Hanakapi’ai Beach* and then 2 miles inland to Hanakapi’ai Falls. The views on the way to the beach were incredible, and make the hike worthwhile even if you don’t go all the way to the falls.

When you are done with the hike, if you see a cute couple selling expensive fruit popsicles out of coolers in the back of their truck, BUY ONE! You will not regret it.

* NOTE: Hanakapi’ai Beach has a notorious undertow. Don’t plan on doing any swimming at this dangerous beach, but do enjoy the view and the crashing waves.

Bar Acuda: Bar Acuda has become our favorite spot for a nice dinner while on Kauai. Be prepared to spend a bit as the tapas are not huge so you will want to order several if you are doing dinner. What they lack in size, they sure make up in flavor. A couple of our favorites were the Local North Shore Honeycomb, and the Banderillas.

Waimea Canyon & Kalalau Lookout:
Waimea Canyon is often referred to as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, and it’s easy to see why. The red dirt walls, topped with patches of jungle green are a sight to behold. We only had one day to explore this natural wonder, so we had to make due with a driving tour of the main lookouts. Even so, Waimea Canyon was awe inspiring. Next time we’re on Kauai we’ll make sure to schedule in time to do one of the many fantastic hikes. If you keep heading North, you will run into the Kalalau Lookout, which is one of the most famous, and beautiful spots on the entire Island. We highly recommend a visit to these jaw-dropping spots.

Moloa’a Sunrise Juice Bar: We stopped at Moloa’a Sunrise one afternoon for fish tacos which were great but what really hooked us was the Date with Fate Smoothie. Yum.

Hanalei Farmer’s Market: Make sure to visit the Hanalei Farmer’s Market at the beginning of your trip, if possible, and stock up for the week. We got the most delicious papayas and mangos that we enjoyed for breakfast many mornings. Don’t forget to grab some of Sal’s salsa.

Kilauea Bakery: I think if we lived on Kauai the Kilauea Bakery might be our go-to on Saturday mornings. The breakfast pastries were delicious and the desserts looked pretty tasty too. There is not much better than a fresh cinnamon roll and an iced americano enjoyed outside on a warm morning.

Banana Joes: The only thing we have ever gotten at Banana Joes is the Banana Frosty. To be honest I am not sure what else they have here. It is a fruit stand so of course you can get fresh fruit but I don’t think we are alone in just going for the frosties. As far as I know, the frosty consists of frozen banana processed into a texture similar to a Wendy’s frosty and that’s it. It’s simple but it sure is a refreshing afternoon snack!

**Before we left my Mom suggested we check out Kasey Buick’s favorite spots in Kauai. A few of our favorites listed above came directly off of her list. We found ourselves constantly referring to her collection around meal time to see if there was anything close by. Take a look if you are planning a trip to Kauai!