The time has come to announce a few “new” members of the Backcountry Journeys family. We’ll look to do so over the course of a couple of blog post entries, like this one, over the next week, or so.
First up is Doug Marshall. Doug joins BCJ as a field guide boasting over 20 years as a professional photographer, and 23 years as a guide leading trips around the American West, Canada, and Belize. Doug’s photography is focused on documenting the natural world, people interacting with the natural world, and the magic these moments display. Let’s take a few minutes to meet Mr. Marshall, shall we?
Kenton: Welcome Doug! You’ve been with BCJ for a few months now, but we like to introduce everyone to our guests and readers by doing a quick Q&A piece, so thanks for making time today. How about leading with a really hard-hitting question? Tell us a bit about yourself. Where did you grow up? What did you do in college, where has life taken you?
Doug: So, is this where I tell you I am a vegan and I do Crossfit? I am a Capricorn. I like black-capped Chickadees, and find great pleasure in saying words like Pumpernickel and flibbertigibbet. Seriously though, I grew up in rural Pennsylvania and later moved out west when I was thirteen. I moved to Flagstaff, Arizona, to attend Northern Arizona University and fell in love with the place. I lived in Flagstaff for over 10 years, with a small stint in Tahoe and the Bay area, in California. I had an epiphany while working in sales and marketing in San Francisco. I figured out at the ripe old age of 22 that I knew what I did not want to do, but not necessarily what I wanted to do.
Kenton: Where do you live now? What do you like the most about where you live?
Doug: I currently live in Sandpoint, ID, and really enjoy the easy access to the activities I enjoy the most. Skiing, hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, and wide-open spaces are all minutes from my doorstep.
Kenton: What is it about photography that attracts you to it, or keeps you interested?
Doug: I feel what keeps me motivated and attracts me to photography is the fact that there is always room to improve one’s craft and to learn something new. I love experimenting and looking at things in a new and different way. Photography is so subjective and emotionally driven for the photographer. The question always resonates with me on why the photographer decided to press that shutter button at that particular moment in time.
Kenton: Tell us about your first camera. When did you get it, what was it, and how did it make you feel to have a camera?
Doug: My first camera was a Kodak Brownie, given to me by my grandparents when I was five or six years old. As a kid, I was absolutely taken aback, fascinated, that one could actually freeze a moment in time. I just thought to myself, “How cool is that!” That still rings true today.
Kenton: What happened to that camera? Do you still have it?
Doug: Unfortunately that camera didn’t last very long. Much to my disappointment, I smashed it into several pieces as I was running up my back stairs. I was devastated, as I am sure I was running because of my excitement about what I just photographed! I actually acquired a Brownie a while back and have it in my office with several other vintage cameras.
Kenton: You are a professional photographer by every sense of the definition. Can you talk about your career behind the lens? Where has your camera taken you through the years?
Doug: My career as a professional photographer has been a wild ride. I feel so fortunate to have had some of the opportunities and experiences I have had in this career. It certainly has not been easy or always glamorous, as many folks seem to think being a professional photographer might be. I basically have been freelance my entire career, up to this point, and it is extremely competitive and over-saturated, so there is a ton of behind-the-scenes work. On the flip side, I have been fortunate enough to go to some of the most beautiful spots on the planet because of this job. Belize, Alaska, Canadian Rockies, Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, and other countless mountains, rivers, and canyons!
Kenton: You also have extensive guiding experience. Can you talk about that? Prior to leading BCJ trips what sort of guiding work have you done? How do you see that translating to leading photo tours?
Doug: My guiding experience mostly comes from organizing and leading trips at a private boarding school. The outdoor experiential learning trips I developed had teenagers going all over North America and even trips to Central America. The profile of students at the school had varied learning styles and many of them were diagnosed with some sort of learning disability. What was very evident was that the majority of these kids learned by doing. If they were immersed in an activity, they typically learned something. In leading trips for BCJ, they are very much geared for experiential learning. The best way to improve one’s photography is to shoot and to shoot a lot and try new things and lots of practice. This is my philosophy for pretty much any trip, create a safe and fun environment, and along the way, we are going to learn. It might be about ourselves, it might be about the folks with whom we are on the experience, it might be about photography. The goal is that it is a combination of all of these.
Kenton: You’ve run a few BCJ trips already. What were some takeaways from each trip?
Doug: I have shadowed two trips and co-guided two trips now. I feel what I’ve taken away from all these BCJ experiences is the wonderful community that is built and cultivated on these trips. Establishing relationships is key, along with being in beautiful places with like-minded people, making pretty pictures, and sharing passions are extremely rewarding.
Kenton: What do you think that you bring to the table as a trip leader?
Doug: What I feel I bring to the table I mentioned in the last question, but also my unique combination of being both a guide and a professional photographer allows me to be comfortable in the situations that present themselves on a BCJ trip.
Kenton: If you had to choose one, which is your favorite National Park and why?
Doug: Wow, that’s a tough question because there are sooo many wonderful parks that offer us so much diversity. I really love all of them I have visited, and feel fortunate that they exist. I guess if I had to choose, I would go with the Grand Canyon, as I feel my experiences there have shaped my life more than any other park. Glacier would be a very close second.
Kenton: What does the natural world offer us in the way of wisdom that we can take with us in our daily lives if we are open to listening?
Doug: The natural world, I feel, screams to us many of the answers we as humans seem to be seeking in our lives. If one is in a natural setting and is observant of all the pieces that create it the way that it is, in its natural state, it is quite fascinating. Breaking it down to each component and the role it plays in the big picture of things. So often people want to know/find their “purpose” in life. Looking at the big picture, and keeping things simple, like in the natural world, our purpose, I feel, begins to become much more clear.
Kenton: What, in your estimation, separates a good photographer from a great photographer?
Doug: I feel what separates a good photographer from a great photographer, is that the great photographer shows a desire and willingness to always want to improve their craft. To look at scenes in a different way, one who is not afraid to experiment, to fail, to try again, and again, and again…
Kenton: What system do you shoot, and why?
Doug: I grew up shooting Nikon and still have an extensive setup, but as my shooting has moved to more landscapes, I have been transitioning over to Fujifilm and their medium format GFX system. The larger sensor (70% larger than a full-frame) affords me the luxury of very large and very detailed enlargements for printing.
Kenton: What are you looking forward to most in your role as a guide for BCJ?
Doug: I am excited to be able to share two of my greatest passions with like-minded people. The natural world and photography. Just like peas and carrots! I am also looking forward to the great relationships with guests that I feel will formulate from these BCJ experiences!
Kenton: Thanks again, Doug. We’re certainly excited to have you in the BCJ family, and I am certain that folks reading this will be happy to find you as their next BCJ Trip Leader wherever that might be! Best of luck to you out there.
Kenton Krueger has spent the past several years guiding backpackers, hikers, and photographers into the wild places of the American West such as Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Olympic, Glacier, Katmai, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, Canyonlands National Parks, Coastal Oregon, as well as internationally in Costa Rica & Brazil. In addition to backpacking and camping, his adventures include rock climbing, exploring the slot canyons of southern Utah, mountain biking, and bagging 14ers in Colorado’s San Juan Mountain Mountain Range. Kenton is a trail runner, and former pilot, and spent roughly five years writing and photographing for the award-winning Omaha World-Herald newspaper, out of his hometown, Omaha, Nebraska. Kenton looks forward to utilizing his years of trip leading and guiding experience, combined with his passion and experience behind the lens, to provide memorable and unforgettable experiences at the wild places we will visit together.