2023 Year in Review

January 12, 2024  •  1 Comment

2023 has been a year of significant change for me. I transitioned from a long career at the Union-Bulletin to being communications manager at Blue Mountain Humane Society. Many of the skills I employed in journalism translate to my work with rescue animals. Along with my day job, I still maintain a busy schedule with my freelance work. The following is a mashup of both worlds.

One of my last assignments at the paper was to do a community Q&A with my friend and all around fantastic human, Lydia Caudill, the community development block grant coordinator for the City of Walla Walla. Along with taking photos, I wrote the article, a less common thing for me to do:
Read the article here.

Early in 2023 I transitioned to working at BMHS. One of the best parts of my new job there is photographing the animals. This was a promotional shoot for an adoption event at Castillo de Feliciana with Sadie. 

BMHS is a remarkable organization with its own veterinary clinic to care for their own animals and also extend services to the community. They offer subsidized services to income qualified people as well as serving volume clients and Trap, Neuter, Return programs. It is an honor to have full access to photograph this clinic in action. One this particular day, students from WSU were honing their skills during a TNR event.

I have to keep a sense of humor at work.

This gentle moment during a BMHS open house is one of my favorites. 

Early in life I developed a love of wildlife and thought I would one day become a biologist. Eventually, it morphed into wanting to be a wildlife photographer. This is still a passion of mine and yet I don't seem to get out as often as I would like to do this. This vulture was seen at Ladd Marsh in Oregon.

One of the unexpected parts of my new job in animal welfare was learning about how animals end up in a shelter. I was not expecting the volume of animals that come in because of their owners passing away. It is heartbreaking. Some more so than others. This is Margo. Her owner was a young man who was tragically murdered. Margo had some allergy issues that took a while to find the right family to welcome her. But eventually, she found her forever home.

Much of my 2023 was spent working with Visit Walla Walla to produce regional images for the Walla Walla Visitor Guide, a product I feel particularly connected to as I was lead designer for it for years at the Union-Bulletin. Now that Visit Walla Walla has taken it on, the design and production has gone to the next level. I'm so proud to still be part of it. This photo is of the Washington State Department of Corrections Honor Guard at Waitsburg Celebration Days.

Another fun promo shoot for BMHS with Elsa and the Walla Walla Sweets.

The Motor Co is a new venue in Walla Walla. This particular event was for a group of Washington State tourism leaders hosted by the fantastic folks at Visit Walla Walla. 


Another passion of mine is dance photography. It is particularly challenging to photograph. I volunteer my time to photograph and support this important art form in Walla Walla. In this photo, Phyllis Rothwell (in back), the artistic director for Washington State Youth Ballet, dances with Jacki Carlson for a Vicki Lloid production. Vicki and her Suitcase Players create some of the most diverse and interesting local performance art.

Vicki Lloid's work encompasses dance, theater, and spoken word. Here, local great actor Kevin Loomer, as Charles Burkowski, engages with Jennifer Winters.

I do a little bit of everything. This was part of a project for the Walla Walla Housing Authority.

Part of what I love about dance is being behind the scenes. There is an excitement level that is contagious. Waiting to go on stage is the peak of this energy level. This young dancer was waiting for their turn during Songs of Summer for Dance Center of Walla Walla at Cordiner Hall. Idalee Hutson Fish, owner and director, and Caleb Leitch, instructor, are inspiring to work with. Caleb was one of the first dancers I photographed.

Prior to the stage energy, there is the prep energy of getting ready. This young dancer with Dance Center of Walla Walla gets ready for Songs of Summer.

The City of College Place has movies in the park. A fun family time to watch a flick and enjoy being outdoors. This was for Visit Walla Walla.

Two young people with an iconic picnic scene watching a movie in the park in College Place.

Summer Dance Lab at Whitman College is one of my favorite times of year. It is where I got my start in dance photography. Working with the students is inspiring. And getting to spend time with SDL director John Passafiume, a great human and great friend, is something I look forward to every year.

The staff at BMHS are as amazing as the animals we serve. Shonee Turner, animal care and enrichment coordinator, is no exception. Her amazing connection with the animals, and her teammates, is truly special.

Visit Walla Walla hired me to photograph the Pioneer Posse in Milton-Freewater. I never expected to enjoy being behind the scenes at a rodeo as much as I do. But it has become one of my favorite assignments to get.

Another amazing element to animal shelter life is the dedicated volunteers that do a tremendous lift of labor that otherwise could not be afforded by a nonprofit. It's particularly moving when it's the young generation finding their place with giving. Zoey Johnson is a 12-year-old volunteer. You can read about her work at the shelter here.

I also do portraits. This portrait is of Shannon Ebding, for Buckley Investments. 

Being a photographer is an amazing doorway into worlds one might not normally get access to. I've met so many interesting people over the years. In this photo is Washington State Senator Perry Dozer at an event that Washington State Economic Development Association hired me to photograph.

I got a call one day from a retired farmer telling me about her sunflower field. The flowers brought her so much joy that she wanted to capture it. We ended up making books for her family and friends with the sunflowers so she could share the joy. Louise brought me joy too. I loved this project so much and am happy to have made a new friend.

Along with dance I love photographing theater. The Walla Walla Summer Theater production of Secret Garden was every bit as incredible as any Broadway show.

At BMHS there are heroes behind the scenes that keep the animals fed, clean and healthy. Part of what I love about this photo is the happy dog waiting to spend time with Ash, an animal care specialist. I also like this photo because, as small towns go, Ash feels like an extended family member as their father and I are good friends and go way back. 

Maria Torres is one of the BMHS team members that's been there the longest: More than 10 years. All the staff there have big hearts and care so much for the mission. Surrender Coordinator Baylie Steele, background, also has a big heart and has a growing pack of adopted pets of her own.

Another nonprofit that is very dear to me is Trilogy Recovery Community. Whenever possible I try to give back to them as they have given me so much. If you need help, reach out to them.

We had fun with a promo shoot for BMHS where Margo closed a sponsorship deal for Fall Furr Ball with attorney, and BMHS board member, Jeremy Hyndman.

Phyllis Rothwell, artistic director for Washington State Youth Ballet, is a gem of Walla Walla. It was a pleasure to work on these promo shoots with her students for their 2023 Nutcracker. This project was also my first attempt at incorporating AI technology. The dancers were photographed on white backgrounds. The other elements were added with generative fill in Adobe Photoshop. These backgrounds took a fair amount of time and creative work. AI can do amazing things but it takes the right prompts and creative thinking to get the results you want. The background image on the snow queen took at least 6 composite layers. 

One of the niches I work in is bottle photography. To do this correctly, with clean studio lighting and balanced labels with glass, as well as custom clipped backgrounds, is a specialty of mine. I'm excited to be working with House of Bones, a new client in 2023.

I also do family photos. I've been photographing the Eatons for many years now. The fall colors this year were spectacular.

When I left the U-B it was important for me to keep the doors open. I was happy to be asked to freelance for them during the recent general elections. This moment, after results were released at the courthouse, between Jeff Robinson, candidate for the position of Walla Walla City Council's West Ward, and Alayna Brinton, a candidate running for a position on the Walla Walla School Board, is the kind of story I like to tell with my camera.

I have a lot of other interests. Science is a passion of mine. I have microscopes and telescopes among other nerdy tools. This shot was taken by putting my cellphone camera up to my telescope eyepiece.

Any artist will doubt what they are doing. I do. But when the foster family that took Ruby in to care for her, while she gave birth to 11 puppies, told me that this photo is why they decided to foster her, I felt like what I was doing really matters.

Another photo for Visit Walla Walla. An iconic small town holiday scene.

Not all the photos at an animal shelter have animals in them. At least 4-legged ones. Walla Walla Fence Co installed fence extenders to deter high jumpers in our yards. The smoke, light and sparks were interesting to me.

The BMHS surgical team keeps our animals healthy. Alexia Smith, left, and Jennifer Catlett, right, fit a cone on one of Mamacita's puppies. 

Frank is a grumpy, very old, little superstar at BMHS. His owner passed away and we ended up with this very senior Dachshund. After an emergency surgery to remove bad teeth and part of his jaw, it was unclear if he would survive the night. Our development manager Kristin Lewis couldn't bear to let him spend the night alone at the shelter. What started out as a compassionate night turned into an adoption. Frank now lives with Kristin and her partner Kyle. Frank was featured in our Fall Furr Ball campaign and is part of how we raised more than $240,000.

I mentioned the foster that took in Ruby to help her give birth. This is Liz McDevitt and one of Ruby's puppies. Fosters take on some of the really hard work in animal rescuing that wouldn't otherwise be possible at a shelter. 

I do product photography. My friend Jason Lilly makes his own custom electric guitar pedals. Check out his work here.

This and the following photos are the final product in the Walla Walla Visitor Guide from my work this year with Visit Walla Walla. 

Let's hope that 2024 outshines 2023.


Art Lenz(non-registered)
Thanks for posting thus. I've missed seeing your work. This b is wonderful!
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