Location: Portland, Oregon
Give us a brief description of you and your work.
I don't like doing what everyone else is doing. If the group is going left, I'll quietly explore to the right. I don't have a problem with the things that are popular, but rather, I relish in finding things that have escaped notice and are just waiting to be tinkered and experimented with. I envy early explorers who got to tiptoe into new lands. In my photography, that's translated into an exciting passion of taking photos of the night sky. After the sun sets and everyone packs up their gear and goes home, that's when I pour a cup of coffee, pack my bags and head out to start looking around and shooting. Now, night photography is common, but 5 years ago when I started- the group of us that was doing this could be counted on two hands. It's nice to have a new thriving community of photographers that enjoy shooting at night, but, this corner that I found quietly unnoticed is beginning to feel a little crowded lately. I also shoot a lot of timelapse, but...that's a crazy topic all of it's own.
How would you describe your style?
I *think* my style is 30% adventure, 30% fantasy, 30% personal and 10% surprise. That's 100%, right?... I choose locations that excite me as an outdoor enthusiast. I like rugged and challenging locals. If it's difficult to get to, that part of the process adds satisfaction to the final result. I intentionally find scenes I can manipulate to stretch reality and put some magic and whimsy in my images. If there's a tent in my shot, I'll place it where it inspires a sense of adventure, not where you'd logically avoid rain run off or have the best place to cook dinner. I intentionally involve objects to give scale to the stars and landscape. Viewers quickly need a context of size, or what's the difference between 1000 and 10,000 stars? I look for human-built things like barns, farmhouses, tents, vehicles, people... something to anchor the image in scale context.
What's your goal as an artist?
Remember being a teenager and laying on the hood of some junker car and looking up at the stars as music played on the radio and your girlfriend or boyfriend snuggles up beside you? Or, *laughing* more realistically, when you have your friend on the side of the hood next to you and you wish they were your high school crush instead? How about, summer nights when you sprawled out in the grass, alone or maybe with friends, listening to crickets chirp, sharing crazy life dreams and waiting for a shooting star to arc overhead? Or, even as an adult, when on those rare occasions you make it out of the city and unintentionally look up at night and are startled to see sparkling stars overhead? In those rare moments, we lose ourselves in a beautiful way.
Those feelings, memories, experiences- I'm trying to capture that sense of looking out at the stars and feeling that "...whoa..."
I want to transport the viewer out to the starry night sky and let them feel small, give them a clue that we're no big deal in the cosmic world. All our crazy bills, jobs, relationships, challenges, worries, etc- amount to zilch when you can see we're only one dot in a sky full of a bajillion dots. That may sound deflating, but instead, I take away that my problems are nothing compared to the vast potential of the universe. There's a solution to paying my rent, to working out struggles with my girlfriend, to progressing in my job, etc when I compare the size of those issues to the knowledge that EVERY. SINGLE. GLOWING. DOT. is another world, planet, sun, moon. Whatever I'm dealing with... it's honestly not that big of a deal in the context of the stars.
From where do you draw inspiration?
The infinitude of the night sky is an endless inspiration. I also keep my eyes open to all the beauty around me in the daytime and wonder what could be translated to a scene at night. One of my favorite quotes is by the artist who has the most beautiful expression of the night sky, Vincent van Gogh, "I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream."
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Life is for living (yuhp, that's 4)
Why do you chose to show your prints of your artwork on Plywerk?
Just by the nature of my images being dark, a glass frame in front of my shots tends to pick up reflections and be distracting, so I love there's nothing between the viewer and the print. Then, the sense of infinity doesn't work so well when boxed in by a frame. I think the images going to the edge of the physical print on the wall allows a subconscious stretching out further. No box to define the view.
How do you keep yourself motivated and your artwork fresh?
Lately I've been trying to chill out and challenge myself to make the trips and locations mean something. When I started this, I went out an insane amount of nights just shooting and shooting and shooting trying to learn the craft of night photography. Now, I've got a good idea of how it works, so I'm trying to learn the craft of intentional image making, not just getting lucky occasionally. That's hard, and it keeps me coming back.
In your opinion, what are the ingredients for success with photography?
Ugh. Photography is a crazy world these days. Success can mean alot of things now. Are you making money, do you get a bajillion shares of your work, are you expressing your vision? Historically, success was making money. Now, with social media, success could be having 500k followers while you make money at your job as an engineer. Or, being a purist, success could be authentically expressing yourself while you make no money and no one knows who you are. I try to find a blend of all of it.
Ingredients?... Find something you love shooting and go hard at it. Really hard. Outrun, outdo, outshoot everyone in your niche. Pursue understanding your own style/subject and developing that. No one rallies to a shooter that does everything safely and averagely. We champion those that go out on limbs and bring us visions we've never imagined because they chased the rabbit of their imagination deep into the hole through unexpected twists and turns. Believe that how you see the world has validity. And finally, develop yourself as a diverse person, not just a photographer. I heard a local speaker say, "to be a more interesting photographer, I strive to be a more interesting person." Somewhere in that last one is the added benefit of developing a sustainable life. You can go hard for about 2-3 years and then you have to make sure how you're living is a life you want to continue living.
Other than your camera, what is your favorite piece of equipment or accessory?
A headlamp :-)
If you were a car, what make, model and year would you be?
*laughing* I'm embarrassed to admit, I'd be a Subaru Baja. You know the weird thing that's half car, half truck but in a dorky way? Its the perfect mix of practicality, capability and oddness. That's me.
Win a Ben Canales Print on Plywerk
Post a comment about Ben's work below and you will automatically be entered to win one of his amazing images on our 3/4" bamboo Plywerk! We will select a winner at random at the end of the month so make sure you come back to the blog in early November to see if you won and to check out the new featured artist! We’ll ship it anywhere in the US for free.