Ben Canales - October Featured Artist

Ben Canales

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.


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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.


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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.


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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)

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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.


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 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.


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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 :-)
Keeps me on the trail and usually my source of light to bring out of the dark what I want in my images.

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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.


38 thoughts on “Ben Canales - October Featured Artist”

  • Javed Anwar

    I've been following Ben for sometime and I'm always impressed with his work. I've always loved the night sky and his shots never fail to amaze me.

  • Shams Cohen

    Stunning work! Is that middle one Trillium Lake?

  • Alethea Smartt

    I love the images of the Milky Way over mountains!

  • Neda

    Ben I'm a digital artist/ photographer, and your work is inspiring to me , please keep it uP ! Oh ,and Plywerks Rocks!

  • Sharon Congdon

    I am so thankful for people like Ben who work hard to make such beautiful art and then to share it with the rest of us who would never be able to go to such amazing places! Thank you, Plywerk. Thank you, Ben.

  • Gary Randall

    Nice work Ben buddy! !! :D

  • Tim Herring

    Ben had just created a How To Shoot the Night Sky video, about the time I was getting back into night sky with digital (old enough to have shot star trails with film). It is amazing to see how far and how fast this talented young lad has come. Amazing work, always willing to share. Congrats Ben! Keep capturing the sky :)

  • Tal Volk

    Congrats Ben!

  • Mark C Jones

    I wish I wasn't a married heterosexual middle aged male. Maybe then I could grow up to marry Ben Canales. Of course it'd be a marriage of "convenience".
    I would only use him to play with all the cool photo equipment he gets and to go to exoctic locales. And he'd make me carry all his gear for him like a pudgy little Sherpa. Works for me.

  • Kim

    Ben, I love your sense of adventure and energy. You are inspiring and always are ready for the next challenge. I look forward to watching your ever evolving talent. The skys' the limit.

  • RW

    Love the work!!
    Congrats Ben!

  • Janina Fuller

    I first started following Ben when someone posted Facebook your "Truth is Beauty" photo from Burning Man 2013. From there I was happy to discover Uncage the Soul and Plywerks, all happening in my beloved city of Portland and beyond. I don't live there now, but your photos and your commentaries always bring me back -- back to earth, back to the night, back to the stars, back to beauty.

  • Yomingjack

    I think Ben has arrived at "the craft of intentional image making". Truly inspiring. :-)

  • Sean Meyer

    My wife and I love Ben's work. We have 3 prints in our house already and can't wait to acquire more. Everyone that visits comments how awesome they are. Keep it up Ben!!

  • lisa paynter

    Simply stunning and masterful artist!! Seeing the vast open sky and all its beauty surrounding...well done!

  • David Kmetovic

    Not only is Ben's work fabulous in its own right, he is a great live presenter, infecting you with his enthusiasm, creative impulses and just plain fun.

  • Tom

    Spectacular images! I especially appreciate the ability of quality night photography like this to illuminate a different landscape than we get to see in daily life.

  • Dora McCracken

    We are so proud of your work in our family. It is a joy to share with our friends your fine talent! You are a wonderful photographer and glad to see your growth. You bring the beauty of the stars to life in your photographs. I look forward to seeing your continued work!

  • Amy

    I'm always in awe of Ben's work, simply breathtaking.

  • August Schilling
    August Schilling October 15, 2014 at 10:25 am

    Ben Canales is amazing! He has a great eye and an unbelievable work ethic. I always look forward to seeing his new work.

  • Darlene Buck

    fairly new to following Ben but he so inspires me to try something new with my photography... LOVE his work!

  • Chris

    I discovered Ben's work a few years ago. Love the Milky Way shots. My dream for Ben is that someone sends him to Iceland to take photos of the northern lights.

  • umair


    great great great work by Ben~! I wish I could travel as far and as much!

  • patti

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful works of art with us , Ben . It brings such joy.

  • Debra Clemans

    The first photo of Ben's that I saw (a couple years ago) was the incredible cloud formation and stars above Mt Hood and Governement Camp as taken from the Tom, Dick, and Harry ridge. What a shot! I was hooked!! Now I'm always waiting to see what Ben does next!

  • Aleta McGee

    I first had the pleasure of viewing Ben's photography as a Gallery Manager, also the privilege of hanging and selling it, in fact one was of the first images listed hear to a lucky couple in Japan. I continue to admire his enthusiasm to capture what most may only experience through his lens, along with his determination to find new and exciting ways to incite the viewer to want to see more. A fan I am of the night sky as well, and yes, every person would do well to step out of their box and wander away to where the stars are illuminating the sky; a world not of man but of God that hits you right in the face, all worries and considerations lifted, His world is so much bigger than we. I only hope to be the lucky chosen one to receive a print to add to an art collection sorely in need of one of Ben's night visions! So, crossing my fingers here! Best of luck on your further treks Ben!

  • Gloria Daum

    Your work is so inspiring. Your photos bring out the beauty of the night sky and universe. Thank you for sharing your work. You can tell that you love what you do.

  • Lisa H

    Ben your work is amazing! I feel wonder and awe when I look at your photos. Thanks for sharing your adventures and perspective with all of us.

  • Heather

    First saw Ben's work on a video conference of night shooters with Royce Bair and just fell in love with his style. I've been following his work ever since. He absolutely portrays a sense of wonder in his photography. Keep it coming Ben!

  • Erica Hunter

    Fantastic blog Ben. I truly enjoy hearing about people putting aside societal norms and doing what they truly love best. The pride and dedication you put into your artwork shines vividly in each of your photos/ video productions. Congrats Ben!

  • Lee Guldin

    I met Ben at a church where his family and I used to go. He commented on a night photograph that I had taken at the Christian music festival, Creation. It was a night shot of a candlelight service on the side of the hill with 70,000 people holding candles and lighting up the night sky. He said he really liked it and that he played around with night photography also. Little did I know just how he played with it. His pictures are incredible and I would love to know just how he makes it look so surreal. He is amazing and I am always in awe when I see his shots. God has blessed you in many ways Ben.

  • Tyler Spades

    So inspiring to see where your work has taken you over the years Ben! Beautiful

  • Lucy

    Your photos are stunning. When sitting under the stars my Photographers eye wants to capture it and my brain say" you can't capture this." Thanks for showing me that you can. I'll keep trying.

  • Janet Sullivan

    I love getting inspired in Ben's night skies. One of my favorite things is to lie on my back & view the immenseness of it all & Ben's photography transports you to that place. His pictures take you places you have only dreamt of. Each is a vision of peacefulness, tranquillity & solitude and instills a longing to be in that place. I am always amazed of the beauty he captures & the patience that it takes to get that perfect shot. I am thankful that he shares his work so generously so that we can all enjoy his artistry.

  • Matt Meyer

    I know of Ben through my daughter who posts his work a lot. I love when I see on pop up. His work is remarkable! And inspirational! And confusing (How did he do that, get that shot!)! Keep them coming, Ben!

  • Debbie Papa

    I have had the pleasure of knowing the Canales family since the early 90's. It is so awesome to see how Ben looks at life through the eyes of his camera and how explicitly he shows us the wonder of Gods awesome universe. I look forward to following him through his journey in life and seeing what wonders he uncovers for us! Thanks for sharing your awesome gifts and talents!

  • Lillian Bixler

    i hark from the Pacific morthwest but now live in England and teach photography. I use bens award winning photo in my tutorials on night photography, and it's always my favourite session. Not only because it is one of the few images I actually covet (loving night photography and narrative). But because it is my home, and I love it .

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