Featured Artist - Preston BuechlerWhat can we say about Preston Buechler, after all, we've really only known him for a little less than a year. Yet in that short while, he has managed to impress us beyond belief. Not only is Preston a talented photographer, but an eager student of his craft, a good sport with a great sense of humor, and quite often... a fetching fashionista happily repping the UNTC brand in his own stylized self portraits. The man is as genuine as they come, and over the past year his significant growth as a skilled shooter behind the shutter has earned him a place in our hearts, feed and now... on our blog 🤗😁
First off, let’s start with an easy one… who is Preston Buechler? Can you tell us a little about yourself and how it is you managed to get into photography?
I want to start with a big thank you for having me on the blog! My name is Preston Buechler and I am a photographer living in Duluth, Minnesota. Being from Alexandria, Minnesota I had followed a couple of creative photographers / videographers such as the couple Hailey and Bryce Miller inspiring me to buy my first piece of camera equipment the DJI Mavic Pro. Yup, that’s right I went straight for the drone. I believe that was mostly due to the fact that I was always shocked to see such unique perspectives and vantage points. A little while later I purchased my first DSLR a Canon T6i. All of this had still happened before I decided where I would be attending my freshman year of college, however, I had a greater passion for sports at the time .
Throughout my highschool journey I was never interested in photography or any of the arts, in fact I was the complete opposite. I was really into football and track becoming completely immersed in things such as working out and exercising to make sure that I put everything into the things I enjoyed at that given time. My first year of college was actually spent at Concordia in Moorhead, Minnesota where I spent some time playing football. After a few months there I realized that I wasn’t as passionate about the sport that I onced loved however something new had grabbed my interest...
Within my year at Concordia I had started following a couple of great northland photographers and I’m sure you guys have heard of them too! George Ilstrup and Tucker Olson. If it wasn’t for these two constantly taking pictures of the North Shore back in the fall of 2017 I don’t believe I would have made the decision to transfer up to UMD the following year. I couldn’t believe the landscape shots I was seeing were actually places within Minnesota. I had never seen the North Shore before their photographs but after watching them constantly pop up onto my instagram feed I knew it was a hobby I wanted to be a part of.
What do you typically bring with you when you go out on a shoot?
Currently when I go out to shoot I use my Sony a7iii along with the Tamron 28-75mm which is the only lens I own. (super embarrassing to admit but lenses are expensive!!) I also have my drone, the DJI Mavic Pro. Usually I don’t carry a tripod as I just find them to be more of a hassle and extra weight. Most of the time I keep my girlfriend Brooke and dog Bella in my back pocket as well.
We’ve had the pleasure of featuring a few UMD grads here before, but I believe you are our first interview with someone who is currently enrolled. What made you choose Duluth? (The school? The city? The surrounding area?)
Similar to what I mentioned earlier it was ultimately the local photographers who made me want to come to the area of Duluth specifically for the scenery. In agreeance with this I plan to go onto dental school and there is a dental program at the University of Minnesota in the Cities. By already putting myself into the University of Minnesota school system I hope to have a better chance of attending the campus.
As a current UMD Bulldog, What impact has living in Duluth had on your work and appreciation for the natural landscape of the North Shore?
It’s not until I moved to Duluth that I realized how drastic the climate in this area really is.
Within the summer months you can wake up and look down towards Canal Park and the lift bridge will be completely immersed in fog only to look out ten minutes later and have the scene be a clear cloudless day. Similarly, it can be raining “up on the hill” and yet going down to Canal Park a raindrop will have never hit.
Headed into the fall and winter months is when things really become interesting in this region. During late November and early December there are huge gusts of wind which bring in 20-30 foot waves. I had never captured these until the last storm that rolled through but I’ll make sure to go out every time after having experienced it once! Towards the end of December and into January, you have the same phenomena as in summer upon looking down to Canal Park only to see the lighthouses covered in my personal favorite Sea Smoke.
Living within this area and being able to see to what extent day to day conditions change has definitely made me respect Lake Superior and how such a large body of water can impact the weather.
You have been shooting around the area long enough to have had the privilege of photographing the rock formation known as ”The Thumb” which collapsed into Lake Superior late last year. How much are you going to miss the iconic sea stack and would you say you ever achieved the satisfaction of getting “the shot” or were you one of those unfortunate souls left with the regrettable feeling of “I’ll get it next time” but never did?
The loss of “The Thumb” is really unfortunate! Many photographers loved traveling up to Tettegouche State Park just to photograph this one rock! Personally I only ever shared one photo of “The Thumb” but was never satisfied with my crop sensor canon T6i at the time. I was under the impression that a full frame camera was the only way to get a good shot of this legendary rock and I ended up getting the Sony a7iii this past fall. However, after seeing so many shots of the same landscape it really discouraged me from snapping the same shot everyone else already had and I refrained from visiting the rock all together. I guess you never really miss something until it’s gone and that is certainly true for the relationship I have with the famous sea stack.
In gathering research for this feature I looked back to the beginning of your feed and came across an extremely well written, heartfelt post regarding the tough loss of your mother. It sounds like she was an incredible woman and an important influence in your life. What do you miss most about her? What was the greatest lesson she left with you? and having gone through what you did, what advice, if any, would you offer someone who might be dealing with such a significant loss in their life?
I think I’ll keep this one pretty brief, I miss my mom’s guidance that she would constantly offer throughout my high school and early college years. She taught me to never take anything for granted, no matter how much time you might think you have left in life. She was a fighter, someone who got through everything she battled so when she passed I don’t think any of us were ready for her to leave as it was always expected or thought that she would come out on top of whatever she was going through. To anyone out there that is dealing with the loss of someone as significant as a mother all I can share with you is that the memories never truly get easier… you’ll always think ‘how much different would life be if they were still around.’ One thing that I can promise though is as days passed and life goes on you will… well you’ll just get used to it, your life has been permanently changed and there is nothing that you can do about it. As my mom wrote to me in one of her last letters, “life just isn’t fair...”
Whether shooting together, or posing in each others shots, you and your girlfriend Brooke seem to make an excellent team (along with her adorable "wolf” dog Bella of course). what would you say is the best part about shooting together?
Oh boy here we go with the PDA… Haha having Brooklyn around is amazing especially for photography! She definitely is one to remind me to slow down and embrace the moment as well as making the overall experience more enjoyable and memorable. When going out to shoot it's a lot easier to get pictures of yourself over attempting to use a tripod. But the thing that Brooke has helped me most with is editing. Prior to ever posting a photo I always airdrop the shot to both Brooke and I. From there she often tells me what improvements could be made and things that should be tweaked before I decide I’m finished.
What is your goal with photography? Is it a hobby, just something you do for your own satisfaction… or is it a skill, something you are developing with a future in mind?
Honestly, I’d love to pursue photography as a full time career and be able to travel all over the world experiencing new places while documenting my journey. HOWEVER, I’m extremely reluctant to just dive in and attempt the travel photography lifestyle as I am unfamiliar with how the industry works; being able to simultaneously make money while visiting exciting places that few see with their own eyes. For this reason I consider photography to be more of a hobby at the moment. My goal is to post a photo consistently each day for the next year and just see where things go, who knows!
You have an incredible talent for capturing both people and landscapes (on foot as well as by drone) … which sounds easy, but requires a surprisingly different set of skills. Which do you enjoy shooting the most? How do you approach each and what challenges you about the different types of subject matter?
Thank you! I have to say that taking pictures of people and doing portrait photography is a great skill. Typically, I like utilizing people as subjects to give a scene a sense of scale or size, remaining far away because to be completely see through I actually hate taking pictures of people! People move, people have feelings, people get cold especially in winter! Overall people need to feel comfortable in front of a camera in order to have their picture taken which is something that I struggle with. For this reason landscape photography will always be my favorite especially having the drastic ever changing conditions of the Duluth area!
Drone vs Boots on the Ground
I have a lot of respect for people who are able to take pictures on foot and manage to captivate an audience or really make you take a longer look at a photograph. With all of the unique perspectives you are able to get with a drone I find it far easier to come up with stellar compositions which make people stop scrolling and dive into a picture. That being said I enjoy drone photography far more as even I am shocked by how different things look from the sky.
I find photography on foot to be far more of a challenge as you are trying to create something unique that everyone is already able to see for themselves with their own eyes. Because of this I believe you have to go out and shoot when conditions are just right outside whether that be sunrise, sunset, 30 degrees below, intense fog, pouring rain, or 50 mph winds these are all things to take into consideration when coming up with that scroll stopping shot on the ground.
What in photography would you say challenges you the most? What do you see as your strengths? And what resources do you use for improving your skills?
As I hinted at earlier I find photographing people to be the biggest challenge ever! Hey, maybe I’m just a weird guy I don’t know! For whatever reason when I am photographing people I have a vision of what I would like a person to be doing in my head, however, I’m rarely able to convey that vision over to them so that I can get them in the exact position I would like them to be. I find this extremely frustrating and I know my primary model, Brooke, does as well, BIG ooof my dude.
I like to consider one of my biggest strengths to be going out and finding new locations to shoot. Apart from the sparse picture of Split Rock Lighthouse and a few from Canal Park recently I really enjoy pushing myself to find different locations that most people haven’t seen on the gram.
When I am looking for inspiration or ways of making my photography better I try to compare my shots and style to other photographers. About a month ago I stumbled upon Roam the Planet’s instagram feed and have been attempting to recreate the theme that many photographers have on their page. This consists of lots of winter blues while occasionally throwing in a pop of color which can be seen with the reds that have been across my profile lately.
What would you say your approach to editing is? Are you a Lightroom Classic or CC kind of guy (or perhaps even a little Photoshop)?
Oh spiceyyyyyy, I use Lightroom Classic and Photoshop for most of my shots! I start within lightroom adjusting things such as contrast, highlights, shadows, whites, and blacks. Moving forward I’ll play with the hue, saturation, and luminance sliders, however, I find that I’m often not able to dial in the exact colors that I am looking for. For this reason I use photoshop to look at a particular area of an image and really push a color, such as red for example, so that it is bright and crisp.
When you go out shooting would you say you generally have an idea of the shot you want to get in your head or are you looking to be inspired in the moment?
Going out to shoot I generally have a final location in mind of where I would like to end up but driving up the north shore often leads to distractions and unexpected stops along the way!
What would you say is your favorite season? Favorite thing about shooting in Minnesota? And favorite location to shoot?
My favorite season to shoot is winter due to the ever changing landscape and the lack of people out and about exploring.
As far as Minnesota as a whole, I'm not sure that I have a favorite thing about shooting within the state, however, shooting up on the north shore I love the overall nostalgia I get while traveling up highway 61.
I love to shoot at Palisade Head as its 300 foot cliffs make for astonishing photos unlike anywhere else in Minnesota.
Lately you have been posting a number of shots from Duluth Harbor featuring cargo ships – those breathtakingly beautiful behemoths that pass between the piers. Have you always had an affinity for these colossal carriers or is it a new found admiration since moving to Duluth? Also… what the heck is a “Jimmy”? Please explain. 😉😂
Before moving to Duluth I’m not so sure I even knew the shipping industry existed! Since being around the area I’ve become more knowledgeable about the numerous resources we have available online (http://www.duluthharborcam.com/) in order to help photographers capture these ships. During the summer months I find that ships come and go so frequently that I don’t enjoy capturing images of them. However, during the winter months and especially in January things get interesting as I’m sure you’ve noticed! Ice within Canal Park changes daily while it attempts to cover the massive lake, even “icebergs” are formed! I can’t help myself from taking pictures of the ships shoving themselves through the ice and snow.
Jimmy … Timmy it’s all the same…
I’m not sure when the tradition started but the word “Jimmy” has become a replacement for the word “people” between my dad and I. I find it slipping into my everyday vocabulary more often than not! Whether there are Jimmies at the front end of a boat or how many Timmies are on the bus, these two words are constantly thrown back and forth between me and my father.
As someone who tends to tailor their feed to follow a different, well defined visual style that generally changes with the season... do you find that to be limiting, challenging or focusing? And what is your process for choosing the look of the season?
All of the above! I’ve found that attempting to create pictures which follow a consistent theme and color scheme helps me to focus on specific things that I have the opportunity to shoot. HOWEVER, do you know how many landscapes have that vibrant pop of red or a nice crispy orange front the fall time? Not many that’s for sure! Selecting certain colors that you wish to keep consistent throughout an entire season definitely throws you into a pigeon hole. Things are about to get interesting without the red boats around we’ll have to see what I can come up with to keep incorporating a similar style!
Throughout the past couple of seasons I believe that I become inspired by other photographers across instagram. Generally I spend enough time on the platform so I am able to find specific profiles and group communities which I enjoy basing a lot of my themes around.
Now for the real hard hitting important stuff… when traveling up and down the shore to get those remarkable shots, what are some of the little known gems you have discovered along the way? Any favorite places to eat or get a cup of coffee that you simply have to hit up when shooting along the North Shore?
Little gems of the North Shore - Hovland Minnesota, Wisconsin Point Road, hidden rock formations along the Tettegouche shore line, curvy back roads near by Jay Cooke State Park.
Favorite places to eat - Going up the North Shore at 5 am sometimes you leave without breakfast for this reason stopping by Betty’s for a slice of pie is a must! Too bad they don’t open until later in the day generally, especially after those 5 am sunrises in the summer…
Through your IG stories we’ve learned that you and Brooke frequent one of the best little Italian eateries along the entirety of the North Shore – Va Bene Caffe in Duluth – what would you recommend getting for those first timers who have not yet had the pleasure?
I’ll have you know right now that this is BROOKE’S favorite place within Duluth. However, the last time that we went in I actually did find a dish that I ended up enjoying called the “Ripallo Pesto.”
Are you a sunset or sunrise kind of person?
Living on Lake Superior I think you have to be a sunRISE kind of person!
Do you hold your breath when passing through the Silver Creek Cliff Tunnel?
Lol nope, why would I? Do you know something I don’t?
What do you do when you’re not out shooting? (Any hobbies, favorite shows, play any musical instruments, etc.)
Netflix and Chill for the win! Brooklyn and I are constantly watching new series and movies so if you have any recommendations you should hit me up! I think the series that has kept me the most intrigued is “You” but we’ve been watching a couple of other new ones like “Grace and Frankie” along with “The Good Place.”
Do you happen have a favorite photo you’ve ever taken?
I’d have to go with the image of myself dangling my feet over the edge of one of Palisades cliffs. The way it juts out and hangs over the lake makes for a truly unique shot that I’m not sure I’d have the guts to recreate.
Who are your heroes? (Photography or otherwise)
My dad is my biggest hero in life. He’s a person that I know I can go to no matter what the circumstances are and is someone that truly loves unconditionally. He’s understanding, passionate, caring, helpful… EXTREMELY helpful. Since my mom has passed my dad has become a man that attempts to take on both roles of Father and Mother constantly reminding me of what my mother would say or how she would have solved a given situation. Every single picture that I take or finish editing is immediately sent to him. He’s someone that I look up to and want to become more like.
Any bucket shots on your list?
Have you ever seen some of those castles all over Europe?! Yeah that’d be pretty neat!
What’s one piece of advice you would offer someone who is just starting out as a photographer?
I feel like the biggest piece of advice I can give is just start. Take multiple photographs, edit multiple photographs, and most importantly post those photographs even if you don’t believe they compare to other, “better” photographers photos. Looking back on your own portfolio you are able to see where you as an individual went wrong and how you can improve your own work.
This one comes from our previous featured guest the Ashley Bredemus who would like to know ... If you could open any type of food/beverage establishment what and where would it be? Your answer does not need to be practical, actually I hope it’s not!
After working down at Canal Park Brewing Company I think I’d like to open a Brewery with a similar style to that of Duluth Cider. A place where you can enjoy a crafted brew while ordering in food from the best local restaurants. Brooke has a more interesting answer though! She’d like to open up a coffee shop library with lots of special places and nooks in which you could read!
What one question would you ask our next featured guest? (Anything you like... and full disclosure, it's Tucker Olson)
What have you found to be the biggest difference photographing places inside of Minnesota compared to places such as Alaska and the PNW, PLUS how do you find all of your banger locations while traveling?
Time to pay it forward... who else would you like to see featured on this blog?
I’ve been talking with Martin Ramierz the past couple of weeks and the guy has some amazing photographs of all of his travels, such as his shot at Moraine Lake, I really believe he takes some great shots and should have some more exposure!
Thank you so much for your time.
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