Featured Artist - Reece Hickman
Oh Boi! Reece Hickman!! What a treat we have for you today. If Reece were a rock she'd be an agate – a true North Shore gem, full of vibrant colors, richly layered and radiant in spirit. Luckily for us Reece is not a rock, just a rockstar photographer with a great sense of humor, an amazing ability to laugh at life and an incredible story that she has so generously shared with us in the interview below.
Alright, so right off the bat, what is the story of Reece Hickman? Can you tell us a little about yourself and how it is you managed to get into photography?
I grew up in Elk River, Minnesota and for as long as I can remember my parents have been taking me (and my siblings) up the north shore. They took me on my first hiking adventure at 6 weeks old and I haven’t stopped wanting to go hiking since. I started alpine skiing at age four, which later turned into a passion nordic skiing (and racing) which is how I ended up going to college in Duluth, specifically St. Scholastica. After a slight vision setback my freshman year of school I stopped skiing competitively, transferred to UMD for my sophomore year of school and eventually ended up with a super sick Nikon D3400.
What’s the first lens you ever bought and how long have you had it?
I actually just bought my very own lens maybe two weeks ago. I’ve had a Sony A7 R II body since this winter and have been lucky enough to be able to borrower Tuck’s lenses when I can, but for most of this summer and fall I have been back on my Nikon d3400 using its kit lens. Then one night I had been browsing through some used lenses for fun online and kept sending Tony (@fing_dong) pictures of the lenses I was looking at to get an opinion on what would be a good one/ if any of them were actually a good price and then I just went for it. So now I am a proud owner of a Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS Lens. It's been awesome and I love it so much.
What’s in your typical everyday gear bag?
My gear bag is kinda sad, and it's kinda just packed for whatever adventure we’re about to have. If I’m smart and prepared it has a couple extra charged batteries, and another memory card, but that very rarely happens. Usually my bag just has my camera, snacks, and extra clothes.
You recently graduated from UMD, and have been traveling quite a bit, even daring to live outside of the great state of Minnesota 😮🤭 in Seattle for a while. What do you miss most when you are away and what plans do you have for the future now that you have graduated?
Life has been busy since graduation! Getting a job out in Seattle and moving here this summer has been the best. I have been wanting to live in the PNW since my freshman year of college, so it's been a dream come true to make it happen. Honestly most of my traveling has been for work lately (which is amazing). I don’t have any personal trips set in stone yet, but this year I really hope to make it down to the Redwoods, and San Juan Island. I really do miss parts of Minnesota though since I’ve moved. Mostly Northern Waters and the bwca.
You had an opportunity to work for Duluth Pack during your time in MN. What was that like and what did you learn from working on an established brand like that with such a rich history?
My senior year of college I was a photography/ marketing intern for Duluth Pack. I had owned a Duluth Pack backpack since I was six years old, and in literally every single family photo from age 8-13 I wore pink Duluth Pack sweatshirt, I’m not even joking, it was Every. Single. Photo. So getting to work for them made the superfan inside me very happy. The internship taught me a lot about the more “commercial” aspects of photography and marketing and gave me a taste of what the outdoor industry is like. It was also super fun to see how such a tight knit, inhouse team works, and what its like to be apart of the Duluth Pack family.
No one does candy colored skies quite like you. Can you tell us a little about those delicious #hickmanhues™ (patent pending)??? ...Is this something you set out to do or something you happened upon and what is your editing process like?
Ah yes, the iconic #HickmanHues. When I first started taking photos I was obsessed with making the colors as vibrant as possible. I was mostly shooting sunrise/sunset so the raw images already had a colorful sky and then I would really enhance it. But now as I’ve grown as a photographer it’s become less about a wild sunrise and more about the actual composition of the photo, and the story I’m trying to capture with it. I feel like my editing style change is like how when a girl first starts wearing makeup - she does a lot of everything, but then eventually learns to just enhance whats naturally there. I think with photo editing I'm finally getting into “enhance whats naturally there” stage.
What in photography would you say challenges you? What do you see as your strengths? And what resources do you use for improving your skills?
Honestly my greatest challenge is having things in focus. Somehow, someway I manage to either not have the subject in focus, or I shake too much and make it blurry. And the best resource I have to learn are the fellow photographers around me. I have learned so much from each and every person I have taken photos with. George and Tucker and have both taught me a lot about camera settings, Amy of the Atmosphere has taught me about portraits and how to shoot in harsh light, and Ari has taught me how to bring an artistic/ design eye into photography. Always surround yourself with people that are better than you (especially in your weaker areas) it's the best way to get better. And if you’re in a position to give advice/tips to someone who wants to learn more, give them!
A little birdy once told me (or is playing a sizable prank on me) that you were once legally blind? Is this true? If so what kind of effect has that had on your life as a purveyor of the photographic arts?
Hahahahahahaha yes it is true. Very very true. (and I give everyone permission always to joke about it with me). So my senior year of high school I started to have a very hard time with my vision. Everything was always pretty blurry, and no strength contacts or glasses lenses could fix it. For the next year I was in and out of the eye doctors all the time, and trying literally anything to be able to see clearly. It was becoming a huge problem since I then was up at school in Duluth and I couldn’t read power points during lectures, I really could not drive at night anymore, couldn’t read street signs, and was just having a really tough time. Finally over winter break they discovered I had a degenerative cornea disease and my vision, with glasses on, was all the way down to 20/100, and without glasses 20/200. So yes, I officially became legally blind. My two options were to wait until it gets worse and hopefully be able to get a cornea transplant, but those only last 10 years, you max out after 3 transplants, which would then leave me sightless by age 49, or hopefully get into a clinical trial to get a procedure done that would stop my corneas for degenerating. So I switched to online classes for the semester, moved back to Elk River from Duluth, and got into the trial, and lucky for me they’re fixed now. Going through that really kickstarted the photography thing for me. I had always loved hiking and traveling, and going from being able to go hiking whenever I wanted, to not at all kind of made it apparent how much I loved it and how I had taken that independence for granted. So when I moved back up to Duluth my sophomore year with my restored vision I made it a priority to go hiking every single chance I could, and to take photos of the hikes I was going on on my phone so I could always remember them. By that winter I decided I needed a camera to better capture the beauty I was seeing around me, so with money I had made working holidays at the nursing home I bought myself a nikon d3400, and the rest is history.
Of all of the photographers we have had the pleasure of featuring lately your name might possibly be the most commonly mentioned as someone others enjoy shooting with. Do you prefer shooting in a group? Why? And how do you put up with so many of these silly boys and their ceaseless shenanigans (especially, but not limited to, the antics of one Mr. Tuck Olson 😉😂)?
It's good to hear that everyone loves me so much (; but honestly it just depends. When I started I loved hiking and taking photos alone. It was my way to regain my independence and be able to just escape everything. But once I met Tucker and would get to tag along with him and George I learned to love shooting with people. Plus when all those boys are together it's quite the comedy show and I really couldn’t imagine it anyother way. Lol Tucker’s really not that special. Kinda needy. Eats all my ketchup chips, steals my memory cards a lot cause he “forgets” his, but it's fine (;
What are you looking for when you go out to shoot? How much planning do you do beforehand?
I only plan if its a shoot for a company. I don't like to plan out my own personal photography. I like it to feel like it's apart of the moment, and to me, you can’t plan moments and expect it to feel real. The only planning goes into where I want to go and what time I need to wake up to make it happen.
What would you say is your favorite season? Favorite thing about shooting in Minnesota? And favorite location to shoot?
I really really love winter. I grew up skiing all the time so the cold and snow has always fascinated me. I love how the lake piles up the sheets of ice, and the way the sea smoke just glows during sunrise. Fall is pretty great too since everything is so colorful and it means winter is about to come. I enjoy going up the Boundary Waters, that's by far the best place in Minnesota and I highly recommend going at some point in your life.
Having followed you on Instagram for well over a year now we’ve noticed that you have a somewhat selective diet. What kind of foods do you stay away from and what foods do you like to bring for meals when out camping?
So I’m a difficult human when it comes to food. Kinda high maintenance if you ask my friends (or parents). But I became a vegetarian 6 years ago to help do my part when it comes to climate change, discovered I was allergic to gluten 5 years ago, and now I have no clue how to give a nice, easy label to my diet. But basically I try to eat a vegan diet as much as possible, and sometimes i’ll eat fish (only if its Northern Waters). I mostly just eat vegetables and drink excessive amounts of coffee when it comes to camping/ traveling. Tuck & I are pretty good about making salads to eat while on the road, and if we are lucky enough to be in Canada I skip all meals and only eat ketchup chips.
Are there any specific places, restaurants, coffee shops, campgrounds, etc. that you absolutely love or have totally missed while you have been away from the North Shore?
I know I have mentioned this place a couple times before, but Northern Water Smokehaus is the best. If I could only choose one place to eat for the rest of my life it would be there. If I had to pick between having their sandwiches in my life, or Tuck I wouldn’t even hesitate to choose Northernwaters.
What do you do when you’re not out shooting? (Any hobbies, favorite shows, play any musical instruments, etc.)
I’m kinda a boring person when it comes to using up any extra free time. If i’m taking pics its usually cause i’m out enjoying all my interesting hobbies like hiking, camping, or traveling. But when I’m home and have time to chill I love being able to cook, especially since I have a weird diet so it's just a lot easier to cook my own food. I am also very obsessed with David Dobrik vlogs and spend way too much of my time watching them. And in the winter I enjoy alpine skiing and nordic skiing so I’m pretty excited for winter to happen so I can start doing those again.
Do you happen have a favorite photo you’ve ever taken?
I love this photo of Tucker from the Badlands. The way the colors get deeper during blue hour amazes me, and it's become my favorite time to shoot.
Who are your heroes? (Photography or otherwise)
I want to win the favorite child award this year, so my parents are for sure my heros. But actually though they have been the most supportive in everything I do, and have never stopped me from going for something I wanted. They’re the ones that have taught me the importance of traveling and seeing more of the world than where you’re from.
Any bucket shots on your list?
I really really want to get a photo of the cute little black foxes on San Juan Island. To see them would be pretty rad. But basically everything I haven’t seen yet in this world would be a dream place to explore and take photos of me. Everywhere has so much beauty to it, and the thought of never being able to see it all is overwhelming to me.
What’s one piece of advice you would offer someone who is just starting out as a photographer?
My piece of advice is to figure out why you want to be a photographer. Are you doing it cause you're passionate about what you're capturing? Or are you trying to make money and have some insta fame? If you’re passionate about it that’s all that matters, the love for what you're doing is the greatest thing that will motivate you to get better and success will follow.
This one comes from our previous featured guest Lindsey Ranzau who would like to know ... If you could only eat Italian food or Mexican food for the rest of your life, which would you choose?
I really really love guac and making veggies tacos, so i’d for sure choose mexican. Spicier the food the better.
What one question would you ask our next featured artist? (Anything you like)
What drives you to do what you do?
Time to pay it forward... who else would you like to see featured on this blog?
The one, and only Mr. Fing Dong. He’s a pretty cool guy.
Thank you so much for your time.
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