Featured Artist: Parker Hoen
Ladies and gentlemen, we want to thank you for coming out... you coulda been anywhere in the world, but you're here with us, talking with the ever talented Mr. Parker Hoen. The man is a wanderlust wonder, a leviathan with a lens, a poet with a portrait and really just a genuine, all around good guy (just ask his friends... or his mom Kathy 😉). Over the past year or so it has been our great pleasure to watch his immense talent grow and now it is our sincere delight to share his amazing talents with you. So if you don't know... now you know.
First of all, we heard a rumor that you recently had back surgery? Hope everything is alright and you’re doing well in your recovery. Tell us, did the injury occur from carrying around so much talent through the various Minnesota hiking trails?
You guys flatter me, but there are so many other incredibly talented photographers in Minnesota that I don't have to carry any weight at all. In reality I had an injury playing pond hockey with some friends that ended up progressively getting worse over time. @jordanmileski had a first hand view of me attempting to shuffle across the ice last winter and it’s safe to say it wasn’t a pretty sight. I’m happy to say that I’m feeling like a million bucks these days, and I’m back on the trails!
So what’s the story of Parker Hoen and how did you happen to get into photography in the first place?
I hate to have the first two answers that I give be health related but I actually tore a few ligaments in my knee my junior year of college and I had to give up playing lacrosse; at the time I played for UMD. From there I had to find something to occupy my time. I already knew that I loved hiking, camping, and being outdoors so photography seemed like a logical next step. I got my first camera in December of 2017 and I was hooked immediately, I haven't looked back since. I feel like found something I’m truly passionate about.
As a former student at the University of Minnesota Duluth obviously you shot a lot of the surrounding Minnesota North Shore because it was right there in your back yard... what were some of your favorite spots to shoot?
I never realized how spoiled I was until I left Duluth. Tettegouche was, and still is, one of my favorite locations! I love the cliffs, especially when storms brew up some massive waves. Apart from that I also really liked driving up and down the Gunflint Trail finding different locations to shoot.
What’s your favorite thing about shooting in Minnesota? Least favorite? And what would you say is your favorite season to be a Minnesota based photographer?
My favorite thing about shooting in Minnesota is the dramatic change of seasons. Landscapes completely change throughout the year and it’s really fun to depict that change. My least favorite is the mosquitos, they make it tough to do any hiking in the middle of the summer without getting eaten alive. Northern Minnesota summers would be much better without them. My favorite season is probably winter for a lot of reasons. Winter storms produce some incredible waves on Lake Superior, the most extreme cold weather creates sea smoke, and later in the winter the Milky Way starts to become visible. Also, who doesn’t love a fresh coat of snow every few days???
Any must stops or little known haunts along the shore you loved to stop or specifically miss?
A super cool spot that I don’t think a lot of people typically visit is the abandoned town of Taconite Harbor. Part of the town is on private property so you can’t visit it, but there is a portion that is on public property that you can walk around. You can walk down two different streets (or what is left of them) and see the old foundations of homes, the remnants of a basketball court, an old baseball field, and rusted street lights. It’s amazing how fast nature can reclaim what was once a town. Apart from hiking and something a little more accessible, check out the Java Moose in Grand Marais, their Nordic Miel is one of my favorite coffee drinks!
You were part of the epic land rover shoot with Jordan Mileski, Emily Theisen and Ian Lundborg who have been featured here on this blog before. Can you tell us what the MN photo community has meant to you? How have they helped you grow and what it’s like to do a shoot like that for an entire weekend with clearly a tight group of talented friends?
The community is what makes shooting so much fun. Photography has introduced me to a ton of people, and most of the time they are willing to give you pointers on photography when you ask them. When I first started taking photos I tagged along with @tuckolson a lot. Tucker is an incredible photographer who taught me a lot about composing photos and the editing process; I actually met Jordan Mileski through Tucker and we have been friends since! It’s nice to have a quiet hike alone every now and again to clear my head, but hiking and shooting with friends is what it is all about in my opinion. That weekend of shooting is a perfect example of what the photography community is about, we just camped out, had a ton of fun creating photos, and made a lot of great memories along the way!
What have you been up to post UMD?
Since graduating I moved to Saint Paul and have been working for Travelers Insurance as a property inspector. I have also been working on growing my photography business on the side, and finding more clients. I’ve also been actively trying to see more of the country and shoot in different locations. Since graduating in May of 2018 I’ve road tripped to: Utah, Colorado, California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Alberta, and British Columbia!
Now that you’ve graduated you’ve been getting out and traveling... what’s been your favorite place to shoot outside MN and where are you off to next?
Olympic National Park has by far been my number one place to shoot. While it is a pretty long drive, anyone that finds themselves in the northwest corner of the United States should definitely make the stop. What makes it so special are all of the different environments within the same area. I don't know of another place that you can see glaciers, mountains, rainforests, and beaches all within the same National Park boundary.
There’s a story highlight on your Instagram account from you shooting at a Vikings game last season... can you tell us a little about that? What was it like? How did that opportunity come to be?
I actually got the opportunity from my friend, Jay Christensen. Jay is the owner of F3 Visuals which is a company that produces videos for a long list of clients. Last fall he needed a photographer for the Vikings game and was nice enough to think of me. I am a huge Vikings fan so obviously I said yes! It was the first time that I had photographed professional sports but I loved it. It was a lot more fast paced than my normal work flow, but that's what made the entire game exciting, especially being that close to the action. I narrowly missed being run over by players as they got tackled out of bounds more times than I would like to admit, but I guess that’s part of the fun. Unfortunately they lost the game to the Bears which ended their 2018 season, but it was a great experience regardless.
Also in your story highlights there is a collection of a number of dogs including our mutual friend Tav. What’s the deal with that highlight and how awesome is Tav?
The highlight actually started because of Tav! I had way too many videos of my buddy and needed a highlight to keep them in. Other dogs started finding their way into that highlight as I meet them on the trail or around town, but we all know who the true star is! I actually met Tav the first time that I met Jordan, and I mainly hang out with her just so I can see my best bud Tav ;).
Your website includes a range of subject matter (weddings, products, portraits, wildlife and landscape) what is your favorite subject to shoot? Which do you find to be the most challenging?
My first love was landscape photography for sure. While still love shooting landscapes, I have found that I really like documentary style photography and telling the story of an event. For that reason I think that my favorite these days is wedding photography. Although I have only done a handful of weddings I still have a blast telling the story of a very special day through photos. I would also consider weddings to be the most difficult subject to shoot because you only get one shot at a wedding, regardless of the weather conditions or any other factor, you can’t just “re-do” a wedding.
You also have a section specifically dedicated to 35mm photography. Can you tell us a little bit about why you choose to utilize 35mm in a world gone digital?
My jump into film photography was late last winter. Since moving down to the cities in June of 2018 I hadn’t been getting out hiking as much as I would have liked to, mainly because I didn't have the North Shore a short drive from my front steps anymore. I started feeling uninspired because I was only getting out and shooting once a month at most. So, I found my current film camera on the Facebook Marketplace for $5 and picked it up; from there I decided to carry that camera with me at all times, and it has been a really fun project.
Has shooting with film influenced or taught you anything regarding your digital work (and vice versa)?
I think that it has definitely made me slow down my whole process. It’s super easy with digital to rapid fire hundreds of photos and just hope one of them turns out, but with film you only have a limited number of shots, so it makes me really think about my exposure, composition, and why I’m taking the photo. I think that because I try to have my film camera in my daily bag at all times, it has made me appreciate the beauty in everyday life. I think that prior to this project I would only look for compositions in the environment that I was used to shooting in - mainly hiking trails and the great outdoors - but now I always have my eyes peeled for good lighting, interesting compositions, and powerful subjects, no matter what im doing.
We have also heard that you have a unique approach to editing your work and that you use tonal curves almost exclusively. What is it that you prefer about this method?
I still use a lot of the other features within lightroom for sure, but I just love the control of the tone curves. I like being able to adjust the light and colors of certain points of the histogram. It is an editing style that I have been working on for a while, but I don’t claim to be a lightroom expert. I love learning new features, or different ways to utilize tools to edit a photo.
Based on a brief scanning of your Instagram account it looks like you have only been shooting seriously for a little under 2 years... how have you managed to develop your skills so quickly? What do you feel you still would like to improve?
I think I have to direct you back to the Minnesota photo community. Without being surrounded by incredible photographers and picking up pointers on shooting and editing I don’t think I would’ve gotten very far. I am blessed to have such good friends who are also photographers that help me to grow constantly. A goal of mine for 2019 is to focus on the “story telling” portion of my photography to help give meaning to every photo; I feel like I still have a very long way to go to get where I want to be!
Your mom seems be one of your biggest fans, commenting on nearly all of your posts and even showing support to other accounts that share your work (Hi Kathy). How great is your mom and how much does having a supportive family mean to you?
My mom is absolutely my biggest fan! My whole family has been super supportive of my photography, and some more active than others in the comment section! They always want to know what I am up to, and a lot of times want to know who I’m with. I know my mom follows a lot of photographers from Minnesota, and loves looking at everyones photos. @kmhoen is big time supporter of all Minnesota based photographers!
Do you happen have a favorite photo you’ve ever taken?
It’s hard to pick a favorite but I would say an easy contender for one of my favorites is a photo I took of took of @reece_hickman last fall. She is standing on a lookout point at Tettegouche overlooking a massive wave during a storm. The way that the wave frames her, how the crazy wind is blowing her hair and camera strap around, all paired with the deep blues of the waters and dark greens of the trees surrounding really exemplify the North Shore. That and it was from a great weekend spent with friends, you just can’t beat it.
Who are your heroes? (Photography or otherwise)
Garrett King is an idol of mine. I love how he captures scenes, his color schemes are bar none, and he is an incredible story teller.
Chris Burkard is a very talented photographer, videographer, rock climber, surfer, and many other things. I love his enthusiasm towards life and his photography style.
Any bucket shots on your list?
I don’t have any specific shots that I want to take, but I do have locations I want to go! I really want to check out Iceland, The Faroe Islands, and Antarctica. I feel like Antarctica is one of the last truly unexplored areas of the planet and I think it would be awesome to visit!
What’s one piece of advice you would offer someone who is just starting out as a photographer?
I think there is a big emphasis these days on the gear that you are using and I definitely fell victim to this mindset for a while, but I can honestly say that some of my favorite photos that I've created have been made with a $5 film camera that I found online. I think photography should be more about the story being told with the photos than the camera that you took that photo with.
This one comes from our previous featured artist Derek Warner who would like to know ... What makes you different?
That’s a super tough question, honestly I think what sets me apart is the same thing that makes every photographer different. Everyone views the world in a different way, and photography is my medium for displaying how I see it. That’s what makes photography so fascinating to me, I love seeing how other people have photographed the same location that I’ve been to in a different way and seeing how they interpret a scene that is familiar to so many.
What one question would you ask our next featured artist? (Anything you like)
What is your favorite camping meal? (I need ideas I’m sick of eating the same stuff on every road trip.)
And now for a question from the cheap seats. This one comes to is from an anonymous IG follower we’ll call J. Mileski... no... Jordan M. 😉🤔😁 Jordan would like to know “is your girl friend even real??? We never see her (tee hee hee)”
She misses one camping trip and all of the sudden she doesn’t exist! She is very real and is the subject of a lot of my photos! She is a huge supporter of mine, and even though she isn’t a morning person she still wakes up for sunrises with me. We are also the proud parents of a very chunky cat named Angus!
Time to pay it forward... who else would you like to see featured on this blog?
Thank you so much for your time.
For more Parker Hoen goodness here's where to find him: