Look at any of Tahoe photographer Jon Paul’s work, and you definitely get a sense of the scope of the area’s beauty. It’s an impression that’s hard to miss, as Paul mostly shoots large-format film for panoramic views.
“I make small prints available, but I’m known for really producing prints that measure in feet as opposed to inches,” Paul said. “Six-or-seven-or-eight-foot images are not pushing the limits for me.”
Plus, this capturing of Tahoe’s landscapes is done with an analog camera. Paul said only about two percent of the shots he takes are with a digital camera.
“I think that’s the unique thing about my work that people react to,” he said. “I think it changes the way I shoot. We might set up for a sunset shot, and one of my friends is shooting digital and might take 500 to 1,000 frames. But, it’s likely that I’m only going to take one exposure. I’m trying to really master the craft and really [trying] to capture that sort of decisive moment.”
Paul is also a stickler for print quality and said the large-format film is what can truly capture the XXL-sized prints he does.
“I do have a professional digital camera, and I use it to photographs things I can’t capture with film, like images of the Milky Way at night, or wildlife pictures,” he said.
Paul has been a full-time photographer for 20 years. He chose scenic photos as his primary work for good reason.
“For quite a while, I was an outdoors person: a triathlete and rock climber and fly fisherman and all of that,” Paul said. “So, I was just seeing lots of beautiful, amazing things all the time.”
Paul started out on the lowest budget possible, buying a $100 camera at a local pawn shop. He said when he changed the aperture on his first camera’s lens, it was like grinding pepper in a mill.
By the time the turn of the century happened, Paul had purchased better equipment and then decided that large prints were the way to go. For 14 years, he had his own gallery in South Lake Tahoe. When he closed it in 2015, he started displaying his work at Marcus Ashley Gallery, which is hosting his summer show on Sept. 27 and 28.
The Sept. 27 reception day is set to go until 5 p.m., but there’s a twist afterward. Paul said he and those in attendance will go on a shuttle and scout out a location for a photo shoot together.
“We’ll probably only have time for one location, so I’m going to pick that relative to where the fall colors have started,” Paul said. “So, we’ll try to be somewhere that has easy access. I don’t want to make anyone hike. The idea is just to go out and look at a beautiful location and hopefully take a picture while we’re out there, and share how I see things.”
Paul’s work does a great job of invoking a “you are there” feeling about Tahoe, but he said the reasons he shoots outdoors go beyond just capturing a pretty scene.
“When I’m there, there’s a range of emotions that I have,” Paul said. “Whether I’m feeling relaxed or peaceful or excited, natural beauty and natural places seem to bring that out in me. So my photography is sort of a way to focus in on that beauty that makes me feel that way, those magic moments where the light is just right, and you sort of forget about everything else. This is my way of sharing that with other people.”