Capturing the West : Behind the Lens with David Schultz

Above the desk in David Schultz’s West Light Images gallery are two items of note: a map of North America, highlighting the roads he’s traveled, and an unframed photo of Koda, his black lab, happily perched in a field of poppies. Always on the move, Schultz captures the landscapes of America and beyond through a remarkable lens. The Park City-based photographer and his companion, Koda, travel four months out of each year, seeking out the ideal composition and the right light - in short, the perfect photograph.

“I’m shooting everything from the detail of leaves to grand landscapes to old pick-up trucks,” Schultz explained as he glanced around his gallery. A native of Michigan, he is a self-trained photographer. “I taught myself by looking at magazines, shooting tons of film and making tons and tons of mistakes,” he said. Despite his lack of formal training, Schultz landed lucrative jobs shooting commercial and fashion photography. However, it was nature that caught the young photographer’s attention. Exploring the countryside, Schultz began to seek out captivating shots of the world around him. The photographer found a home in Heber City, beneath the majestic Timpanogos. Sundance Resort, nestled in those mountains, was the first place he exhibited his nature photography. A few years later, he opened his own gallery on Main Street in Park City. Aptly named West Light Images, the gallery features photographs that show off Schultz’s knack for capturing intense light and colors.

When he’s not at the gallery, Schultz goes where the road takes him. Schultz and Koda log endless miles in his Toyota Tundra, yet capturing these striking images isn’t simply a result of being in the right place at the right time. For anyone with a camera, there is no shortage of material in the West. “You go to a place like Bryce Canyon. My God, everything’s a picture,” Schultz said. However, the amateur photographer and an artist like Schultz differ in many ways. Patience and attention to detail are a fundamental aspect of life as a professional photographer.

“You have to find a focal point and the right composition. It may take going back to a place year after year,” he said. Revisiting a fascinating and beautiful spot is exactly what he does as well as scouting out new locations. Sitting still for hours (sometimes playing an electronic Yahtzee game to pass the time), Schultz will not settle for a less-than-perfect image. A lone cloud above a humble building might transform what he views as an average shot into a piece of art. “That one cloud makes such a big difference,” he said peering at a vibrant photograph of a pastoral scene. In fact, some of the most renowned natural places still elude the artist. Despite several trips to Yosemite, he said, he hasn’t found “that moment” during his time there.

Schultz knows that not every photo he displays will sell in Park City. It’s finding the right moment that makes a less popular image a truly rewarding piece of art. “If somebody enjoys a piece of work enough to put it on a wall, that’s a big compliment,” he said. However, he manages to balance art that will sell with personal triumphs. “That’s what you’re after, that moment,” he said. “It could take days of looking around for that shot and a 30th of a second to take it.”

West Light Images is located at 738 Main Street – the gallery with the friendly black Lab at the door.

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