SeaTac/B-Town Blog Photojournalist Michael Brunk to Speak at PowellsWood
by Greg Wright
I’ve known Michael Brunk a long time, and he’s a man of many talents: Boeing technology guru, actor, director, webmaster… and photographer.
For several years now, he’s been keeping a pretty low profile as one of the key figures behind the B-Town Blog and its family of online publications, including our own SeaTac Blog. In addition to providing all the webmastering for the blogs, he’s also the organization’s primary photojournalist. If you’ve seen photos of Three Tree Point fireworks, Link light rail, or dazzling Des Moines and Burien sunsets on the blogs… well, that’s Michael’s stuff.
Michael had his first public exhibition as part of the Poverty Bay Art Festival in Des Moines last September, and this spring he has become one of the founding members of Tyee Photography Alliance, a group of like-minded South Enders providing photographic services for the community. He’ll also be conducting classes at the Burien Community Center starting this June!
If you’d like to see Michael’s work in person, the next chance will be Mother’s Day weekend, May 7 and 8. From 10 AM to 5 PM, Tyee Photography Alliance will have a booth at PowellsWood on Dash Point Road. That Saturday, May 7 at 11 AM, Michael will be presenting a talk entitled “Nature Photography: Right Place, Right Time.”
I ran a few comments and questions by Michael earlier this week.
GW: I imagine that when you’re shooting for art’s sake, or for your own pure enjoyment, you prepare somewhat differently than when you’re on a photojournalism assignment.
Michael: Assignments are nearly always very schedule-driven. An event is happening at a certain place at a certain time and I have to be there to get the shot. For me that means getting there early so I can get the “lay of the land” and talk to people so I know how the event is going to flow and what I need to do to be in the best position to shoot the photos I want to tell the story.
Shooting for pleasure can be much more organic and relaxed. I’ll sometimes throw the gear in the car and head out without a specific destination in mind.
GW: I recently took my first photography class, and it seemed like the instructor’s whole point was, “I’m not really trying to teach you how to use your camera. I’m just trying to get you to slow down.” It’s almost like photography is a zen-like experience.
Michael: I would say, “It depends.” If you’re shooting the news, slowing down isn’t typically an option. You’re capturing an event as it unfolds and you sometimes have just a moment in time to get the image you want. Still, it can be zen-like in that you really have to focus on what you’re doing and push everything else out of your mind. You’re often juggling a lot of variables to make the photo happen and you can’t afford to be distracted.
Shooting anything else, I would agree that slowing down is a good thing. The best photographers don’t just capture random images, they create the photo. That means they take time to visualize what they want before they press the shutter release.
GW: The subtitle of your talk at PowellsWood on Mother’s Day weekend is “Right Place, Right Time.” How much of that is hurry up and wait, how much sheer patience, and how much of that is planning?
Michael: As I already mentioned, photography in one sense is making the image you want happen. That’s not a random process. I shoot a lot of landscapes and the variables involved require a lot of forethought. What’s the weather going to do? Where’s the sun in the sky and which direction is the light in the scene I want to shoot? Shooting around the water here you have to take the tides into account.
Even with planning, there are a lot of elements out of your control. Wind is often an issue here in the Northwest, so if you’re shooting outside you may need to wait for the brief lull to take the photo. Wildlife photography definitely requires patience. You can be in the right place, and have great light and weather but animals don’t always cooperate!
GW: You’re going to be teaching an introductory photography class at the Burien Community Center. What’s going to be your primary goal there?
Michael: The Burien class is going to focus on fundamentals of photography. The goal will be to help students take their first steps from being a person with a camera to being a photographer.
The first session will be in the classroom at the Community Center where we’ll be exploring composition techniques to make photos instead of taking snapshots. In the second session a week later we’ll visit Seahurst Park to put what we learned into practice.
GW: What are some of the funnest photo ops you’ve had with The B-Town Blog?
Michael: For me, there were two main draws to working with The B-Town Blog. The first was the opportunity to get involved with the community and meet new people. In that sense, just about every photo op is fun.
The second was the ability to see things and shoot photos that I wouldn’t otherwise be have access to. Examples of those have been shooting runway construction at SeaTac Airport with airplanes landing and taking off just yards away, wading through local creeks in search of spawning salmon with Dennis Clark, and photographing Town Square from atop a ferris wheel.
GW: Where are some your favorite places to shoot just for fun in the Burien, Des Moines, and SeaTac vicinity?
Michael: Anyone that has seen my photos knows that I spend a lot of time at Seahurst Park in Burien, but I’m also a big fan of Salmon Creek Park. Mathison Park is also an interesting place to visit.
In Des Moines I seem to spend a lot of time on and around the fishing pier. I really like the variety of images you can find down at the Marina. And of course, Beach Park and the trail is a beautiful spot.
I don’t spend as much time in SeaTac–though I keep meaning to do something about that–but I do love airplanes and often visit the little park on South 146th Street when they’re landing to the south to shoot photos. I don’t even know if this spot has a name; it’s not much more than a small parking lot, a big grassy field and a large water tank.