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About the Artist

My photographic journey started when I was twelve. An obsession with the ability to freeze time had me patiently filling my piggy bank. As the funds collected and the excitement built, the pursuit of a calling had begun. Walking out of that Best Buy with a little box full of pride and purpose, I took my first steps down the path I still walk today.


The first look through that viewfinder brought my eye to life and I started to see the world in compositions. It developed into my high school days as the sparks of an obsession were stoked into a fiery passion. As graduation approached there was only one future I saw worth pursuing and that led to the banks of Lake Superior and Northern Michigan University. 


College became the creative gym for my eye now entrusted with my future. I entered with a focus on sports photography but the art program quickly broadened my vision, unleashing a creative firestorm that lit my passion ablaze. For four years I worked like a mad scientist, pushing the limitations of my camera, driven by my creative vision searching for its voice. 


The real world arrived like a Northern Michigan blizzard and I spent a year lost in the fog. After all the nights spent chasing the northern lights and staring at the stars I never considered setting my sights on one. That is until a crazy idea uprooted me from everything I knew and set me before a new frontier in Colorado.


I owe everything to Sarah, the woman responsible for that crazy idea to leave home behind in pursuit of adventure. From the minute I saw her, I knew she was something special but arriving in Denver I realized she was my guiding light. Then she posed the same question I asked myself in high school. If you could do anything, what would you do? So I married her.

Finding My Muse

The summer after my freshman year of college I rode a seaplane deep into the wilderness of Ontario. It landed on a lake so remote the only way in or out was the liquid runway that would be our home. Isolated in a cabin for a week, surrounded by forest too thick to enter, I got very familiar with Lake Abamasagi.


My best friend and I spent that week on the water chasing fish and making memories. Every morning, it was our vessel that broke the spell of stillness that befell those hallowed waters in the night. We’d fish until dark, eat our dinners fresh off the line, and fall asleep to the lullabies of the loon.


One evening I slipped out to the dock to watch the spell take effect. The moon was rising over the lake being soothed to sleep by the blues deepening in the sky. There was a steady rhythm from the water lapping against the dock, broken only by the metallic echo of a distant loon. The air was brisk but maintained a gentle embrace as if sensing the gratitude I was there to pay. 


As I stared at the ripples bobbing in the moonlight, enduring the occasional shiver, I remember the magnitude of the moment sinking in. Reality was not an easy thing to lose but it had yet to cut a path to those placid shores. Basking in the bliss before me, I was present, wise to the fortune bestowed unto me. I savored the lingering light before turning in, preserving the memory so that secluded paradise is never too far away.


Long before photography became my passion, I was a student of mother nature. Her outstretched arms were my escape and her embrace provided peace and acceptance. Once the camera became a companion the experiences turned therapeutic. The camera slows time down. It puts me in a meditative state as I study every line, form, and texture of the landscape. With my camera I am present and fully immersed in the blessing of the experience just like that night on the dock. 


From the beginning my goal was simple, do what makes you happy. Photography was the obvious choice but fear held me back from choosing my specialty. In the end I had to remember that goal and trust my heart to make the decision. So I stepped up to the base of the Rocky Mountains with my camera and a heart full of ambition and started climbing.

Portrait of Colorado landscape photographer Justin Key

My Eye and Its Vision

When I bought my first camera at the age of twelve I was ecstatic about my new toy and yet it sat idle for weeks before recording its first exposure. The momentous purchase called for a proper christening and I had the patience to wait for inspiration to strike. Then one fateful January morning in Wisconsin the moment finally came. Riding in our family minivan, I had zoned out in the backseat watching the snow covered farm fields fly by when I was overcome by the sudden urge to take a picture. After convincing my Dad to turn around and pull over, I stepped out into the frigid winter air and my eye was born.


The photographer’s eye is the inherent voice within every photographer that drives our work. It’s the commander of the camera that determines when to draw, where to aim, and how to shoot. This creative muscle is constantly dissecting the world around us in search of inspiration. Built on photographic knowledge and fueled by creative juices, the photographer’s eye is the intuitive reflex that guides us in the field. Over time it defines our style and with a little push it’ll give birth to the artist within. 


Ever since that fateful morning in rural Wisconsin, I’ve been following my eye. It spent years finding its legs like a newborn deer but with trust and patience it learned to run. Amid this evolution it developed a voice with the camera playing the role of interpreter. Deciphering its photographic messages revealed its vision and the more attuned I became the more I started to find my footing as an artist. 


Clarity is the key to my work. Nature serves as my escape from the confines of my mind and with a clear head I can be present in the moment. This is the optimal state of operation for my eye. Total presence magnifies the experience and heightens its ability to dissect the landscape. Without thought or external influences clouding its vision my eye is able to view the world for itself in its purest form and find beauty in all aspects of the landscape. 


Rather than chase grandiose scenes my eye prefers to uncover the eternal elegance within the details of the natural world. Like a hawk, it scans its surroundings for organized disruptions in the static, studying every texture and following every line in search of inspiration. The essence of a location lies in the details, these vital features make the landscape uniquely stunning and my eye’s tight focus reveals the intrinsic beauty hidden in the simplest aspects of nature.


This is the focus of my work, to draw attention to the little things. Our society has lost its ability to be present, to savor the moment at hand rather than worry about the future or dwell on the past. There is peace in the now and when you find yourself there, the world’s a little bit brighter. By sharing the beauty and peace I’ve uncovered while present I hope it encourages the viewer to slow down on occasion, bask in the blessing of the moment, and revel in the glory of nature.

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