By Jesse Drake
A camera is a terrific excuse to slow down. Life at shutter speed somehow feels less hurried, viewed one hundredth-of-a-second at a time.
“A good snapshot,” author/photographer Eudora Welty said, “keeps a moment from running away.”
Chasing runaway moments began in Gretchen Lohse’s third year of college. While pursuing a bachelor’s degree in biology from Idaho State University, she enrolled in a “Photo Applications of Ecology” course.
“That was it for me,” said Lohse, lead camera operator on the Video Services Team in UIT Teaching & Learning Technologies. “I absolutely fell in love with photography.”
For the technologically-savvy nature lover, the medium bridged two favorite worlds.
After graduating, Lohse left her native Idaho to focus on visual media, spending a year studying documentary filmmaking in Montana State University's Science and Natural History Filmmaking program.
The youngest in a family of academics, Lohse wanted to pursue a field rooted in the sciences. Making conservation-themed documentaries was her first exposure to video on a big scale. Ultimately the challanges – finding the backing to produce a film, hire a crew, and source equipment – led her down a different path and she parted ways with the program.
“I decided not to become a filmmaker, and live more in the videography and small projects side of things,” she said.
Lohse moved to Colorado, then Utah, joining TLT in April 2017 as a part-time camera operator, quickly working up to lead. Side freelance projects include part-time videography for KSL News.
Lohse also launched a Salt Lake City-based photography business, GRU Visual Media. Outside of Utah, she caters to clients in her hometown of Pocatello, often promoting members of the local art community.
While she enjoys portrait photography, Lohse’s true passions are landscapes, semi-macro close-ups of flower and plant life, and she’s “really drawn to water.”
A long-time paddleboarder, Lohse loves to while away the days with her brothers and friends at Jordanelle Reservoir, and “being the kind of person who plays scenarios in my mind,” she sometimes lets her mind drift, too. She remembers boats kicking up waves, and imagining herself a seafarer like Disney’s Moana.
“As with any outdoor sport, I love the exhilarating feeling you get – it could be a strong wind against your face or riding a wave – it makes you feel on top of the world and powerful,” she said.
Emboldened, Lohse formed an impressive photography bucket list.
“The Northern Lights, and watching a great white shark breaching are on there," she said. “I definitely want to get a photo of a mountain gorilla, and at some point, at least one really great snowboard ‘Shaun White in the air with a snow trail’ photo.”
In addition to photography, Lohse enjoys journaling and hiking. One day on a trail in Bozeman, Montana, contemplating her purpose in life, she became fixated on the horizon.
Two butterflies flew by her face, breaking the trance.
“It got me thinking about how a butterfly compares to a mountain,” Lohse said. “Little kids will chase butterflies forever. They’ll just go wherever they go. But when you grow up, you start to see farther in front of you – the landscapes, the mountains – and stop noticing the butterflies as much.”
The decision to leave grad school was a difficult crossroads, but one that allowed her to refocus.
“It forced me to start looking at what was in front of me, where the butterflies are,” she said. “I realized that I just had to pick one, and follow it, and wherever it leads me, I’ll build my own mountain and not always look to the next one.”
A source of guidance and inspiration, nature offers a reminder to keep things in perspective, and never stop chasing butterflies.