DRAPER — Every few weeks, Christine Kenyon backs the 4Runner out of the garage, checks to make sure she has enough batteries, water and insect repellant, encourages her golden lab Aspen and her black lab Tuffy to settle down and enjoy the ride, and heads for the roads less traveled.
One month it might be Canyonlands, the next the Grand Canyon, the next Death Valley, and so on and so forth across the vastness of the West.
“Just a chick and a truck and a dog,” is how she describes it.
And a camera, of course.
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Christine is a professional photographer. She specializes in landscapes and, especially, nightscapes. She has an app on her phone that lets her know exactly where the Milky Way will be at any given moment. A photo she took of her dog Tuffy underneath the Milky Way in front of the Metate Arch in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument won her the Royce Bair Nightscaper Photo Award and was one of the reasons Nikon recently honored her as one of its “100 Rising Stars in Photography.” No pun intended.
About two years ago she made the sharp U-turn that brought her to her new Edward Abbey-esque lifestyle.
It was her father’s doing. Lowell Anson Kenyon, who passed away in 2011, was a photographer of world renown. He was chief of the Office of Photography at the Smithsonian in Washington when Christine was growing up. She was her dad’s sidekick. She watched everything he did. She knew about composition and F-stops before she knew her times table.
When she was a teenager her dad let her come with him on workshops he taught in the western U.S. Through 200-millimeter lenses they saw the Tetons together, and Monument Valley, and Death Valley, and Yellowstone.
The beauty mesmerized her, and Christine vowed that one day she would live in the West. In 2007 she made good on that vow when she moved to Utah.
But it wasn’t until 2017 that she decided to close down the successful public relations company she’d built from scratch to see if she could pay the bills with her camera.
“I had such a wonderful teacher in my dad,” she says. “I felt like I had an amazing base of knowledge from him and it would be a good thing to share that with others.”
Just as importantly, she felt the internet age would give her a fighting chance.
“The technological environment we live in today is remarkable,” she says. “It allows creative people to realize careers they never thought they’d have. It used to be that everything would have to be a phone call or meeting people directly to connect. Now we have this ability to post (on social media) where millions of people can see your work.”
Christine is all over the worldwide web — on Instagram and Facebook and Youtube, where her instructional video shows people how to get started in nightscaping. Her website, christinekenyon.com, is a clearing house for all her services, showing off her photographs and advertising her workshops — including one she’s participating in at Moab May 1-3 that is already sold out.
This coming September, the Redman Gallery in Sugar House will feature her work in a one-woman exhibit that will show just how far Christine and her 4Runner have roamed the last couple of years.
She’s found that shooting at night can be surprisingly therapeutic.
“I did not think I’d like it as much as I do. But it’s amazing, truly amazing,” she says. “It’s very quiet and the time is just fleeting. You can’t believe how fast the stars are racing by. You can only shoot for 30 seconds and you’ll see the stars blurring. That’s it.”
What would her father think? she’s asked. What would the man who introduced her to the West and “never saw a dirt road he didn’t like” have to say about his daughter sleeping in her truck — or not sleeping, as the case may be — and traipsing all over the wilds?5 comments on this story
“I know exactly what he’d say,” says Christine. “He’d say, ‘Man, if I were starting my career now, I’d have a field day.’”
Christine was at Death Valley on a crystal-clear night not long ago, lying on her back and gazing at the Milky Way in all its splendor.
“I looked up,” she remembers, “and I said, ‘Thank you, Dad. I’m here because of you.’”
Correction: An earlier version referred to the Royce Nair Nightscaper Photo Award instead of the Royce Bair Nightscaper Photo Award.