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"Great Wheel" (Image: Nick Spiker)

Artist of the Week: Nick Spiker

Seattle might be notorious for niche coffee shops and scenic waterways, but locals know it's also home to an array of people who love to create. This city is chock-full of artists and today marks the first weekly artist feature on Seattle Refined! If you have a local artist in mind that you would like to see featured, let us know at hello@seattlerefined.com. And if you're wondering just what constitutes art, that's the beauty of it; it's up to you!

Seattle Refined: How long have you been creating? Do you work with other mediums?
Nick Spiker: I have been taking photographs ever since I can remember. My dad is an adventure photographer and growing up he would often take me along. While he was shooting we'd have to hike, ski, kayak, etc. and I was able to see some of the most beautiful parts of the country. That is probably why I'm fascinated with landscapes.

Can you tell us about your artistic process and how the different stages work into it?
For me, light is everything. First step is choosing where and when to capture an image. I have many places I want to take photographs, but I won't do it unless conditions are right. I'm constantly scouring weather forecasts, the moon cycle, and the Milky Way placement for the locations I know I want to shoot. Then I choose how to frame the shot. It's difficult to frame a shot in a location you've never been to in the middle of the night. Turns out it's pretty dark. I'll scout a location during the day and return at night when the stars align (literally). A few times I wasn't able to scout it beforehand and I've gone in with only Google Earth to help me frame it up. It's definitely a little riskier and doesn't always turnout, but a few images like Two Medicine and Druidia worked pretty well. Once I'm on location, I choose which filters I want to use and the corresponding camera settings. I like to incorporate invisible light whenever I can. This requires specialized and custom equipment, but it gives the landscape a very surreal appearance. I enjoy revealing the world in a different light that is unseen by human eyes. Every now and then, I do capture only visible light because the conditions aren't quite right for shooting infrared and ultraviolet, or my wife makes me :)

Tell us about where your inspiration for your art come from?
My inspiration comes from my curiosity to see what the world looks like from outside of our human perspective. Animals have different ways of seeing color, and if aliens exist I highly doubt they'd see our world the same way we do. I enjoy experimenting with different light wavelengths and translating that information into images that can be seen by humans. Kind of like using x-rays or thermal vision, just with different wavelengths of light.

Do you have a specific “beat” you like best – nature, food, profiles etc?
Nature, definitely. I am drawn to landscapes because I love being outdoors. My favorite images tend to be ones I had to hike through three feet of snow, in the dark in negative temperatures. Those images will never happen again. Weather, the scenery, even the stars will be different. I like capturing that exact moment in time.

Do you have one piece of art that means more to you, or is extremely special to you?
There is a particular piece of mine that is very special to me. 'Homestead' was the first wide spectrum photograph that I captured with my homemade large format digital camera. I was absolutely ecstatic when all of the equipment I made worked perfectly and the image turned out better than I could imagine.

What experiences in your life have affected your art the most?
In fifth grade, I first became aware of the light spectrum and I really got obsessed with it. I did a ton of research on ways to capture the world of the unknown. I looked for films, filters, equipment and any other photographs taken with infrared. I made an infrared film camera out of an empty oatmeal can. It didn't work very well, but I learned a lot trying to figure it out. Once digital cameras were available on a consumer level, I was really able to experiment with sensors and more easily modify cameras to capture various wavelengths of light.

If we want to see more of your work where should we go to find?
My website is www.nickspiker.com and I'm always scouting local venues to showcase my pieces.

What is next for you? Anything you’re working on right now that you’re really excited about?
I've always wondered, what does the world look like in radio waves, or even x-ray? Particularly, the landscape around us, not just peoples' luggage or bones. I'm dreaming of making a high definition x-ray camera. My wife is very supportive of most of the things I do, but she hasn't hopped aboard the "X-ray camera train". Not yet, anyway.

Lastly, how do you take your coffee? We ask everyone!
Definitely with tons of cream and sugar. And caramel. Wouldn't say no to whip cream.

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