Awayn Interviews Dan Deublein Four part interview series on Arizona Landscape Photographers

The Proper Function

Arizona Landscape Photographers Edition

Here’s the part four of our interview series on Arizona Landscape Photographers. This time we sat down with Dan Deublein, an Arizona native,
and the founder of The Proper Function .


Q: Dan, what was your childhood like?

When people ask me what it was like growing up in the White Mountains of Arizona, I tell them it provided me the absolute greatest sense of freedom. I’ve been extremely fortunate to be able to travel the world, but it’s that sense of freedom I had as a boy that keeps drawing me back to the area. Growing up, I was very fortunate to be exposed to the wisdom of the Apache Tribe. I remember learning about spirits that lived within mountains, waterfalls and underground realms. I think this really sparked a curiosity for me about how we relate to the wild, we are simply relatives.

Q: What first drew you to capture your adventures?

I believe everyone should have a personal philosophy if you don’t then get one! It’s very personal to me, but I don’t mind sharing it. ‘Find a Masterpiece in Every Moment’ – that’s my philosophy. I have a personalized definition for the word ‘masterpiece’, but It’s what get’s me up in the morning. I feel by capturing those masterpieces, it provides me a unique opportunity to gift that experience to others.

arizona landscape photographers
Q: What did you find so unique about Arizona Landscapes as a Photographer?

When people think of Arizona, they typically refer to the desert. They haven’t seen our mountains, crystal-clear trout streams and herds of elk roaming across grassy meadows.  I mean, do you know why there are no dinosaur fossils in the Grand Canyon? Because they’re 1 billion years worth of rock exposed. In other words, it’s much older than the dinosaur!  Not only do we have beautiful desert landscapes, we have almost double the amount of wilderness than the entire Midwest. Most importantly, we don’t observe daylight savings time!

arizona landscape photo
Q: Did you get to photograph any hidden places in Arizona?

This past year I was introduced to a Navajo family in Monument Valley while doing some landscape photography in northern Arizona. They let me stay in their Hogan and introduced me to a petroglyph wall that is rarely seen by anyone other than tribal members. It was a very special moment for me. I know of several places that most people would consider ‘hidden’, its just I grew up in the mountains and it’s all familiar territory for me. There are definitely locations I don’t share.

Q: Do you wish you could capture the world besides photography?

I do. Landscape photography engages an objective mindset, which can remove you from the moment if you’re not careful. Many of my best photo opportunities never got captured, simply because there was a deeper experience to be had. While the oral tradition seems to have faded, it still for me represents the best form of human communication where ideas can be exchanged.

Q: What equipment do you use to capture your work?
I don’t have much gear as I like to travel far and light! My gear list includes:
  • Sony a7rii
  • Sony G Master 24-70 mm f2.8
  • Sony G Master 70-200 mm f2.8
  • Sony 16-55 mm F3.5-5.6 OSS Lens
  • Peak Design Capture Pro Clip
  • Mountainsmith Tanuck 40L Backpack – Chris Burkard Series
  • Manfrotto Ball Head Tripod
Q: What is the most memorable trip you have had in recent memory?

I have a feeling my most memorable trip is coming this year when I travel to Nepal. We are embarking on a 2.5-week backpacking adventure through the Himalayas and plan on visiting the monasteries. However, this past month I boarded a seaplane in Alaska and flew to the historic Taku Glacier Lodge. It’s a beautiful fishing and hunting lodge only accessible by seaplane. It was built in 1923 and faces the stunning Taku Glacier. Fresh Salmon was pulled from the river and cooked over an open flame, which attracted a few bears. It was an experience of a lifetime!

Q: What advice would you give to someone embarking on their first adventure?

There exists a greater opportunity to feel connected with your surroundings when you are curious about adventure. Curiosity leads to discovery and allows for a genuine engagement. Don’t just hike a trail, embark upon an old wagon trail and learn about its history. Rather than simply visiting a waterfall for a photo opportunity, understand It’s value to the native American population that inhabited those falls far before you arrived. We are hardwired for adventure, make it meaningful.

Q: What other projects are you currently working on?

I am an explorer for The Outbound and also run an online editorial called The Proper Function (TPF). TPF was a blog I started out of necessity, it was a way to transform the redundancy of daily life. My hope is that it creates a more mindful event when people embark upon an adventure. With that, I am also working on a book to explore wilderness benefits through physiology. More and more published studies are showing the benefits of wilderness from a physiological standpoint. For example, decreased cortisol levels and increased natural killer cells which battle cancer. It’s an exciting project which I hope to have completed within the next 18 months!

Q: Closing Thoughts … How do you think landscape photography and traveling have changed your view of the world?
My travels as have allowed me to cultivate knowledge from all over the globe. Through photography, I feel more capable of embracing insightful and meaningful moments. We have but this one life and it should be experienced one masterpiece at a time.
# Arizona Landscape Photographers Edition

Ben Cleaver

Ben Cleaver is a media wizard and head of communications with Ben graduated from the School of Management at University of Bradford.