Focusing on the details

Photographer Epperson points his camera toward patterns

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Whether it's a cityscape or a Yampa Valley landscape, Dave Epperson's photography captures crisp, fleeting images of people and places that draw you in and make you want the details of their unfolding stories.

A brief conversation with Epperson while wandering through his show, now on display at Mad Creek Gallery, revealed there is plenty to tell.

What: Photography by Dave Epperson When: On exhibit through Saturday Where: Mad Creek Gallery, 811 Lincoln Ave. Call: 875-1301

One of Epperson's black-and-white photographs, packed with action and turmoil, stops a fleeting hailstorm on Gold Lake mid-boil. It was that camera's last photo before the torrential storm drowned it forever.

Another image catches a woman digging through the trash next to an elegant store named "Privilege" in St. Remy, France. Epperson said he liked the look of the shop window and was hanging around waiting for something to happen inside when the truly ironic activity revealed itself outside.

His surreal picture of a black dog inching along a whitewashed wall looks as if the seascape and eerie sky were artfully manipulated. The dog appeared out of nowhere, Epperson said, "surprising the heck" out of him in the midst of photographing the clean lines of a Mediterranean lighthouse.

Epperson's photographs show a strong commitment to detail and clarity. With themes that show affection for repeating patterns, distinct lines and unusual relationships, one particularly outstanding trait in Epperson's photographs is that they are extremely sharp images.

"I really like things with design elements to them," Epperson said, pointing out a photograph of an old man in a round hat he captured amid concentric circles and another close-up image of an intricate pinecone- and needle-strewn forest floor.

Epperson's attention to design and detail might have something to do with the formative summers he spent with Ansel Adams in Yosemite when he was a teenager attending San Francisco State University in the late 1970s.

"That pretty much cemented what I was going to do the rest of my life," Epperson said. "As far as inspiration went, that was the perfect time. Just inspirational."

During those summer workshops, Epperson had the opportunity to glean advice in the field, to have his portfolio critiqued, and to watch Adams develop his own famous negatives in the darkroom. He described Adams' process as "meticulous" and "masterful" and the famous photographer's style as "easy going and generous."

When Epperson, a southern Californian, set out to blaze his own path as a photographer, he started with surfers. A surfer himself, Epperson just went out and took lots of pictures of his friends, he said.

That led him to years of photography of surfing and other adventure activities for magazines such as Outside, Time, Men's Journal, Esquire and Reader's Digest. Epperson has photographed the Ironman Triathlon and the Tour de France.

Being around those athletes was exciting, as was the camaraderie among the photographers, he remembered affectionately.

But these days, Epperson lives in Steamboat Springs and works for himself. He takes pictures in the Seedhouse Road burn areas that he can revisit time and again under different light. He studies aspens and pines in the throes of snowstorms. He will spend six weeks photographing a bicycle trip in Italy this fall.

And someday, he dreams of taking pictures of Paris under snow.

Epperson's photographs are part of a two-man show with painter Mark Nelson that is on display through Saturday at Mad Creek Gallery.

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