Cullen Powers

Cullen, as a kid, was always playing outside. Today, he still loves the outdoors, but with a camera close by. 

As a kid what do you remember the most? Playing. Running all over our neighborhood, biking down to the corner store or the ball fields. It seemed like my brother and I were never at the house. We didn't have cable or a Nintendo, but we had bikes and skateboards, as did all of our friends, so that's what we did. Playing outside, always.

Talk us through one of your difficult times and how you overcame it. This is the toughest question you guys have asked, I've come back to it multiple times and still I have nothing that I look back on as something truly difficult.

Just as anybody else, I've had my share of trials and tribulations. I never find myself looking back on hard times or rough spots. I'm sure those things have helped mold me as a person, but on a conscious level, I'm excited for what's ahead and achieving my next goal.

"It's easy to dream about it and talk about it, but it's scary to actually do it."

What are you most proud of and why? Making the jump. I spent a lot of time working a normal job at the family business, dreaming about working for myself, by myself. Actually doing it was a huge decision, one that I certainly didn't make on my own. It's easy to dream about it and talk about it, but it's scary to actually do it. I did it and I've never been happier.

Why do you call Des Moines home? Des Moines has made a name for itself. It's cool to be part of the come up as a community builds itself into something new. It's a process that started long before most of us could see it happening, but it's still new and it will always be growing. 

"Des Moines has made a name for itself." 

Who is someone you admire that others may know in the Des Moines area and why do admire them? Very hard to narrow this down, so many people doing great things in this city....My good friend John Todd Bosley at Bozz Prints has always stood out though. 90% of people in Iowa own a shirt or coffee mug that was the brainchild of JTB.

Whether that shirt has a Bozz logo or a RAYGUN logo, they may not realize he's had a hand in so many successful designs. On top of all that he's created, he, and his wife Erin, work tirelessly with shows all over the Midwest, the DT Farmer's Market, pop-up stuff, etc. He truly must have 8 more hours on his clock everyday than the rest of the world. 

What’s currently keeping you busy? Shooting and editing. Also, a lot of learning. Moving into more video work and it's very unfamiliar territory, so I'm always expanding my knowledge base. You can learn anything on YouTube. 

Making another jump into video. What went into this decision and how's coming along? I've had an interest in video just as long as I have photgraphy. My brother Evan and I shoot a lot of footage on vacation or at events. Most of the time that personal footage never sees the light of day. It's hard to fit in time for personal projects when you've got client work to do, but I'm knocking out a couple things. Should have a finished video from a two year old trip to Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Burma. Excited to release that!

Powers Media House will shift focus towards more video for musicians, weddings, real estate, social media and marketing. Its been great so far. We're always learning, so its a process as we grow our skill set, but we've been very happy with the results so far, as have our clients.

Take us back to the day when you got your first camera. What was the initial feeling and what did you immediately want to do? My first DSLR was a Canon Rebel XSi, which you'd over paying for if you spent $100 on it now, but it was so cool. It felt so cool just to hold and shoot with, I instantly thought I was a better photographer.....but I'm not sure my pictures showed that.

Only thing I knew how to do was turn it on, but luckily for me, my buddy I purchased it from gave me what is probably the best advice I've received in my photography career. He said, "Never use AUTO. It's a crutch that will hold you back from learning how to work the camera." He taught me the basics of TV and AV settings, I quickly moved to Manual and to this day I've never set my camera on Auto, thanks to him.

I consider myself a serial over-documenter.

"Sometimes I don't even have a plan, just go and see where the trip takes you."

Besides your camera gear what is must-have before you leave the house? I always have a camera in my car, I usually have one of my drones in my car, I carry a GoPro in my coat pocket a lot, I have my cell phone with me always. The problem I run into with trying to document anything intriguing is that I have mountains of footage and photos on my hard drives. Most of it will never see the light of day, but I can spend hours looking back on it. I find that time quite enjoyable. 

Aside from cameras I need to have my car keys. I drive all over. I'm just trying to sell my 2013 Explorer, which has 130,000 miles on it. I drive almost 40,000 each year. All over the city, the state, the country. Sometimes I don't even have a plan, just go and see where the trip takes you. It's eyeopening when you get off the interstate and take the back roads. Exploration is a wonderful way to pass the time.

Who’s someone you respect and look up to in the world of videography? And why? Love him or hate him, Casey Neistat is really good at the internet. His videos have amazing production value, without having the look of being over produced. Carrying cameras with him all the time, recording what may seem like mundane footage to most and then turning that footage into something that millions of people view. Plus, he's the guy companies go to when they want to launch something new. DJI has a new drone, they send Casey one to review. GoPro makes a new camera, they send Casey one. I think Sony or somebody sent him to the Grammy's to shoot with a 360 camera, he got paid to go to the Grammy's, that would be cool. He wears his sunglasses too much, but otherwise I really like what he's doing.

From one maker to another what is your tip or advice? Don't be afraid to make money. I mean this in two main ideas. 

ONE:  Charge what you are worth. Know your skill set and it's value. You'll find out quickly if you've overvalued yourself, but you need to find that point and then work to move it forward.

TWO: It's a fine line between giving the client what they think they want and making something that is representative of your craft. Take the hard jobs, deal with client critiques, make something you're proud of and know that not everyone will follow the vision you have. 

"Make something you're proud of and know that not everyone will follow the vision you have."

Walk us through your typical weekend? Nothing typical about any weekend for me. I shoot maybe a dozen weddings a year, so if it's out of town that will fill my entire weekend. If I'm home I try and find a show at Wooly's, Mews or Gas Lamp, then try and get a press pass to go shoot. Love concert photography, though you're only payment is typically great access to your favorite band at no cost. If I had my choice though, I'd be one the road. In a given year I'll put 50,000 - 60,000 miles on my vehicle. Sometimes I have a destination, sometimes I'm just hoping to catch the coolest sunset in the coolest place I can find.

Convince us to visit one of your favorite places in the Des Moines area. Water Works Park, Brown's Woods, Raccoon River Park, Gray's Lake Park, Greenwood Park, Walnut Woods State Park, Jester Park. There are a ton of great parks in or near the city of Des Moines. The time I spend hiking, driving, biking around parks offers such a release from work and the pressures of life.

I'm sure there's a scientific study I could site about extended life expectancy and the positive correlation that you can draw to people who spend time outdoors, but I doubt anyone would read it anyways. So just go outside and stay outside, it'll be good for you.

"You can never have too much art!"

If you could grant the Des Moines one wish what would it be and why? Longest of long term goals is to give the city and the artists of central Iowa a free space to display work. I realize this is not a new concept, even to DSM. There are certainly spots you can already do this. There will never be enough though. We will always have talented painters, photographers, digital artists, sculptures, etc who's work will only be seen by a few, I want to change that. I will make this happen.

Describe a project you’d love to work on in Des Moines. I love all the public art work around town, especially the murals. I'm no painter, but in the same way that Jami Milne had her photo as part of the collaborative project on the side of RoCa's building, I'd love to do something like that in town. You can never have too much art!

Derek Jensen