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Finding Focus: Get to Know Local Photographer Chance Merchant

March 10, 2021 - by Brooke Wilson

Finding Focus: Get to Know Local Photographer Chance Merchant

Early memories from our childhood often reveal more about us than we realize. 

From his spry years roaming around O’ahu with friends and his curious spirit in tow, Chance Merchant, a bonafide Pacific Northwest photographer whose candid portraits and brilliant landscape photos have earned him a sizable following on social media, first found kinship with his craft gazing through the viewfinder of a plastic toy camera. As a Hawaiian native, his adventures trekking through the mountainous landscape of Nanakuli, his neighborhood on the island, fueled an endless fascination with the majestic scenery that surrounded him. Even from the beginning, he felt the need to capture those awestruck moments on his 35 mm film camera.

Fast forward to today, where Chance can be found traipsing through Downtown Bellevue with his trusted camera. He continues to flex his artistic muscle and pursues his love for photography when he’s notworking for the King Country Metro System. Inspired by his frequent and striking shots of Downtown Bellevue, we caught up with Chance to hear more about his journey with the camera and how he approaches encourages others to experiment with photography boldly, no matter your age or expertise.

BDA: How would you describe your style of photography? What distinguishes your area of expertise and ethos from other photographers out there?

CM: The work I produce closely aligns with landscape, urban, and cityscape genres, but I also enjoy shooting public and private events, too. One of my favorite aspects about photography traces from the excitement I feel during a shoot when I analyze my surroundings and search for unique or striking elements to draw out by playing with color or patterns. Essentially, I try to capture a distinctive mood in each photo, which allows me to exercise my creative intuition. In the past, people have said I tend to see things others normally overlook, which really boosts my confidence and courage when I search for my next subject.

BDA: How has your relationship with photography transformed during the pandemic?

CM: Honestly, not much has changed since the pandemic started. At first, it was tough not being able to head outside and explore like I usually would, but I still found time to shoot some photos before and after work. Most of the time, I directed my energy into an extended brainstorm around setting personal goals for myself and honing what I aimed to accomplish with photography down the road.

BDA:  How do you typically stage your shots? Where do you search for inspiration?

CM: How I approach and prepare my shots hinges on what I decide to capture. For cityscape shots, I like to go for a drive and actively notice which details catch my eye and seem to resonate on an emotional level. Often, ideas spring to mind while lying in bed or dressing for work, and I mentally note the process leading up to execution for the next time I venture out. As for projects with clients, I generally like to imagine several scenarios to accomplish a specific shot, that way I have a few options up my sleeve. Sometimes, the most stunning shots happen in the spur of the moment, without any extensive planning or control over the situation. When good vibes are there, the creativity flows easily.

BDA: Have you been shooting around the Eastside for a while? Are there any particular reasons you enjoy documenting the Bellevue area?

CM: I have been shooting around the Eastside for about 8 years now and continue to marvel at everything Bellevue has to offer ever since I first stepped foot into the city. The vibe, the architecture, The Bellevue Collection, even the light fixtures along the streets all evoked a wonder that has stuck with me ever since. After a while, occasional strolls with my camera evolved into capturing the growth and development of the city, witnessing history being written right before my eyes. In some sense, this perspective gave me a newfound purpose with my photography, and I am continuously grateful for the praise and support I’ve received from folks who enjoy how I document these shifts and frame our city.

BDA: Which destinations, popular and lesser known, in the Heart of Bellevue do you especially like to capture?

CM: One of my favorite spots to visit would be the Bellevue Botanical Gardens in early autumn when the leaves start to flash those iconic, vivid colors. Meydenbauer Bay Park, which I personally call, “Sunset Beach,” is a spectacular location to check out during peak “golden hour” light in the morning and evening. Other places I like to walk around are Enatai Beach Park, Mercer Slough, and of course, Snowflake Lane when the Bellevue Magic Season festivities are in full swing! 

BDA: Where are your favorite Bellevue spots for lunch? A night out? A coffee and stroll around the block? Tell us about any great Downtown businesses you've discovered.

CM: Lunchbox Laboratory is a perfect place to pause on your lunch break with delicious burgers that stand apart from ordinary fast-food choices. While not Downtown, one of my favorite places to grab a great cup of coffee would be Mercury’s Coffee on Northrup Way, or at the Copper Kettle Coffee stand inside the Botanical Gardens while wandering the trails.

BDA: Any advice for budding photographers out there.

CM: Be patient. Photography is an art, and good things happen when you learn not to rush the process. Dive into research on different types of photography. Don’t limit yourself, step outside your comfort zone every once in a while. Find your niche and develop your own style.

Follow Chance @e.reflectionphotos on Instagram and check out his digital portfolio featuring galleries of his photo expeditions around the Puget Sound. For more local business profiles, community stories and announcements, follow us @bellevuedowntown to keep up with the Heart of Bellevue.

This blog is part of the Heart of Bellevue: our campaign to showcase local businesses while connecting you with stories of activity, creativity and recovery. Find out about our campaign and explore more of what’s happening around Downtown.