Washingtonians are never far from striking scenery, but to take excellent photographs still requires a specific set of skills, as Jeran Keogh of Castle Rock would attest to.
Keogh graduated from Castle Rock High School in 2019 and went on to Lower Columbia College to pursue a degree in criminal justice. When he first started getting into photography, he was in his spring quarter of his first year.
Then, in March 2020, when the pandemic shuttered doors and stopped community events, Keogh’s photography became an outlet for him, giving him reason to adventure. At first, he shot mainly family portraits and senior pictures.
It wasn’t until about a year later when he would first discover his true content passion: landscapes and nature photography.
“I’ve always kind of been into nature, just because you know, we live in the Pacific Northwest and there’s a wide variety of things to see,” Keogh said. “I have a really big passion for landscape photography. It’s really different from posing. Nature doesn’t critique you, and you get to take your time more. You kind of really get to be one with nature.”
On April 9, 2021, Keogh had a photo of the night sky taken from Seaquest State Park featured on KATU News, a Portland-based TV news channel.
Just days later, Keogh headed out for a night of astrophotography at Mount St. Helens. He arrived around 9 p.m. wearing only a light jacket and a thermos of coffee, expecting to be out for an hour or so.
He snapped some nice photos of the stars and the mountain, and that was that.
Keogh began packing up his stuff when another photographer asked him, “You’re not going to stay for the Milky Way?” Keogh asked what time it would appear. The photographer had an app on their phone with the night sky’s schedule, and showed him it would be after 1 a.m.
Keogh, ill-equipped for the below-freezing temperatures but determined to get the best shot, sat in his car and waited, teeth-chattering. Around 2 a.m., he finally captured it: a snow-capped Mount St. Helens, illuminated by the celestial glow of the Milky Way.
It was well worth the wait.
The photo was shared by The Oregonian, KOMO News and many other news outlets. The Chronicle published the photo in the Tuesday, April 20, edition, and Keogh says he now has the page hanging in his room.
“I was like ‘woah my picture is on the news, it’s on live TV, maybe this is confirmation that I should keep doing this,’” Keogh said. “Is it the best picture ever? No, but the story I had with it and staying out there made it really special. After that, my (Instagram) account went from 300 to 2,000 followers.”
He recently got a business license for Jeran Keogh Photography so he could do freelance work, though it has never been Keogh’s goal to make a career out of his photography.
“Policing has been a job that I’ve wanted to do since I was 4 or 5,” Keogh said, noting there are several officers in his family whose service always inspired him. Occasionally, people try to deter him from becoming a police officer over concern for his safety, but they’ve never succeeded.
“You can’t break someone’s passion,” he said.
Throughout college, Keogh has been involved in the police cadet program with the Castle Rock Police Department, where he estimates he has put in 100 volunteer hours. Last summer, he was on a ride-along when he and an officer responded to a call out in Toutle. They found a woman whose heart had stopped beating. Keogh and the officer performed CPR until paramedics arrived and were able to resuscitate her. Her life was saved thanks in part to Keogh, and the experience proved to him the value of his career-path.
Keogh will graduate from Lower Columbia College on June 18. He hopes to begin his service soon after, preferably in the area because of his connections in the community, such as David Yeager of the Castle Rock Police Department, who has been “like a big brother to me,” Keogh said.
There have been times when he has considered giving up photography altogether, because it takes, as he said, “hours of YouTube university” and hard work.
“I’m just really appreciative of my support group of fans, friends and family because there’s definitely some times when I’ve wanted to give up,” he said. “But, I’ve been lifted up by my support group. You know, I read all the comments, I see who’s sharing it. That’s all motivation to keep trucking with it.”
To see more of Keogh’s photos, search for Jeran Keogh Photography on Instagram or Facebook.