Dutton Residence

Dutton facade detail.

Early EID rendering.

About a two years ago, I got a call from my best friend of 50+ years, he and his wife were knocking down their late 1930's California bungalow and going modern. As soon as I saw the initial renderings I knew I wanted to be involved in photographing this powerful architectural statement.

Michael Dutton and I grew up together as neighbors, he the easy going but enthusiastic sports fan and I the creative artist. An unlikely pairing, but one that has lasted many years.  Michael and his wife Cheryl Frank Dutton contracted with architect Stuart Welte at EID Architects for the vision of their new house at San Carlos, CA. The powerful collaboration between Cheryl with her taste and style and Stuart's bold architecture resulted in a stunning mix of modern form, function, light and living. And as with most residential construction projects (read potential marital discord), Michael was there to talk Cheryl down off the ledge, or in this case the towering wall that is the dramatic showpiece of the facade.


Light-well and staircase.The interior spaces are illuminated by floor to ceiling glass light-wells that bring light and levity to the otherwise unembellished architectural style. Perhaps the most striking feature of the interior space is 30 feet of sliding glass doors that connect the interior to the rear patio, creating a seamless transition for outdoor living and entertaining.

The contractor Keeth Building Contractors had to go to great lengths with a massive steel header to support this long span of glass sliders, in addition to bearing the load of the cantilevered deck above the patio.

The open living plan shares inside with out.

Evening view from interior to exterior living spaces.

The blocking of geometric shapes provides a minimalist look to the kitchen.

Great Clients = Great Results

Ray Parkinson, the project manger for EID, was impressed with the Dutton's unflinching commitment to Stuart's vision as originally conceptualized, "The design was executed pretty much as it was originally drawn", he said. The Dutton's were surprised to hear how rarely this happens in the design process... "why would you hire an artist to design you a home and then get in the way of that aesthetic process?" The Dutton's asked incredulously during the shoot.

The photoshoot began with a pre-scout and planning session the night before. A shot list and timeline was roughed out and the photography itself began at sunrise and ended at midnight, Ray was a great help during this long day shoot.

Evening view of outdoor living space.

The results of the shoot reveal the commitment to design and collaboration between the Dutton's and EID. For a photographer, it was a fantastic experience to photograph this unique architectural gem and Stuart was suitably impressed with the work...  "Beautiful... Thank you Russ for your great Eye!" Stuart Welte, EID Architects.

This photography and future assignments are exclusively available through Russ Widstrand Photographer. Regarding licensing and reproduction rights to magazines and other shelter publishers, contact Russ Widstrand at 503.459.7020 or russ (at) widstrand.com

DIY Smart-Home Security with Apples’ HomeKit

Simulate Occupancy with Lights, Protect with Alarm/Siren, Initiate Geo-Fencing, Trick non compliant Accessories.

My interest in tackling this HomeKit security automation project was twofold: one we are planning on spending time away from home this year, and two whilst hiking in the Columbia River Gorge I managed to slip on some black ice and break my wrist, Merry Christmas. The latter afforded me several months of forced downtime with nothing to do as my dominant hand was the one that broke... badly - sounds like a TV show.


My goals were to simulate occupancy in the house when there was none, provide some kind of audio alarm to ward off unwanted intruders, enable geo-fencing automations, and provide a means to turn the whole scenario on and off. This was not easy. Unfortunately, Apple does not allow HomeKit to group automations into scenes, this would be the best solution to my problem, however it did not exist at the time of this article.


My solution was to use the hand that was dealt to me with Apple’s sole focus on accessories as the dominant means of control and manipulation. This accessory approach is inherently unsuitable for home security as the proper solution requires the grouping of many automations into a scene, in my case a desired scene titled “vacation mode on/off”. I discovered a workaround for this limitation by making use of the “When an Accessory is Controlled” automation. This automation affords the user to set up one accessory, in my case a smart plug, as a slave or trigger to activate a series of accessories over time. Additionally, I made use of the “Only at Night” setting, and both the on and off states of the trigger to control the automation scenario. By plugging this trigger accessory into yet another smart plug called master switch, I am able to turn the automation on and off globally.

The most frustrating hurdle in developing a HomeKit security solution, was the lack of any means to visualize or preview the automations. The easiest way I could think of to solve this was to create a spreadsheet displaying accessories over time. If any developer, Apple or otherwise, is interested in pursuing this home security automation they must provide a means of previewing the progression of lights coming on and off to prove the randomness and a faithful representation of simulating occupancy.

One means might be a three dimensional wire frame version of a house with drag and drop accessories, another would be simply to automate the homepage icons, showing them coming on and off over time, perhaps with a darkening of the background to show the progression of sunset to night and perhaps a time clock counting down on the page. (See gif here).

The programming analogy that I hoped to achieve would read something like this… When B and R are not at home (iPhones that is), and motion is detected, turn on all the lights, turn on the alarm/siren, and send me a notification. It would be great if Apple afforded a means to send a text message as well. Update... by using the IFTTT app I was able to get text and phone call alerts from Blink motion detection. Also, by adding the phone numbers from these services to Contacts (named SECURITY ALERT), then assigning custom ringtones (classic>alarm) and setting the Emergency Bypass to on, I get persistent and loud alerts to unwanted intruders globally. Video here.


Not surprising in Apple’s walled garden, trying to find any kind of 3rd party smart speaker that connects to HomeKit is nearly impossible (alas HomePod is nowhere near ready for prime time in this security project). I did purchase OneLink’s Smart and Sound product, but as that was solely driven by Amazon and Google, it had to go back. A good idea but not fully implemented either as a security device or as a HomeKit device. What I did end up finding was 110 V surface mounted siren/horn that I managed to put a smart switch between it and the power supply. This enabled me to add the siren as the HomeKit accessory device and could weave it into any number of automation scenarios. Horn sound (loud).


Prior to diving into this home security project with HomeKit I had already purchased the Blink home security camera system. Unfortunately Blink is not HomeKit compatible! However, I found a way to get around this limitation by plugging the Blink Smart Module into one of my smart plugs, again affording me the opportunity to control when the cameras came on through HomeKit. I do not want them on when I am at home during the day, too many false alarms.

One of the best parts of HomeKit, which many third-party applications do not support, is making use of sunset and sunrise automations. That is to say you can control whether an accessory comes on at sunset or some period of time up to an hour before or after sunset, or sunrise for that matter. This is an excellent feature in HomeKit that accommodates all-year, all-season automations with no fuss.


No, this is not a sword fight with the planet, but Apple’s location-based awareness that determines whether groups or individuals are home through their iPhones and activates a series of automations based on that occupancy or lack there of. This can be used for security/alarms, lights, heat or cooling and security cameras as previously mentioned. One can adjust the perimeter of the geo-fence to accommodate specific needs, in my case I set a eight mile perimeter on the automation titled…”When I arrive home”, that way there is enough distance and time for my furnace to kick on and heat the house before I arrive. Another geo-fence is to turn on Blink when I leave, ie safety for my wife.


My automation works, though it is cobbled together from a design solution that was not intended. Ideally, the ability to group automation’s and control them with a scene would be perfect. The ability to randomize start times and stop times would be another bonus. After investigating the products and services available for home automation, it became clear to me that a HomeKit controlled remote starter for my car would be fantastic.


  • Insignia smart plug with power meter, bought on eBay.
  • Ecobee3 with motion sensor, bought on eBay. $50 rebate from State of Oregon
  • Blink home security cameras bought on sale at Amazon.
  • Apple TV fourth generation, used as hub for HomeKit, already had it.
  • Edwards Signaling horn/siren bought on eBay
  • Orbit b-hyve irrigation controllers (2). Not HomeKit compliant… yet. $100 rebate from per controller from local Water Bureau.

Total cost $525 not counting ATV.  Subtract a rebate savings of $250. This compared to $2,000 for a commercially installed system and $15-30/month.


The Home app ecosystem is just getting started but there are numerous ways to apply the technology to a user’s benefit, especially those who travel frequently. Personally, it is my belief that home security should be a higher priority than the convenience based implementation of HomeKit and the Home app as it currently stands. The notion of walking into a room and having a light turn on for me, change color and dim by 50%, seems to be a uniquely first-world luxury.

I am not a programmer. My results come from a dogged determination to find a solution to my specific needs, your needs may vary. There may be smarter, simpler, and more elegant solutions available than my approach, but I’m just not that smart.


Russ Widstrand is a photographer, technologist and Apple user since 1985. Learn more here./

Artists’ Imagine Politics: “On Democracy” Exhibit

Fingers press into membrane suggesting an emergence.

"Emergence" ©Russ Widstrand

I am very excited to announce my acceptance into the Newspace Gallery exhibit entitled “On Democracy”.

The Portland based fine art gallery asks the question "What does democracy look like to you?” The exhibit opens Friday Oct. 7 and the selected photographs take various approaches in response to the open call’s question.

My accepted submission "Emergence" is an visceral and emotional photograph showing fingers pressing into a membrane, reminiscent of a kind of embryonic birthing or metamorphosis into another state of being.

The image may have resonated with Claartje van Dijk, a curator from the International Center of Photography in New York, as a metaphor for the unusual tenor of our current political race. Perhaps alluding to the emergence of the socialist pressings of Bernie Sanders and/or the bombastic rise of Donald Trump.


Conversations Book Cover

It is a gift for an artist to have their work recognized by professional art critics and also a wonderful mystery as to how a piece might be interpreted by an audience, or in this case, a curator.

The image was also used as the cover of my recently published coffee table book "Conversations", selected works from the DPG art collective I participate in... "a visual dialogue between 10 pro photographers". The book is available for purchase at the link above.

The opening and reception is on Friday, October 7, 2016, 6-8pm. The show will run through the end of the month. I hope to see you there on Friday night.

Russ Widstrand Photographer - Follow me on... • Instagram •LinkedIn • Twitter • Facebook •

Newspace Gallery • 1632 SE 10th Ave Portland, OR 97214 • Tel.: 503.963.1935

Art Center Features Russ Widstrand

A Q&A from Art Center College of Design's Alumni Tumblr page...

"Sounds of Silence" captured from Art Center's Tumblr page.

"Sounds of Silence" captured from Art Center's Tumblr page.

What have been the greatest rewards and challenges you’ve encountered on your current path? I graduated from ArtCenter in 1982 as a photography major. Since then, incredible challenges have taken place in the photography industry, most of them in the last 15 years. The most impactful shift has clearly been the internet, with its ability to flatten the marketplace through worldwide distribution and democratization… for better or worse. Second to that would be digital technologies, of which I was an early adopter.

Describe a pivotal challenge or decision you’ve made in your career or creative practice? A pivotal decision that most affected my career was leaping with both feet into the world of digital photo-illustration in 1990. This decision garnered worldwide attention for a unique style that I developed.

What are some of your most reliable sources of creative inspiration? Meditation, yoga and journalling would have to be my most reliable source of creative fuel. That and the slow process of waking up often provides inspiration for my visual expression and fine art.


ACCD "animal house".

What’s your most vivid or valuable memory from ArtCenter? My most valuable memory from Art Center would be the “animal house” on Marengo that I lived in and shared with artists and designers from all disciplines. The cross pollination that this environment provided was enlightening, creative and fun. That and the smell of fixer from something called a darkroom - now extinct - is what I remember.

My book on the DPG project. Click to view.

Describe your current project, creative practice or career path. 

My creative contours are serpentine. I freelanced for the multinational design community shooting for Fortune 100 companies: developed a unique style of photo-illustration: rebelled against that digital "box" with my “Pear Series” photographs and now participate in the fine art collective the Daily Photo Game. The DailyPhotoGame.com is a visual dialogue amongst 10 professional photographers where a conversation takes place between images.
It is an inspirational challenge every 10 days to respond to another photographer’s work and create my own response in a matter of hours. This short deadline reminds me of Art Center and its creative and unrelenting demands.

Gallery of Widstrand images.

Gallery of Widstrand images on Tumblr. Click to view more.



What advice would you give a fellow ArtCenter alum considering a similar path? 

Bucking the popular trend in lifestyle photography, I believe that it is how an artist thinks that differentiates them in the context of time.

Two Party System

Two men, back to back, imply seperation and disagreement.

Two men, back to back, imply seperation and disagreement.

Ideas represented through images are my passion in photography. After 40 years in the art form, a pretty picture holds little interest for me, they can be found by the millions on the web.

My approach inclines toward commentary and concept, even in the face of a populace seemingly indifferent to such notions. This image dabbles with the number two, two figures back to back with no common point of view. Two identical shadows cast from nearly identical creatures.

Diving further into the image, the light pole and its shadow acts as a symmetrical divider, further separating the two figures. Ironically, it is that light that illuminates the men, creating their darker shadowed-selves… they cannot see the commonality of its source. So while in the midst of their opposition, this singular light shines equally on both, a potential metaphor to lead them toward unity.

I liken the image to our two party system and the seemingly insurmountable differences that appear to divide our society, politics and country. These differences will again be put to the test through our democratic system in the upcoming presidential election, though I hope we are not heading into more unbridled polarity, bombastic politicians and a populace at odds.

John Cage and Grammy Award

I photographed John Cage - the progressive composer - in the late eighties for the LA Festival of the Arts, Rick Miramontez client. Recently it came to my attention that Mr. Cage - now sadly deceased - was receiving a special merit award from the Grammy’s. The John Cage Trust (JCT) has made extensive use of my image of Mr. Cage and another use was recently licensed for an album cover for Aki Takahashi for her album “Four Walls”.

Album cover portraying John Cage for Aki Takahashi.

Album cover portraying John Cage for Aki Takahashi.

In addition to the uses by the JCT, I reproduced the image of Mr. Cage for an in-house promotion using a unique technique, I called it a painted emulsion. Essentially it is a photographic emulsion hand “painted” onto card stock, exposed to strong sunlight and processed in an old world developer. I used these cards as a mailing promotion to my clients to announce this new process and several commissions resulted from the promotion.

Hand painted photographic emulsion.

As a gesture of congratulations to the JCT for the Grammy award, I donated a dozen or so of these one of a kind original prints that I recently uncovered in a review of my archives and library.

The nearly frameless treatment of the print could be considered an early precursor to my digital collage work.

Mr. Fezziwig’s Party

Shadows cast through holiday snow globes create a darker side of Christmas.

Taking the mundane and creating something extraordinary typifies my approach to photography.

While some might wish to shoot these Christmas snow globes as a subject unto themselves, I found that the shadows of the globes provided a fantasy narrative that I could not have conjured consciously and only through listening to what the subject had to say to me did it become became apparent where the story lay.

These shadows feel like a cross between Dickens and Mary Poppins – with a dash of Tim Burton – animated in characterization and illustrative in their application. I made numerous views of the set-up, some graphic in approach, others like this one rely on my preoccupation with the story in the shadows. The shot was executed on a sunny California winter’s day, the low angle of the sun raked through the globes, casting silhouetted shadows of the figures inside.

While we all wish for good cheer this holiday season, this image reveals the shadow side of these character’s darker form.

The Pear Series

The Pear Series

The Pear Series photographs, works on Polaroid film.

Emotion can be a significant component in a photograph, the medium captures humanity in all of it's raw and varied forms. I chose to express the commonality of our human experience through my "Pear Series" photographs, works on Polaroid.

This body of work allowed me to communicate particular feelings through the vehicle of the fruit. It's feminine form spoke to compassion and nurturing, while the violations present in the work represent the destructive nature of man, both the individual and the species.

One pear is pierced by pins as a metaphor for the pain of the human experience. Shot on Polaroid film.

One pear is pierced by pins as a metaphor for the pain of the human experience. Shot on Polaroid film.

The piece at left, "Prickly Pear" represents the later. The concept came to me, as often was the case, in a quick vision after a long period of gestation. The execution of the image was nearly as quick. In this case, I abandoned notions of beauty and technique for the visceral and the emotional.

The background forms were found objects in my studio. I liked the idea of a contained space, however I also created windows, providing some relief - both literal and conceptual - for the otherwise confrontational nature of the image.

I choose color Polaroid film as my primary medium for these works. The degenerative look of the low resolution Polaroid suited my vision for the Pears; soft, textural and inviting, though again, in contrast to the sometimes conflicted and emotional direction of the series.

Nude PearSplit Pear #2

In some of the series I acquiesce to the notion of beauty, striving to make a pleasing or sensual  photograph while still addressing the concept or emotion. Such is the case with "Nude Pear" and "Split Pear #2", left and right respectively.

Published and Shows:

Exhibition fine art prints are available, email for more details. View the Pear Gallery here.

Please feel free to comment below. Thanks!

Summer Sprinkler

Camera motion combines with slow shutter to abstract water from lawn sprinkler.

Camera motion combines with slow shutter to abstract water from lawn sprinkler.

Water is the theme for the daily photo game and I saw no reason to change it. I liked this image, shot in Montana for today's game.

I had tons of frames to choose from, but this one suited my vision for a twist on the subject of water. It feels somehow out of place in the scene, a liquid anomaly hanging in space.

The Four Pops

Frozen treats in the style of Wayne Thiebaud

I have always been a fan of the painters Wayne Thiebaud and Paul Wonner. They both glorify everyday objects and lift them, through their vision and skill, to the heights of art. Such was the inspiration for my image, shot and submitted for today’s Daily Photo Game.

Robert’s cool image “Shruburbia” gave me the numerical beginnings of my image, the count of four. Add to that, the 102º heat wave this weekend in Portland and what better way to cool down than with an ice cold popsicle. This childhood treat brings me back to my youth and their playful colors dovetailed nicely into my vision for this pop art image.

A quick run to the fabric store for some bright vinyl, build and light the set and cajole the unruly popsicle to stand upright… stay popsicle, stay. Of course, there is the melt factor. As is often the case with art, my initial notion of 4 similar colored popsicles was not to be, they melted by the time I got this figured out. So onto the backups, these green one’s and the twist of the one, off-colored treat… as a bit of whimsy. It was not until I viewed Robert’s and my image together that one can see the happy accident of how these two images mimic each other in pattern.

There is no photoshop trickery here, no compositing, the only edit was to remove some supporting monofilament line. How-to video on YouTube can be viewed here... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ha_0v9wK4B4

Photographers note: The proliferation of digital cameras, the internet and social sharing, devalue the earnest work of professional photographer’s efforts… we get lost in the deluge of cat videos and pictures of lattes. Sharing snapshots, no matter how pretty or engaging, hardly compares with the dedication to concept, executed under deadline, and created in thoughtful conversation with a another work of art. Such is the process we ten photographers of the Daily Photo Game engage in daily and I hope you would take a minute and help by liking, commenting and sharing this image with your network. Much appreciated.

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