Kevin Cass shot a stunning self-portrait standing in the Snoqualmie River. Here's how he got there.

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Kevin Cass got his start behind the lens as a ski photographer at resorts.

He first hit the slopes as a kid alongside his parents. After Cass graduated from high school, his mother found a “Help Wanted” ad in The Seattle Times advertising work at a ski lodge in Alta, Utah. Cass applied, was accepted and moved to Utah, where he skied 110 days out of the year.

“You got a season pass and you get three meals a day and you go skiing everyday,” said Cass of the rare experience his job afforded him. “It’s tough to be able to ski everyday unless you’re super rich or you’re a worker.”

Before long, Cass became co-owner of Powder Day Photography at Grand Targhee ski resort, a joint venture with his girlfriend, Bronwyn Ishii, also a photographer. (Ishii took the photo of Cass that appears with this story.) Two years ago, Cass and Ishii sold the business and moved back to the Seattle area to be closer to Cass’ family.

Cass shot the 2018 Reader Photo of the Year while fly-fishing in the middle fork of the Snoqualmie River last winter. It’s a self-portrait that features a smooth flowing effect on the river, both accomplished by using a neutral density filter that allowed for a 30-second exposure.

“I’d be out in the river and then I’d stay still for 30 seconds and make sure I got that shot and then I’d go off and go fishing and catch a couple fish, and then I’d just let my camera run,” Cass said. “It’s kind of a selfie I guess.”

Fly-fishing is one of Cass’ passions, but he often uses flies with the hook cut off, to allow for catch-and-release. “Typically I’m not even out there to catch fish … I just feel the tug and then they’re gone,” he says. “I don’t really like bothering fish that much.”

Cass submitted his self-portrait to Reader’s Lens on a whim.

“It was just kind of a fluke,” he says. “I was at work reading the Sunday paper and saw … Reader’s Lens and thought ‘Oh, I might as well enter that’ … My mom couldn’t be happier, she has that cut out and framed, the newspaper version. She was very excited about it.”

Cass stays busy with personal photography projects. His most recent project focused on raising awareness about the decline in chinook salmon, an important food source for orcas. The project, shot with a GoPro on a timer, resulted in over 25,000 photos of the fish in the Cedar River.

“I got some really beautiful shots of the chinook. They’d swim right up to the camera,” he says. “I’m looking for a way to get my work out there … [to] make people aware of the salmon, because I really love fish.”