Mindy Muehlhausen is passionate about lots of things – people, animals, the place she lives, the changing sky – and she takes photos of all of them. But unlike many other serious photographers, she’s not a gearhead. Instead, she prefers to use her cell phone or a Canon Power Shot XS 400. She’s also not, like many of her shutter-snapping brethren, a world traveler, shooting most of her images in her immediate surroundings, which provide plenty of subject matter. “I take ninety percent of my pictures from my yard,” she laughs. Her people’s choice award winning image was taken on the Colorado River near her home in Topoc, Ariz. “It gets very hot here, so we spend lots of time on the river,” she explains.
Muehlhausen got into photography when her son was four – he’s twenty-four now and also shoots photos with his HTC 1 cell phone – and started with a 35mm Canon given to her by her mom. Her learning has been hands-on and by trial and error, but she calls it photo therapy. “It brings me joy and happiness,” she says. “I can be mad at the world and go out and take a picture and feel better.” She also believes in nurturing the next generation of photographers. “The best gift you can give a child is a camera,” Muehlhausen says. She spends plenty of time with her five-year-old niece, teaching her to use an old cell phone to take pictures.
Because she’s a people-lover, Muehlhausen decided to set up a place for other photographers to share work. Her Facebook group, Beautiful Photos of Mohave County & Surrounding Areas, has gathered almost 700 members in just six months. The page is filled with images from the northwestern corner of Arizona, as well as Nevada and California, and many of the members, including Muehlhausen, have earned photo of the week honors in the Arizona Highways photo contest. Some of the members of the group have taken their friendships beyond the virtual world and go on photo expeditions together. “It’s been great seeing the camaraderie and friendships forming for people who love photography,” she says.
While she doesn’t use sophisticated equipment, Muehlhausen is no stranger to technology. She uses an inexpensive clip-on cell phone macro lens that she bought on Amazon. “I really like macro. Bugs and flowers are fascinating when you get close to them.” She also bought a twenty-five piece lens kit for about twenty-five dollars and uses a blue-tooth remote. For processing, instead of PhotoShop she prefers Camera 360, a free app that lets her edit photos and add special effects in her cell phone. She says, “A cell phone, wi-fi, and apps take photography to a whole new level.”
She might one day switch to shooting with a DSLR, but she says she’s a little intimidated at the thought of that. “Once I get comfortable with the PowerShot I might step up to a DSLR, but really, it’s so easy and convenient to just use my cell.”
Muehlhausen has become so adept at manipulating images with her phone that she has a side business called Sweet B Photography and Editing Services, which is her outlet for editing photos for others. And this is where her love of animals plays a role. One of her goals for the business is to create a charity that will help people with vet bills. She’ll take pictures of people’s pets in return for a donation to the charity. When someone has an unexpected vet bill, the charity will pay it, and, she hopes, the beneficiary will someday give back to the fund so that she can continue to help others. “I just love animals and people,” she says.
What’s next for Muehlhausen? She’ll continue to spend time with her flock of backyard poultry; hang out on the river with Ron, her husband of twenty-seven years; and stare at the sky, all with her camera in hand, practicing photo therapy.