Mike Pach lives on the edge of his comfort zone, and part of his mission as owner of 3 Peaks Photography and Design is to help others find theirs.
“One of the things I try to tell my students is to look for things, and try things, that are out of your comfort zone or stretching the envelope for you,” Pach said. “You may find that you like these things, and you may find that you’re good at them.”
Whether Pach is teaching the fundamentals of Photoshop, leading tourists on private photo expeditions or helping budding photographers capture the Milky Way, he is committed to connecting his clients with the natural wonders of Colorado, where he has lived since 1996.
“I love showing people places they’ve never been to before, especially amazing places like we have here in Colorado,” Pach said. “We can very easily take Garden of the Gods for granted because we live here, but when you take someone there who’s never been there before, you can feel that excitement all over again.”
Pach’s lessons have not stopped at the rule of thirds and depth of field, however. In conjunction with the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region, he recently helped launch the Military Art Connection Program, which will establish a centralized point of contact for art instructors to connect with local organizations that support military members.
“I’m the only photographer at this point but there’s poetry, textiles, music — all kinds of things they can come in and learn,” Pach said. “Not only does it help connect the art community with our very large military community, but some of the people who we’re going to be serving are people who have things like [post-traumatic stress disorder] and [traumatic brain injury]. We’re showing how art can be helpful to them to help manage whatever they’re dealing with.”
Pach can personally attest to the mental health benefits of his craft. He was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2006, and the widespread muscle pain common to that disorder — compounded with the depression and anxiety he already struggled with — can make getting out of bed in the morning a challenge.
One winter day in 2015, in the throes of a particularly deep depressive episode, Pach looked outside his window and saw a hackberry tree in a local park — just beyond his own backyard — draped in snow and ice. Every morning for the next year, he rose with the sun to capture that tree on film, posting the results to his “Same Tree, Different Day” blog.
“Having that daily goal was so important to me. It gave me a reason to get out of bed,” Pach said. “[After the fibromyalgia diagnosis], one of the questions that came to my mind was, ‘What happens if the day comes where I can’t do all the hiking and spend all the time in the mountains I do now with my camera? Can I still be creative?’
“That was part of this project, for me to prove that.”
The blog ended up as a springboard for a side career in public speaking. In September, he will share what he learned at the Canadian Mental Health Association Conference in Toronto.
“That’s one of the things that excites me about this project, because I feel it’s finally given me my voice,” Pach said. “Its messages are universal. I can share them with anybody.”
Pach likes to say he fell in love with both Colorado and photography during a trip he took to the Flat Tops Wilderness his sophomore year of high school. After he was laid off from his job as an aerospace engineer at McDonnell Douglas’ plant in Pueblo, the Chicago native decided to shift gears entirely.
“I was looking to get out of the corporate world and I asked myself, ‘What do I know more than anything?’” Pach said. “That was photography.”
Pach moved to Colorado Springs in 2002 and took a job with the Fort Carson Mountaineer as a staff writer and photographer. Although he had never before given thought to helping others learn his craft, he didn’t hesitate when Fort Carson’s Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation asked him to teach photography classes to soldiers and their families.
Nearly two decades later, Pach has broadened his reach, but his mission hasn’t changed: Take time to connect to something outside yourself, whether it’s a tree outside your window or the broad swath of night sky visible above the Paint Mines.
“Being out in nature is therapeutic to begin with, but if you’re out there taking photographs, being able to be mindful and live in that moment actually helps you create better photos,” he said. “You create a better connection with whatever you’re photographing.”
3 Peaks Photography and Design
Contact: 719-260-6637; email@example.com
Editor’s note: The Fort Carson Mountaineer is a sister publication of the Colorado Springs Business Journal.