Fall in the Pacific Northwest is such an amazing time of year—the crisp nights, colorful foliage, snow capped mountains, old growth forests and misty mornings when the fog gently hugs the top of towering evergreens—it is truly something special.

We recently had the pleasure of connecting with Tommy Blades, a gifted photographer and explorer in the Pacific Northwest and curator of the extremely popular and stunning Instagram account @pnwonderland. His visual travels have taken him all over the world capturing varying landscapes, mountainous vistas, crystal clear lakes and much more. Tommy has managed to build a community of adventure advocates, showcasing the stunning outdoors in the unique corner of the world that is the Pacific Northwest. We discussed his love for the Pacific Northwest, when he started to develop an interest in photography, bucket list locations, and his inspirations. Read on for Tommy Blades adventures in wonderland.

"When I am near the water, I am the most myself. The most calm, clear headed, relaxed, and happy."


THE ADVENTURE Atlantic harbours, breathtaking landscapes, hometown explorations, and wine country. What are your top bucket list destinations?

Tommy: The number one place on mine and my wife’s bucket list is Newfoundland. A little obscure and not your typical go-to type of place—but that is what we are all about. The harbours, villages, and towns along the water are full of unique and beautiful character. When I am near the water, I am the most myself. The most calm, clear headed, relaxed, and happy. It refreshes me and excites me.

Coming in close to Newfoundland is Iceland. My wife and I didn’t have the opportunity to really take a honeymoon after we got married last May because we moved and my wife was starting her medical residency. We want to go to Iceland for our five-year anniversary and make it our honeymoon as well.

We are also planning a trip to Napa this upcoming Spring. Myself and two of my best friends all got married over the last year. We have the best time when we are all together, and we want to take our first trip as a group to Napa. My wife and I particularly love being in wine country.

Besides that, I am also really excited to explore more of my new backyard here in Washington. We moved here last May and have much to discover here.

SM: Everyone has that favorite travel spot that they reminisce about and go back to again and again. What are your most memorable travel destinations? 

T: When I finally decided to quit my desk job in Utah and pursue my passions and dreams full time, I took a solo trip to Moab and Arches National Park in Utah. It was one of the most memorable trips of my life. It was in the low season for tourists and I had the entire national park to myself at sunrise one morning. I ran to the top of Delicate Arch and watched the sunrise and explored the area for the weekend. I spent time in local coffee shops and restaurants planning out my next moves and ideas and left feeling so at peace with my decisions.

I am fortunate to have done some more worldly travel throughout Italy, Belgium, The Netherlands, Ireland and Haiti. Prior to taking on my clothing brand and photography, I actually played soccer professionally and it helped me see some amazing parts of the world and have many “once in a lifetime” opportunities to travel.

SM: Calm bodies of water or expansive vistas—mountain vs. ocean. Which do you prefer?

T: This is a no-brainer for me. I am very deeply drawn to the sea. Being by the sea truly changes me. It is where I am the most myself. It has been my place to escape to and relax for years. When I was younger and living about an hour from Pacific City, Oregon—I would go there every weekend with my dog and spend the entire day hiking, exploring, and watching the waves. I lived in Utah for two years and honestly had the hardest time being away from the ocean. It is a huge part of me and always holds a big part of my heart.

SM: Like so many of us who hold adventure close to our heart, you must have a favorite season:

T: Fall is by far my favorite season. I wait all year long for fall! I love the foggy, moody, overcast days. I love the changing of colors and the incredibly unique beauty that takes over even the simplest things. I enjoy wearing hoodies, beanies, boots and drinking coffee. I love it so much that my brand made a hat last year called the Forever Fall hat—which helps you remember the magic of the season all year long.

"I love the changing colors and the incredibly unique beauty that takes over even the simplest things."

SM: The perfect picture is captured behind the lens. What  is your favorite time of day to shoot and what camera and lenses do you use to capture your images?

T: For the last three years, I shot with a refurbished Nikon D3000 and a stock 18-5mm lens. The set-up would probably cost like $150 and I used it to it's fullest capacity. For years I wanted to upgrade but was never really able to justify it—until a couple months ago. I now shoot with a Sony A7 ii full frame and a Sony 28-70 mm lens. It is a completely different world shooting with this camera and I am inspired all over again.

I’m not one to have a ton of different lenses. I love the versatility of my 28-70mm – you can do just about anything with it. I am constantly learning and as my skill set continues to increase, my desire for more specific lenses/capabilities will probably increase as well. For now, this works perfectly for me!


I am all about
golden hour at sunrise! I LOVE getting up early and climbing in the car to chase the sun and fog—nothing compares to it for me. It creates such powerful imagery and really brings things to life in a unique way. I love getting some sun flare, light beams, and playing with silhouettes. It is incredibly refreshing, calm, and quiet in the mornings too. I can often find myself in places completely alone when I am out that early—and it’s awesome.

In terms of edits; I do some light touches in Instagram. I usually add some sharpness to tighten things up and play with the shadows and contrast slightly. The adjustments I make are usually pretty minimal and aimed at making the photo come to life. I want the small version of my photo to be as powerful as it’s larger version. I don’t use any Instagram filters, and typically edit with Lightroom on my computer and on my phone.

I still have a lot to learn when it comes to editing but I’m completely self taught by experimenting and trying everything that I can.


SM: With road trips, it’s the little things like music and food that can take our experience to the next level. What snacks and music do you bring with you and listen to on the road?

T: It all depends if I’m trying to be healthy or not haha. But, I love staples like jerky, trail mix, apples, peanut butter and jelly and Cliff Bars. In general, I do eat an incredibly healthy diet. But, there’s a side of me that sometimes just wants sour patch kids, kettle chips and an energy drink. I don’t give into that side very often, but when I do, it’s pretty awesome.

When it comes to music, I’m super eclectic. I like everything from hip-hop to country. I also have been known to dabble in a little freestyle rap—something I did to keep myself busy during huge cross country trips (Oregon, Maryland, and Atlanta). I really love low-key singer/songwriter stuff too. Artists like Ben Howard and Mat Kearney always does the trick.

SM: So, what shoes does an avid adventurer wear when he’s exploring the beauty of the Pacific Northwest?

T: I definitely rock the Timberland Adventure 2.0 Cupsole Slip-on on a more casual type of day. They are incredibly comfortable and perfect for everyday wear.

Now that the weather is turning around, Timberland Earth Keepers Original Boots are coming in very handy. Not only for big adventures in the mountains—but for local adventures as well. Recently it has been raining in the mornings, and I often throw these boots on before I go out each day. They keep my feet perfectly dry, warm and comfortable. I can take these boots for miles in the mountains – they’re very comfortable and durable.

SM: When adventuring, it’s important to pack the right things—the essentials. What items do you pack in your bag when going on adventures.

T: I like things pretty simple – I have an old duffle bag that I love to take if I am traveling by plane somewhere. I love the Osprey FlapJack Pack too, it makes things really easy for me. Our dog even has a Ruffwear pack and she carries her own water, food, treats and more when we are on longer hikes.


SM: When going out on an adventure, sometimes we like to experience the wonders that mother nature has to offer solo, and other times, we like to bring another fellow adventurers along for the ride. Do you prefer exploring out by yourself or with a group?

T: When I first started photography, I went out solo every time. At the same time, I was working for a large corporate company and running my own business. I would often work 12 hour days and photography become my way to escape, relax and lose myself. I would climb into my car in the morning and the weekends, grab food, coffee and my camera and just drive. I often didn’t know where I was going or what I was going to find—I would sometimes end up in different states. I could cover hundreds of miles and I would simply pull over if I found things that looked interesting or beautiful.

SM: When it comes to photography, inspiration is everything and the work that others do can impact you in a major way. Who has influenced your work as of late?

T: I have gotten to know Andrew Kearns (@andrewtkearns) since moving up to Washington and his work is amazing. He did the videography for my recent Kickstarter and shot the photos included with this project. He is incredibly passionate about what he does and I have no doubt that it is going to take him incredibly far. I look up to him as a photographer and creative.

Sam Graves (@thesamgraves) has become a really good friend of mine over the last year and he is constantly blowing me away. He has helped me learn a lot and I talk to him almost everyday about our experiences in the photography world. He is a great guy and is always pushing the limits.

Braden Olsen (@imbradenolsen) is based out of Utah and has done the majority of the product photos for my brand. His work is really amazing.

That covers just a few, but there are honestly so many. On top of being incredibly talented and passionate photographers, they are equally great people. It has become such a community and I couldn’t be more thankful for that.

SM: Family and friends — where do you get your inspiration from?

T: My biggest inspirations are my family. Hands down. My parents have sacrificed everything to help me reach the opportunities that I have had in life. They are full of love, compassion and are constantly putting others before themselves. My sisters are absolutely amazing and I am so fortunate to be close with them. My niece and nephew constantly inspire me to be a better person. My wife is the most compassionate and caring person that I have ever met and is genuinely bettering lives every day in family medicine. And I of course always strive to be the person that my dog thinks I am—she honestly is a huge part of our family. Overall, my family inspires me every single day to work hard, dream big and better the world around me.


So, whats next for Tommy?

Tommy is always  up for an adventure, whether it is in his home base of Washington, or other breathtaking destinations around the world. When he’s not out on scenic adventures, he’s hard at work on his Oregon-based brand Tommy Blades Creative and his online business. Catch up with Tommy and see what new adventures hes up to and visit his Instagram accounts @pnwonderland and @mrtommyblades.