People of Sacramento commenting on the news: Carlos Eliason

Carlos Eliason, creative outreach specialist for the city of Sacramento. Photo: Kevin Fiscus.
Carlos Eliason, creative outreach specialist for the city of Sacramento. Photo: Kevin Fiscus.

(This is the 22nd installment in a weekly series with people who don’t work in journalism commenting on the news. Photography by Kevin Fiscus. If you’d like to participate, message or tweet me.)

Meet Carlos Eliason.

He’s 28, grew up in Elk Grove, graduated from Sacramento State, lives in midtown, shares his love for the outdoors at Elias Visuals and works as a creative outreach specialist for the city of Sacramento.

His position provides him access to capture striking photographs of places residents don’t often see, including the Ice Block Development, the Sacramento Valley Station restoration and the former PG&E Powerhouse.

In addition to photography, his job includes videography, web design, graphic design, writing, social media management and contributing to the city’s online publication.

Some days, he’s in front of the camera talking about the #MySacramento campaign. Other days, he’s explaining how a simple message to (now retired) Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield led to this photo of Sacramento from space.

“We try to focus on any story that isn’t being told,” he says. “Any day could be completely different from the next.”

I started following Carlos on Twitter this year, and as frequent reader of this series, I thought he’d make a good contributor. We met at Empress Tavern in October to talk about the city of Sacramento and his thoughts on the news.

Growing up in the suburbs, he used to think there wasn’t much going on in the city. Sacramento was a place to go when you couldn’t go anywhere else. His experience as a creative media intern with the city changed his mind. Assignments exposed him to interesting things and passionate employees trying to make the city better.

As his approach has changed, he’s seen it change for others. He says there’s an excited, crowd-sourced Internet culture — “a collision of ego and expertise” — shaping a renewed sense of civic pride. It’s trendy to care about Sacramento.

“I think people are generally more interested than they were a few years ago,” he says.

He’s drawn to the city’s natural beauty: the way light reflects through leaves in the fall and “truly gorgeous” bike trails he describes as “a completely different world.”

He wonders where the enthusiasm for the city will lead. What will happen if cool, new projects don’t materialize fast enough?

Will the creative people — the ones “chugging the engines and keeping things interesting” — get bored? Will they stop talking? Will they leave?

“I’m worried the bubble of excitement and progress is going to pop,” he says.

He’s an observer, a little crowd-averse and enjoys having “conversation for conversation’s sake.” He appreciates boredom. He values getting away.

He’s looking for news that reflects on a larger narrative and provides a venue for constructive criticism. He won’t follow the link if it’s sad, angry or clickbait.

“You can pick and choose what you want to read,” he says. “I don’t want to live in a world that’s negative.”

Carlos answered the following questions by email about how he gets the news. Text submitted September 18.

How do you get your news?
I get nearly all of my news online, with the exception of a few publications in print. For the physical sources, I’m attracted to big photos that are well done and compelling. Television? I hardly watch it anymore.

What’s the first news event you remember?
I can recall bits and pieces of the Desert Storm conflict in the early ’90s, though it probably felt detached being that I was so young. I think the first news event that I remember having an impact on me was the Kosovo conflict. I remember being moved by the vivid images published at the time. Odd, and perhaps sad, that the two events I remember most were acts of violence.


What content do you pay for?
It varies from month to month, since I’m fickle about any content I pay for. Right now I subscribe to Drip and Google Music, along with the hodgepodge of internet TV. In the past I’ve had subscriptions to Comstock’s magazine, Sierra Magazine, PopPhoto and American Photo. I get tired of format or all-too-similar content after a while, so anything I do subscribe is generally short-lived.

View this post on Instagram

Oh look im in a magazine, looking businessy.

A post shared by Carlos Eliason (@elias_visuals) on


What’s the last great thing you ate?
Just visited Empress Tavern and was pretty impressed with their small plates. Potatoes, smoked sturgeon dip, spicy fried wings and the hot dinner rolls that are delivered to your table are out of this world. The atmosphere is hard to beat.


Who’s doing it right in news?
I respect any news source that sends a good photographer to cover something, along with great writing, of course. Locally, The Sacramento Bee has both of those. Nationally, USAToday has had some riveting slideshows and of course, National Geographic.

Name the three most important issues facing Sacramento.
(1) Right now, Sacramento has a lot of people who are very passionate about the place they live. Harnessing that passion is easy and already being done. I think the true issue is how we show that passion to the outside world. Sure, lots have voiced their opinions on branding and marketing, etc., but I think some of that is on a whim and without solid background. I’ve never been confident in a crowd-sourced marketing plan because it tends to favor a group ego, rather than a driving strategy.

(2) Sacramento’s homeless population seems to be growing and with more and more people cognizant about the issue, we’re seeing everyday conflicts in that become more apparent. It’s a complex problem with lots of great people working on it. The problem is some seem to think it can be solved by simple one-stop-shop approaches, and I don’t think there are enough real resources to address the human ailment, not just the ‘symptoms’ we see on the streets.

(3) Sacramento doesn’t seem to have any place to buy Swedish Akvavit (schnapps) and that makes me sad.

What do you absolutely hate about the news?
I despise bad websites and non-news. Bloated and slow-loading, it seems these days more and more websites for news sources aren’t aimed at the user, just more views and more clicks. Also, the recent trend of pithy blips of stories that are more social media gossip than actual news is driving me crazy… “Breaking news: Celebrity break toenail.”

What’s the most important issue to you that’s not being covered well enough?
Anything positive. News has a terrible way of covering only the terrible. There is so much good and so many positive stories that could be told, but of course that doesn’t garner as much viewership. I suppose you can’t blame the human psyche, but we should be able to do better as a collective society that skews towards positivity in the news.

If you could be anywhere, an-hour-and-a-half drive away, where would you be?
I’d head straight for Desolation Wilderness, which is just west of Lake Tahoe. Serene alpine lakes and forest but without much of the tourist crowd you get at Tahoe, it’s my go-to place for isolation and beauty.

View this post on Instagram

Desolation sunrise, you're taking too long.

A post shared by Carlos Eliason (@elias_visuals) on


Follow Carlos (@upsidetocrazy) on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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