While I enjoy photographing a wide variety of subjects, most people would probably see my love of nature running through the large majority of my work. Being out in nature, both with and without a camera, is my version of therapy. It’s a place that calms and centers me, while letting me recharge and renew my mental batteries.
I’m not just a landscape photographer
I hesitate to call myself a true landscape photographer however. Don’t get me wrong, that moment when you can distill the chaos of nature into a moment of pristine beauty is amazing. I think back on some of the master landscape photographers of all time and they all excel at capturing that untouched beauty of nature. There is something majestic feeling about being able to capture those pristine moments in nature, but sometimes they feel a bit lacking in depth.
An argument could be made that in those pristine conditions, the landscape photograph sits solidly in the camp of being a beautiful image without any real story behind it. The only emotion it draws from the viewer is a feeling of “wow, that’s a beautiful image”. Now before you fire up the hate mail, there is absolutely nothing wrong with an image evoking that response. Sometimes it’s all we need, both as a photographer and as a viewer. Beautiful images bring joy, joy is a never a bad thing. If creating those beautiful images is your passion then you are bringing joy to viewers and that is awesome.
Pristine Landscapes = Dessert
For myself, I think of those pristine images as dessert. They are photographs that I love to create, but I need more to sustain myself creatively. While eating nothing but chocolate cake all day long sounds fun, I couldn’t live off of it without getting sick. I need a little more substance, a little meat and potatoes, to go with that cake. I need to introduce an element of story or narrative into my photographs.
One of the ways I LOVE to add some narrative is by trying to find a way to blend that pristine nature with evidence of man. Sometimes it’s more obvious, a small gate across a hiking trail or an old car being reclaimed in a field. Other times it’s very subtle, such as photographing that river from on top of the bridge rather than at waters edge. It’s a view not typically possible without humans building that road and bridge over the river. Sure you could maybe find a high point somewhere on the banks of the river, maybe climb a tree even, but it’s more often a vantage point provided by human interaction with nature.
People can be disgusting
There are times when the evidence of man is truly disgusting and infuriating. Times when you come across a huge pile of garbage at the end of some old hiking trail. It’s truly spoiling the wilderness. But I love seeing the way a small road cuts through the forest or how that little hunting shack from 80 years ago has been slowly getting reclaimed by the land it sits on.
Humans have absolutely made a giant impact on nature, and continue to every day. But it’s not always doom and gloom terrible. There is a special beauty that I cherish in finding those gentle interactions of nature and man, the evidence that someone else has enjoyed this forest before me.
It’s a balancing act
It’s that essence, the gentle blending of nature and traces of human connection that fuels my visual narrative. Some may think of it as an intrusion, a black mark on the pristine nature of the wilderness.