My first article for Outdoor Photographer was published in the March/April issue 1986. The magazine started up the previous year, and a photograph of mine appeared on the cover of the second issue. Then, I had been asked to write a “how to” article, but instead I wanted my first writing in a national magazine to be my “artist’s statement” rather than about how to do something technical, or a “where to be when” article. I mentioned my use of a 4×5 camera and film, and that I had been living in Yosemite for eight years. Since the article was written 1985, it is now 35 years that I’ve lived in the Yosemite area! Below is my essay, and images of the article.
Photography is a quiet, contemplative activity for me. It is a time to slow down and enjoy the beauty of the natural world. I seek to experience and reveal the mysterious, spiritual aspects of nature.
Minor White wrote, “Be still with yourself, until the object of your attention affirms your presence.” My approach to photographing the landscape requires the time to truly see to observe closely the form of, and the light upon the subject. A spirit of exploration and curiosity has been vital in developing my personal vision.
I have lived in Yosemite for eight years. Emersing myself in its magical qualities has taught me a valuable lesson. To photograph Yosemite successfully, one must transcend the classic but cliched scenes. I have sought my own unique way of seeing Yosemite. In doing so, I have discovered endless intimate details that reveal an essence of Yosemite rarely experienced by the casual visitor. This lesson serves me well exploring other landscapes less familiar to me.
“Through my photographs, I am interested in inspiring a deeply felt love and respect for the natural environment; an understanding of the magic and mystery of the earth’s processes, such as the formation of a rock or of ice on a pond. I feel a need for a sense of spiritual ecology, a respect for “the earthforce.” These feelings are at the root of my motivations to photograph. I wish to give back at least some of what I receive from nature. Nature is a powerful healer, and it is its ability to rejuvenate and nurture my soul that keeps me in close contact with the natural landscape. Millions of people visit our national parks and other natural places to be rejuvenated. Making photographs, for us, is an effort to retain and later reconnect ourselves with those healing experiences with nature.
My approach to the technical aspects of making a photograph is simple and straightforward. Although craft is essential for a fine photograph, I feel strongly that technique is merely a tool to be used for self-expression. 1 mostly use a 4×5 view camera. It encourages a contemplative approach. Each image is thought through carefully before an exposure is made. The size of the viewfinder provides for easy and precise composition. I use Ektachrome Professional 4×5 sheet film and make my portfolio prints on Cibachrome print material.
I prefer to photograph in flat, even light found in complete shade, on cloudy days, at dawn or twilight. These low-contrast conditions fit nicely into the narrow latitude scale of color slide film. The resulting images are often richer in detail and more pleasing in color. Subtle or monochromatic color appeal to me. One can’t depend on the impact of color alone for a successful image. A sense of design, the careful placement of elements within the frame, is essential. I often find myself isolating and abstracting a part of the subject.
By creating photographs where the content or orientation is not immediately obvious, a surreal, mystical feeling may come through. I would rather make an image that asks a question than answers one; that intrigues and arouses curiosity in the viewer. I appreciate a photograph that grows on me and endures more than one that has initial impact, explains itself immediately but then quickly fades from memory.
Outdoor photography is a wonderful way to explore and encourage our own uniqueness. I feel that I receive more from the process of being out there making photographs than I do from the photographs themselves. I have learned a great deal about myself and my environment through photography.
Remember Ansel Adams. He touched our lives with his tremendous compassion for the natural environment and his deeply-felt spiritual connection with nature through his photographs. We can all follow his example ourselves by photographing with conviction and emotion.” OP