El Paisaje Perfecto

Written by Alpenglow Images on October 9th, 2015

I was really happy a couple of weeks ago to be contacted by Pablo Sánchez, who runs the website, El Paisaje Perfecto, a spanish language website about photography and conservation.  Pablo invited me to be featured in an article on black and white landscape photography, and the article was published today on his website.

Black and white images don’t make up the bulk of my work, but they are an important part.  In my interview with El Paisaje, I said that for many photographers, black and white is an afterthought in the digital darkroom, as if color didn’t work the first time.  However, I prefer to start out by visualizing an image in black and white in the field, and bring that through the entire post-processing workflow.  A well-processed black and white image can be very evocative, which is what draws me to black and white.

The ability to conceptualize a scene in the field then bring it to life in monochrome is a great way to exercise one’s vision.  So too is the identification and isolation of the important components of the composition.  I made this image in August on a cloudy day along the North Saskatchewan River in Alberta, Canada.  As you enter the dramatic Icefields Parkway that connects Banff and Jasper National Parks, scenes like this are the low point of the scenery, but the forest and moving water drew me in.  After playing with several exposures to get the riffles in the river “right,” I knew I had something that probably wouldn’t hold up to snuff in color, but in black and white, the feeling of the impenetrable forest was certainly conveyed.

Saskatchewan River Banff National Park

I hope you enjoy the article.  For more great black and white landscape photographers, see the work of Bruce Percy, Michael Gordon, and Bruce Barnbaum.


Adventures in the Sagebrush State

Written by Alpenglow Images on September 8th, 2015

In early August, Jackson Frishman and I were able to get out for a short backpack in the Toquima Mountains of central Nevada.  Although I’ve been interested in the lonely and desolate central Nevada mountain ranges for several years, I hadn’t really been able to explore them until our trip; Jackson was nice enough to give me a great tour.

The entire Basin and Range Province–which occupies most of the American West–is characterized by steep mountain ranges alternating with arid valleys.  In central Nevada, where the Toquimas are located, this pattern is especially pronounced.  These ranges were formed not by crustal plates pushing together, but rather by their separation.  Big blocks of crust acted like icebergs as the West was pulled apart, and one end tipped up, creating a mountain range, while the other tipped down, contributing to a basin.  Despite the common mechanism by which these mountain ranges were created, they are diverse in terms of their ecology.  The White Mountains of eastern California are at the western edge of the Basin and Range and are quite dry, with sparse vegetation (save for their eastern slope), but the other high ranges in Nevada (the Toiyabes, Toquimas, Snakes, etc), are surprisingly lush with beautiful aspen groves and verdant streams and rivers.

white mountains from fish lake valley

Jackson and I planned to climb Mount Jefferson, which is the tallest peak in central Nevada.  Driving across western Nevada to the trailhead, we watched thunderheads build all afternoon.  As we packed our bags, rain drops started to fall, and by the time we hit the trail, we were in a full-on downpour.  We continued onward in the rain through a mix of sagebrush and aspen–two species I’m not used to seeing together.  After about 2,000 feet and three hours of climbing, the rain got the better of our spirits (and our body temperatures) so we set up the tent to climb into the warmth of our down sleeping bags.  Once the rain stopped, we hiked a little further up the trail and saw that it had been snowing not far above us on Mount Jefferson.

The next morning we were awake long before daylight, continuing up the trail towards Mount Jefferson.  Trail builders in Nevada don’t seem to believe in switchbacks, so while steep, the ascent didn’t take long.  Not long after sunrise, we found ourselves in a bowl around 11,000′ looking up at three bighorn sheep rams making their way across the peak above us.  Hiking further up onto the plateau that separates the different summits of Mount Jefferson, we spotted many more bighorn ewes and lambs.

In hopes of spotting more sheep, we walked across the plateau between the Mount Jefferson’s south and middle summits.  Ahead of me as we topped a small rise, Jackson stopped suddenly and said, “whoa.”  I immediately assumed sheep, but a small band of wild horses was just as surprised to see us as we were them.  After spending about an hour with them, we headed south again, towards the highest summit of Mount Jefferson.  Jackson has some great images of the horses here.

As we left the horses I happened to stumble across a small, nearly perfect arrowhead.  This portion of the Toquimas is part of the Alta Toquima Wilderness, which is named for the Alta Toquima archaeological site, which we weren’t far from.  At an elevation of about 11,500′ feet, this site is the first evidence we have that early Americans were settling relatively permanently at high altitude as early as 1 AD (this gives some interesting background on the site and its discovery).  Permanent high altitude settlements are rare in North America, as opposed to places like Peru, Tibet, and Ethiopia.  After photographing the arrowhead we left it and went on our way.

Arrowhead in the Alta Toquima Wilderness

Although we spotted more bighorns in the distance we were unsuccessful in getting a close look (one curious lamb did come fairly close to us for a good look).  After summiting, we hiked back to camp to pack up, then back to the trailhead.

bighorn sheep lamb

After leaving the Toquimas we explored the Monitor Valley which is located east of the range, and the Toiyabe Mountains just a little bit before heading back home.  Even though it was a quick visit to the, it was interesting to see how different they are from the Toquimas.

sunset in monitor valley nevada

south twin river toiyabe mountains

The Basin and Range isn’t an easy place to photograph, in fact I found it quite humbling.  Although I was surprised by the number of (unpaved) roads on our visit, the “best” viewpoints are not easy to get to. The abundance of roads isn’t necessarily matched by an abundance of trails, making access a bit tricky and perhaps left for a time when you’re feeling ambitious.  That said, the payoffs are pretty big.  Jackson and I had complete solitude during our visit to the Toquimas, we saw incredible wildlife, and got to briefly experience of a bit of culture.  That’s not bad for an overnight backpacking trip.


The Savages of the Colorado Plateau

Written by Alpenglow Images on July 16th, 2015

In early July, I made it home to the Four Corners region of the Southwest to visit my parents.  Although I haven’t lived there in close to two decades, I use the word home to describe it because that’s how it feels–no matter how long I’ve been gone, it always feels like I haven’t left.  Perhaps this isn’t a good thing, implying things about a lack of progress, etc., but I prefer to think that feeling is due to an intangible familiarity that is coded in our DNA.  Safe, familiar, known–space becomes place.

As I usually try to do on my visits home, I visited the Cedar Mesa area of southern Utah.  Driving across the unassuming highway that crosses the Grand Gulch Plateau, I was reminded of the many backpacking trips I took there when I was younger.  My friends and I climbed the ledges of the canyons, busted through the willows, and–yes–explored the numerous Ancestral Puebloan ruins in hands-on style.  While we were never destructive, we certainly never hesitated to climb inside, living in our own fantasies of what the lives of these people must have been like, completely oblivious to the historical context of the sites.

Last week, I took my seven-year-old son backpacking in our local mountains here in southern California.  After driving home from New Mexico, he wanted a “short car ride,” and I was happy to oblige.  The San Jacintos have really wonderful Sierra Nevada-esque piles of granite boulders, and after arriving at our campsite for the day, he was content to play in these makeshift forts, but of course from a seven year-old’s perspective, a fort can always be improved on.

After a few hours of playing, he asked for help moving a huge number of logs and deadfall into a particular area to create a wall.  My first reaction was that moving that wood would violate Leave No Trace principles, and I caught myself starting to redirect his attention towards something less impactful for future visitors.  But then I looked around: impact abounded around us.  Visitors from the weekend had left a 5-gallon bucket of water, there was trash in the next door.  One weekend’s crowds leave, another’s roll in.  I happily picked up my first log and put it where I was directed–this was going to be a wall that could stop Hannibal and his elephants.

After getting home, I read an article that perfectly echoed my sentiments from that evening in the San Jacintos.  Environmental education (for kids especially) has almost gone so far as to turn kids off from nature.  As the author of the article says, kids need to be untutored savages in nature for just a while in order to appreciate it, treasure it.  My afternoon of asking my son to appreciate being outside went completely unheard; after building the wall together, he asked if we could live in the mountains for the rest of the summer.  All it took was 20 minutes.

Back to Cedar Mesa, and my childhood years running rampant through its canyons.  Today we know the area was colonized at least twice by Ancestral Puebloans, and it is incredibly rich with archaeological sites.  Some of them are well known and can be reached easily (like the sites I visited as a kid), but others are more remote, their locations are more guarded to prevent looting and just to keep them from being “loved to death.”  Today, I feel incredibly connected to this place–probably more so than anywhere on earth–but if you had tried telling the twelve-year-old me the area’s history, I would have tuned out for sure.  Looking back, I feel like I needed to be an untutored savage on those backpacking trips to have the appreciation I do for the place today.

The timing of my recent trips and this article are serendipitous, and it does seem like certain things intersect in our lives at opportune times.  Understanding the nature of nature education is research that needs to be done; instilling a notion of the inherent value of the land in our children needs to be done now, and with urgency.  This is especially true on Cedar Mesa.

Given my years of running freely there, I admittedly have some internal conflict about it, but I can’t help but feel the area needs more protection.  Some pockets–like Natural Bridges National Monument–are protected, but the area at large is managed loosely by the Bureau of Land Management, and the oversight is minimal.  The “guarded” archaeological sites I mentioned are becoming less so by the day with GPS coordinates popping up here and there on the internet, putting them at risk for looting (which is shockingly rampant) or simply being “loved to death.”  Add these threats to the area’s cultural history to potential development, and we are forced to ask at what point we impose stricter rules via protection.  It’s never an easy issue on public lands.

storm cell over Monument Valley, seen from Cedar Mesa, Utah

This recent article from the High Country News summarizes the groups involved in Cedar Mesa’s protection and the compromises being made on that long journey.

“One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am – a reluctant enthusiast….a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.”  — Edward Abbey

An Untutored Savage


Long-distance relationships

Written by Alpenglow Images on June 4th, 2015

“Sense of place is the sixth sense, an internal compass and map made by memory and spatial perception together.” — Rebecca Solnit

Over the last several years, I’ve devoted much of this blog and my photographic efforts towards the Colorado Plateau.  More so than even the results I’ve shared here, I’ve devoted time and experience to the Plateau; no place I’ve visited has given me a more of a feeling of calm than that landscape of sinuous canyons, sandstone mesas, and petrified sand dunes.  That’s why I return year after year without fail; every time I go back I hear my bones say, “I’m home.”

I feel that the resulting images from my time spent on the Plateau are purpose-driven, grounded, intimate, and unique.  As an individual, no one else can see things quite like me, and I want my portfolio to reflect my own way of seeing.  Just like with any relationship, time has been invested to get to know the Plateau, as well as a few cactus pricks, scrapes, and bruises.

Because of my approach to photography, I’ve never been great at walking into a place for the first time and being comfortable making images.  I almost always experience some intangible awkwardness during the process.  How does place-based landscape photography translate to travel to distant locations, where a great distance has been traveled and the unlikelihood of ever returning again is small?  I recently found myself asking this question when my girlfriend and I ventured to Iceland for my first big trip away from the Southwest.  Tourism in Iceland has exploded in popularity over the decade or so, and I wanted to avoid making copies of everyone else’s images; I wanted to see the country with fresh eyes.

Stormy mountain scene near Vik

Planning an appropriate itinerary is key.  While it’s tempting to want to see everything, that is not conducive to thoughtful landscape photography.  We picked out three or four places that we considered ‘must-see’ locations and planned around them.  Anything more would have been difficult or impossible given the amount of time we had.

In concert with the logistics, I had to ask myself, “why is this a must-see location for me?”  Presumably the idea of it spoke to me in some way, so I proceeded to learn more about these places.  Iceland, like many European countries, has a rich history, so spending time to learn the stories of the places I wanted to visit helped me to tell the stories with my images.  Knowing the story behind many of the Icelandic sagas helped me to understand the culture and people, and reading about the geology of this ever-changing island also helped give me a sense of place.  As always, I had a map out as I did this, allowing me to connect the landscape with the stories.

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

Being able to go back to Iceland would probably be of great benefit to me photographically.  However, the work I did before leaving home made me feel as though I had a connection to the place before ever setting foot there, which–in my opinion–made the photography that much more productive, enjoyable, and meaningful.  People and places make up the topography of our lives; the result is not much different than a landscape, with valleys and peaks, sunrises and sunsets.  My internal compass will always calibrate toward the Colorado Plateau and Southwestern United States, but I came home from my first international trip understanding that it is possible to connect with a place even if I may never visit again.

See all of my Iceland images here.

Reynisdrangar sea stacks

Jökulsárlón Lagoon


Chasing Set

Written by Alpenglow Images on March 7th, 2015

“You will then…quickly discover the music and poetry of these magnificent rock piles…each and all are the orderly beauty-making love-beats of Nature’s heart.”  — John Muir

Every so often a place will catch my eye and after just a little research, “Hmmm that place looks interesting!” turns into a bit of an obsession. This is probably why I’ve always liked maps so much: I can imagine what a place is like, and after I’ve been there, I can mentally put individual rocks and trees on the contour lines.  This obsession isn’t driven so much by photography, but by how remote and unvisited it is.  There’s something calming about unplugging and getting far, far away.

I’ve had my eye on the Coxcomb Mountains, a small but surprisingly imposing mountain range near the California-Arizona border, for a little over a year.  After they caught my eye, I started reading the few trip reports I could find, trying to correlate them with topographic maps.  In late January a friend and I made a long day hike into the range, and it was exactly what I’d hoped for: no trails, no sound, and no easy access point.  I returned a couple of weekends ago for an overnight backpack.

Coxcomb Mountains Sunset

The mountain ranges in the Southwest deserts are basically very big piles of boulders–the Coxcombs rise over 3,000′ from the bajada.  Their canyons are choked with rocks and boulders that have come down from the high peaks during floods and winter freeze-thaw cycles.  There’s a special kind of chaos here in the desert, and after being in places like this, it’s no wonder that in Egyptian mythology Set is the god of both the desert and chaos.  Making a coherent photograph out of the disorder would require me to climb to one of the high points in the Coxcombs to confront Set on his terms.

Sunset on Dyadic Point, Coxcomb Mountains

There’s no available water to speak of in the Coxcombs, so I spent only one night, hauling in about six liters of my own water.  After a four-mile hike across the bajada, I started working my way up a canyon, towards Tensor Point, one of the three high points in the Coxcombs that make up “Aqua Peak.”  The panoramic view from the top is impressive, and one can see the San Bernardino Mountains nearly 100 miles to the west, as well as ranges that stretch into Arizona.  Additionally, the views of the Pinto Basin, in Joshua Tree National Park, are outstanding.

After sunset, I spent a couple of hours with a somewhat pesky deer mouse, and finally fell asleep.  I woke up the next morning with no deer mouse but with a thick blanket of clouds.  After breakfast, I packed my gear up and arrived at the car just about the time rain started to fall on the desert in earnest.

I’ve never had much luck making any sense of the desert’s jumbled boulder piles in a photograph.  While they’re beautiful to look at, they’ve never translated well to photographic compositions for me.  Being on top of Tensor Point allowed me to step back from that chaos and compose images that seemed to make it all fall into place.  After a nine mile cross country hike through boulder piles and thick cat’s claw, I realized that maybe to make sense of the chaos, you must fully immerse yourself in it.


Two rabbis

Written by Alpenglow Images on February 21st, 2015

“The meaning and purpose of dancing is the dance. Like music, also, it is fulfilled in each moment of the course. You do not play a sonata in order to reach the final chord, and if the meaning of things were simply in ends, composers would write nothing but finales…” — Alan Watts

Storm light in the Mojave Desert, near Las Vegas Nevada

I once heard a joke about two Jewish rabbis who were having dinner together.  They were close friends and felt they could tell each other anything.  One night they stayed awake very late discussing the existence of God and concluded finally that God did not exist.  A few hours before dawn, they then went off to bed.  In the morning, one of the rabbis got up, looked for his friend all over the house, and not finding him, searched outside.  He found his friend in the garden, absorbed in his ritual morning prayers.

Surprised, he says, “What are you doing?!?”

“You can see what I’m doing, I’m saying my morning prayers.”

“That’s what surprises me!  We almost talked until dawn, decided that God does not exist, and now here you are saying your morning prayers?”

The other rabbi smiled wryly and replied quite simply, “What does God have to do with it?”

The punchline of the joke may not be immediately obvious, but what the second rabbi did not realize, perhaps, is that fidelity to and reverence for ritual was more important than belief in God to the rabbi who went on with his morning prayers.

I can remember one April day early in my photographic career, I saw a large-format photographer standing out at noon on top of the cab of his pickup truck with his camera in Death Valley making images.  From a distance I watched him for a while, and finally concluded that he was crazy because what sort of image could be made at noon?  It was, after all, the only reasonable explanation for his behavior, because it was at least 7 hours until it would be worth pulling the camera out of the bag.

Fast forward more than a decade, and I can see that photographer was not out of his mind.  There are many great articles out there on ways to make images all day long.  However, what’s more–and what I see now–is that it’s not always about only making images of a nuclear sky, but rather fidelity to and reverence for the process of image making.  Like any relationship, knowing the landscape requires time, effort, and–at least in Southwest–a few cactus pricks, scrapes, and bruises.  Repeated visits, and often several failed attempts are necessary to make “that” image, and finally–hopefully–success.  Success, as it were, ultimately may never come, but when your photography is motivated by the place itself, it paradoxically doesn’t seem to matter all that much.

It seems that the most highly praised photography is that which has the most jaw-dropping colors, or the most dramatic light.  It won’t be long and you’ll have an app on your smartphone that can tell you whether the sunset will be worth photographing tonight.  In other words, why waste your time going outdoors unless the sunset is going to be “V+F” worthy?   Don’t get me wrong, I still get very excited for colorful sunsets and dramatic light, but let’s not forget the sheer joy of being outside, making images.  If this is forgotten, it will be a step in the wrong direction for those attempting to make a case for photography as art.

I often wonder if I had approached that photographer in Death Valley years ago to ask him why he was wasting his time in midday light if he would have turned to me, smiled wryly, and asked simply, “What does the sunset have to do with it?”

Coxcomb Mountains in Joshua Tree National Park


2014 year in review

Written by Alpenglow Images on January 2nd, 2015

“Walking takes longer… than any other known form of locomotion except crawling. Thus it stretches time and prolongs life. Life is already too short to waste on speed.” — Edward Abbey

In several ways, 2014 was a journey for me, and I am grateful much of it was taken on foot.  With a couple of exceptions, my favorite images this year were made on hiking or backpacking trips.  In June, Jackson Frishman and I had a great trip through the Ansel Adams wilderness and another friend and I spent a wonderful week in August in the John Muir wilderness.  Both trips were highlights of my year, not just for the photography and scenery but also for the company.

Now that 2015 is upon us, the journey continues.  I’m looking forward to seeing where life takes me this year, and I hope you find yourself on happy trails in your own travels.

See some of my other favorite images from years past: 2011 | 2012 | 2013

Fog races over a hilltop at dawn

Foggy Giant Forest

Sunset in the Golden Trout Wilderness

Bentonite Hill Layers, northern New Mexico

Sunset over Minaret Lake, Ansel Adams Wilderness California

Iceberg Lake, John Muir Wilderness

Granite Park sunset, Sierra Nevada, California

Pacific Ocean sunrise

Mojave Desert storm light


Happy Thanksgiving

Written by Alpenglow Images on November 26th, 2014

Another year has almost passed and it’s been a relatively quiet one for me on the blog.  Life’s busy-ness has taken up a lot of my time over the last few months, and writing has taken a back seat to other things.  Such is life–I’m sure 2015 will bring change to the natural ebb and flow of things.

Despite my quiet nature lately, I have been thinking much about the holiday season this year, Thanksgiving in particular.  As a child, Thanksgiving was really just felt like a necessary stepping stone on my way to what I thought were much more important holidays: Christmas, and my birthday (which is in January).  However, over the years Thanksgiving has become my favorite holiday; the notion of thankfulness has become very poignant as I’ve grown older.

This year, all I want for Thanksgiving is presence.  Be present in the moment, with whoever you’re with.  Practice the art of deep listening.  Our society is rapidly becoming one in which viewpoints and opinions are so polarized that discussion, common ground, and mutual respect are disappearing.  Not only is this true here in the United States in national news, I see it more and more on social media–just the other day I saw a discussion thread regarding personal preference for hiking boots vs. trail runners de-evolve into personal insults.  Really?

I read an essay by Laura Simms recently that captured this notion perfectly.  In an excerpt she wrote:

“Pulling opinions off of soapbox reactivity can be as agonizing as pulling a bandaid off an open wound. But without fresh air and time, the wound does not heal from within. We managed to listen to each other. Our dialogue became stunning and hard. We had to agree to consider each person’s reflection. With space, and with listening, and with a certain personal discipline, each of us began to melt. Our differences and our listening became our common ground.”

Sadly, Thanksgiving dinner is often the perfect venue for our opinions to clash.  Start small by giving the gift of presence to whoever you’re with this holiday season, and resolve to work towards a common ground of understanding in the new year.

bentonite hill layers, bits wilderness new mexico


A Golden Idea

Written by Alpenglow Images on September 3rd, 2014

“There is growing awareness of the beauty of country … a sincere desire to keep some of it for all time. People are beginning to value highly the fact that a river runs unimpeded for a distance… They are beginning to obtain deep satisfaction from the fact that a herd of elk may be observed in back country, on ancestral ranges, where the Indians once hunted them. They are beginning to seek the healing relaxation that is possible in wild country. In short, they want it.”  — Olaus J. Murie

Today is the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act.  If you follow the same online circles as I do, you’ve seen the coverage, the essays, the photo contests, etc.  Indeed, setting aside land to be protected  and remain–in the words of the act’s primary author, Howard Zahniser–“untrammeled by man,” is a noble notion and its golden anniversary is one worth celebrating, despite the criticism the idea has received by wilderness deconstructionists.

Looking through my photography from 2014 as well as through the years, I’m struck by how many times I’ve found myself in a designated wilderness making images.  This certainly hasn’t been intentional but I realize how much the landscapes protected by this legislation have impacted me.  Making images has been incidental to the the feeling of being…home…I’ve found in these wild places.  Our wild landscapes deserve our respect, protection, and our rabid defense if some of it is to remain intact.

One of the highlights of my summer was a trip into the Ansel Adams wilderness with my good friend Jackson Frishman.  One day, as I complained about writer’s block on my blog, Jackson gently reminded me that sometimes you don’t need to write a lot–the images can speak for themselves.  I’m not sure I have a lot to say about wilderness that hasn’t already been said, so I’ll take Jackson’s advice here and just show some recent images, made in celebration of wilderness.

Ansel Adams Wilderness reflections


John Muir Wilderness sunrise


Understanding the Why, part 2

Written by Alpenglow Images on June 9th, 2014

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about why I make images.  What’s my motivation to get up at unreasonable hours, explore dusty dirt roads that haven’t been touched in years, or hike for hours in the sun only to never take my camera out?  The answers–of course–transcend photography, but I have been able to identify some discrete reasons why I make images.  You can read part 1 (perspective) here.

Part 2: Beauty

“There is beauty, heartbreaking beauty, everywhere.” — Edward Abbey

In my last post, I wrote about how photography–and being in nature–helps me to gain perspective.  Indeed it does.  However, by being outside often I’ve also been able to see many beautiful scenes in nature.  I’ve often joked with friends that I’ll never take them anywhere ugly for vacation, which as far as I know is a true statement.  “Beauty,” to the photographer, however is two-fold.

The first way to look at beauty is very simple: nature is beautiful.  My hope is that every single person has had an experience in the outdoors that has stopped them in their tracks and has moved them to the point where they are speechless.  During these moments when words aren’t sufficient, we stand in awe of the scene before us.  It is a heartbreaking, gut-wrenching awe that is at the same time more satisfying and more tortuous than anything we’ve experienced.  Satisfying because there’s no place on earth we’d rather be in that moment, tortuous because we know we can’t experience that euphoria forever.

There are times in life when words aren’t necessary.  For most of us, trying to put words to these moments wouldn’t do them justice, and might even scare them away.  As a photographer, I try to make images that convey my sense of awe, knowing that as my capacity to feel awe increases, so does my reverence of the natural world.

My worry is that these euphoric moments are becoming rarer and all too fleeting in our society.  I recently read an article in the American Scientist by Louis Chianese that asks a simple question: Is nature photography too beautiful?  His main idea is that by presenting only glossy and polished nature imagery, photographers are “masking” the plight of our planet, and by subduing our processing, we can bring our photography more in line with the current state of ecological affairs.  To me, his question asks whether artists have a social responsibility to accurately portray a scene.  This has been discussed many times, and I won’t go into it here, except to say that it’s more important to me to protect those moments where I–where we–stand in awe of nature, because they’re equally as endangered (even if they’re less tangible).  This is where beauty and perspective go hand in hand:

If we lose our capacity for awe, we will forget who we are, and where we came from.

The High Sierra, Sequoia National Park

The second way to think about beauty is that we don’t have to go places to experience it.  Sure, that upcoming vacation to ____________ is something we all look forward to, but when you stop and look around you, you realize that beauty really is all around you.  In that sense, we have a good insurance policy on those awe-inspiring moments because they’re free and in abundance if we take the time to seek them out.  Photography helps me to “see” the world in new ways, and appreciate the inherent beauty in nature.

If we can all aspire to find a way to appreciate the natural world, whether by our art or other actions, we might be better off–kinder, gentler.  How do you appreciate the beauty that surrounds you?  Do you think nature photography is too beautiful?

Moss-covered trees, abstract