Almost always the best nature and landscape photographs are captured in what I like to call “the margins of the day,” that being dawn and dusk. Even an hour before sunrise and an hour after sunset, when most photographers aren’t up or have packed away their gear for the day, the beauty of gradual light enhances the natural subject.
The following Pictures You Can Hear video and images were captured on the morning of October 20, 2009 at The Inn at Cedar Falls, in Hocking Hills, Ohio.
The sacredness of the light. To crunch about in the woods. To take in sunrise on the hilltop and then marvel at the sight of the Milky Way after nightfall. These are the visual gifts that feed the spirit and move the soul.
When all else in the “outside world” is ripping at the seams and falling in tatters, it is comforting to know that all is well, and right, in nature and at The Inn at Cedar Falls.
Being an iPhone user I am always on the lookout for useful apps, particularly those that are connected in some way to photography. Given the fact that my iPhone 3G (I still haven’t seen the need to upgrade to a 3Gs) comes with a minimalist approach toward a built-in camera phone – just 2 megapixels – there have more and more app developers who’ve learned to push that little camera beyond its original, technical limitations.
I learned about Chase Jarvis’ Best Camera app in the most recent issue of PDN Magazine. The Best Camera is by far the best camera app yet for the iPhone. It seamlessly integrates the camera function with some impressive in-camera, image editing effects as well online photo sharing and social community interaction.
The premise of the app is quite simple and one which I repeat quite often at my photography workshops and in photography articles. It’s not the gear that makes the photographer. It’s the person behind the camera and a keen observation of light and subject.
I must admit that nature, landscape and studio photography is a bit more methodical and requires more in the way of gear and technical knowledge, especially at the pro level, but for “street photography” Jarvis does an impressive job in showing what can be accomplished with just a simple, two- megapixel camera phone. Sure Jarvis makes a crack about “dynamic range,” but basically his approach toward image-making is the foundation from which all successful photographers – whether they be accomplished pro shooters or avid amateurs – create bodies of work that make viewers stop, look, imagine and think.
I’m happy to announce that one of my photographs has once again made the cover of Ohio State Parks Magazine. The most recent issue – fall/winter 2009 – features an image I captured while in Hocking Hills State Park during a weekend in early November. I was there with my two favorite fellow sojourners when venturing out to the woodlands and hollows of Hocking, my daughters Emma and Chloe. Over the last five years this is the fourth issue one of my photographs was selected for the cover of Ohio State Parks.
With all the emphasis currently on our system of National Parks, thanks to another exceptional series airing on PBS by Ken Burns, it’s easy to overlook the beauty and the gifts offered through our local and state parks. I’ve visited and photographed many National Parks, including Great Smoky, Grand Teton, Glacier, Zion, Capital Reef, Bryce, Arches, Canyonlands and Rocky Mountain. All of these strikingly beautiful parks present natural scenery that is beyond breathtaking, there’s no doubt. However, it’s the local, visual treasures found here in my home state of Ohio where my creative spirit and nature-loving soul feels the most at home. Especially Hocking Hills. That’s where my love for nature and landscape photography first took flight during a winter hike with the nature photography club from the Dayton Museum of Natural History (now Boonshoft), so long ago when I was 13 years old.
The State Parks in Ohio are now under a considerable amount of pressure to reduce services and cut costs. It’s a shame. If our National Parks are truly “America’s best idea,” (did you know that Ohio has a National Park ? It’s Cuyahoga, between Cleveland and Akron) then state and local parks and natural areas are the second best idea. In some ways these smaller versions of their big cousins are even more important to protect and preserve due to the fact that they represent places where most people make “first contact” with the beauty and wonder of nature. I’ve always said that the City of Dayton’s best recreational asset is the Five Rivers MetroParks. Considering the shrinking population and economic base in the Dayton area, we are VERY fortunate to have a relatively large number of local parks which are easily accessible, well-managed and each in their own way, provide the essential connection to the healing powers of our natural environment.
While most people celebrate the end of summer with back to school and Labor Day activities, I prefer to take notice of the turning of the season, a turning toward what I like to call the “good light.” Softening sunlight and lengthening shadows and fields that turn to gold. This is the nature photographer’s best season when capturing images of the Ohio landscape. It’s also the primary reason I’ve scheduled my first, full-day photography workshop for the weekend of September 26th.
It is also with some melancholy that I say farewell to the summer of 2009. Back in May I made a goal of making this past summer one full of positive experiences from the limited time I have available to spend with my daughters, Emma, age 10, and Chloe, age nine. Making this my goal was in response of regretting not doing such during the summer of 2008. You see I am a single, divorced dad of two very special little girls. During the school year they live with their mother in Texas. Emma and Chloe are my everything, and I’ve made it no secret that there is NOTHING for me in Ohio that comes close to being worth the pain I go through when I have to say goodbye and put them on that American Airlines flight back to Texas.
I mean it – NOTHING, especially Dayton. I don’t think I need to explain that point further for most regular readers of this blog.
I succeeded in accomplishing my goal for this past summer, so much so that the pain of the goodbye (at least for me) was as sharp and searing as it has ever been.
And it’s with that emotion of love and commitment to my children that I present the following video and images, most of which were taken during my daughter’s last week with me in mid-August and going through the lonely days following to the beginning of September.
The visual artist creates what is discovered in the light from that which is felt within.
I’m not the fearless adventurer, so often and well-represented in the movies with the character of Indiana Jones. I’m just a middle-aged, roaming photographer and wanna-be writer. But Indiana Jones and I have one thing in common. We both hate snakes, and I really hate Rattlesnakes. However, sometimes such unexpected encounters can make for the perfect metaphor.
In mid-May 2009 I ventured to Great Smoky Mountain National Park, on the Tennessee side, to do some spring nature photography in what has become one of my favorite locations for beautiful landscapes.
I went with the goal of hiking a few new trails and photographing some waterfalls and cascades not seen during my last two visits to the Smoky Mountains. There was also the rising need within me to be in a place where I always return to find peace and creative inspiration – in nature’s beauty.
I’m learning that these ventures back to nature serve a larger purpose than just capturing new material for my growing photography business. There’s almost a cleansing process that takes place, kind of like a mini “40 days in the desert.” And through that process there is always the lessons to learn and nature’s symbols and messages to be experienced, observed and internalized by this lover of life and nature.
But this time around I was not expecting such a symbol to come slithering across my path, just a few feet in front of me. At first I looked at it with a bit of curious excitement. It wasn’t until a few days afterward that I pondered the chance encounter on that hike, and the hike itself, for what was – a representation of the journey all of us undertake, within the biggest and most visually striking landscape of them all – that of LIFE.