Tonight I spoke at our local Sierra Club about image design and the art of nature photography. It was great to meet some new friends and I always enjoy yakking about my work. I showed about 60 images from our national parks as examples to explaining image design principles taught to me by Freeman Patterson and Brenda Tharp. At some point in your development as an photographic artist you want to go beyond camera skills. Learning how to “see” is the basis for developing your own style of photography. I recommend highly the following 2 books if you are ready to progress: Creative Nature and Outdoor Photography by Brenda Tharp, Photography and the Art of Seeing by Freeman Paterson. Most nature photographers have some connection to the Sierra Club. It may be significant or indirect. All who enjoy our National Parks and the results of conservation movements can give thanks to organizations like the Sierra Club, who had the early foresight to raise the red flag to so many situations that had the potential to destroy our natural treasures in the name of progress and industry. My introduction came in high school, where I by chance picked up a 1972 Sierra Club Engagement Calendar. It was one of those spiral bound datebooks with a beautiful image for each week. I remember being fascinated with the photography, not only the technical quality but the beauty and interest in each image. Where were these places, what were these rocks, plants, and details, how could I create images like these? I wanted to know and do.
Back in those dark ages, photography could only be enjoyed by books and magazines. I never had access to viewing a fine art print until much later. Fortunately, the Sierra Club and Ballantine Books had a series of larger format paperback books with inspiring photography. Everytime I went out to photograph, I can remember trying to reproduce those classic images of trees, flowers, and landscapes in these beautiful publications. It’s interesting to view an old book that influenced you. Most of the time I’m so impressed at what was accomplished with film, and how the “style” of nature photography promoted by Ansel Adams, Eliot Porter, David Meunch, and the likes continues to influence nature photography today. That’s why I love used book stores, because it’s fun to see where your photography came from. And I’m still looking for that engagement calendar.