For the last 5 months, I’ve been working on a long-term photography commission for Scenic Hudson that is truly a dream project. In an effort to ramp up their activity in the Hudson Valley, they launched an ambitious campaign last year to preserve over 65,000 acres of the most important land along the river. These include ridgelines offering iconic views, habitat-rich forests and marshlands that safeguard the quality of our air and water, and farmland that supplies healthy produce. I am a big supporter of their mission, and have been involved with several other projects over the last year including creating 360 virtual panoramas of 6 parks, and giving a free photo workshop in Cold Spring, NY. (We have a workshop in the works for 2009, so check back here and their website for the announcement).
One of the key tasks and challenges a non-profit organization like Scenic Hudson faces is raising funds through donations. In this case, having compelling and inspiring photography of these locations is one important part of their strategy to garner the support they need to accomplish their goals. It’s a lot easier to make your case when you have an image that helps convey the natural beauty or value of a landscape. Each property comprising the 65,000 acres needs to be photographed with this idea in mind since documentary snap-shots just don’t have the necessary impact.
I was completely humbled when they asked if I would be willing to take on this project. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have some trepidation, knowing that it would involve significant time, travel, and hard work. But I couldn’t pass on what I thought would be a tremendous learning opportunity, plus I was given complete creative freedom, and I immediately said yes. At that point I received a stack of maps and information “sheets” for 8 locations, and was told they needed them completed “yesterday”!
So far I have photographed 18 properties, some of which are listed here. It has been a great experience so far, and they have been wonderful to work with. Each location is different and the situations unpredictable, so patience and perseverance come in handy. I waited 13+ hours to get just the right light for one particular location, others I’ve had to return 2 or 3 times to get the right conditions. I constantly monitor the weather, and have 3 separate weather applications installed on my iPhone. I also have a bunch of other work related applications which I’ll cover in detail in a future post.
Capturing the defining features of each locations and why Scenic Hudson decided to save it (usually from development) is an important part of the photography. I was having some difficulty with one location, and after several attempts, I asked for some input from one of their land project managers. I received this reply:
“…a mix of viewshed and agricultural land protection goals that were of interest to us. There are wonderful valley and Catskill views from the property and the farm fields are an important component of the working landscape in Stuyvesant. We are also protecting a nice little tributary to the Hudson, some excellent agricultural soils and some grassland habitat that could be managed for grassland birds.”
This helped immensely, and I returned with a much clearer sense of what I needed to focus on. Weaving the practical and aesthetic components to a successful image has proven to be both difficult and rewarding, and I’m learning so much each time I go out. I’m planning on writing some specific case studies so that you can get a better idea of the process, and hopefully take something away you can apply to your own photography. I’m also using the internet extensively for research, and to provide low-resolution previews and high-res versions of the images to Scenic Hudson, and I’ll write about that as well – stay tuned…
I am grateful to be able to do what I love each and every day, the hard work is easy.. thanks for reading. I welcome your comments!