One of the most satisfying aspects of my work as a landscape photographer has been the association I have developed with Scenic Hudson, and their environmental mission in the Hudson Valley. It’s one thing to make a photograph that someone buys to hang in their home or office, but it’s quite another when that image helps to spread an idea and inspire people to think differently.
I have been VERY fortunate to do both, but by far the greater satisfaction comes from giving back – to nature and the environment, to my local and regional community, and to future generations – including my 7 yr old son. My role has been relatively small, considering Scenic Hudson has been championing the environment for over 40 years. Yet if I can inspire even one person to see and think about the environment differently because of my photography, that alone is worthwhile enough to keep me focused on what I love to do – convey my own feelings and opinions about what I shoot.
That of course is nature and the landscape, and in the Hudson Valley, the majestic vistas and scenes that have inspired countless artists for generations. The famous Hudson River School is at the forefront of this nature inspired creativity, and I have long been influenced by the magnificent paintings that were made by the likes of Cole, Church, Bierstradt, Gifford, Durand, and many others. Their work has been an inspiration for me creatively, but also environmentally, as many of the locations they visited for inspiration have been negatively transformed by us as we continue to consume the land for our own singular purposes. But there is still tremendous beauty to be found, and thanks to the work of Scenic Hudson, more is being protected every day.
As an aside, I recommend all nature photographers spend as much time as possible studying painting and the great landscape painters of the past. Here are a few resources to get you started:
•Hudson River School Slideshow
•American Wilderness: The Story of the Hudson River School of Painting
•Art Authority for iPad
Telling a visual story is the primary goal of the landscape photographer, and more so when the environment stands to benefit. In the three years that I have been working closely with Scenic Hudson, I have come to appreciate the importance and incredible difficulty of this task, the humility and reverence required, and the benefits of generosity. While I have been contracted for many assignments, I have also contributed and donated without reservation because it felt like the right thing to do. More than anything else, we all want our hard work to mean something, to somehow make a difference, no matter how small.
I have the privilege of doing something that I would do even if I could live my life many times over again. That is quite a bold statement, but one I feel is true to my core. Making images that convey my personal feelings about the natural world is but a small part of my whole life, yet it’s the part I feel best about – aside from my role as a father and husband. Perhaps they are all related in that they all involve giving of myself that which I find most positive.
The main point I am making here is that even with the multitude of imagery being generated regularly, there is still an opportunity to use photography at the local level to make a difference. While images of all the great vistas and iconic locations of the world may get lost in a sea of redundancy, we all care more about what we see around us each day – it has a direct impact on our daily lives. Ultimately I make images because I care about where I live, what I see and connect with each day, and I hope others that live where I live, and see what I see, will feel the same way.
Here are two links worth exploring for more info on conservation photography:
• The International League of Conservation Photographers – the leading organization for promoting conservation through photography
• Philip Hyde – a true landscape photography master and leading conservation figure of our generation
Below is a slideshow of many of the locations I have photographed for Scenic Hudson over that past few years. All of these have been preserved and saved from development and many more are on the radar.