While I approach every photo shoot with equal amounts of creative energy and dedication, the work I am most proud of is that which contributes to conservation and protection of the environment.
It’s hard to describe how grateful I am for the opportunity I have had over the past eight years to be a part of the amazing team at Scenic Hudson. In operation for over fifty years, Scenic Hudson is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the natural resources in the Hudson Valley, where I’ve lived for the past twenty years.
My journey with Scenic Hudson began when their publications manager saw some of my work at a local art show, and asked if I could share some of my images for online promotional purposes. A few weeks later I handed them a CD with most of my Hudson Valley photography.
You might be thinking several things at this point, such as “that was crazy,” or “that was an awfully risky thing to do.” I know because these thoughts crossed the back of my mind as well. The most important question for me at the time however was, is this the right thing to do? And on every level that I could think of the answer was a definitive yes.
Many of my most visited and photographed locations existed in large part to Scenic Hudson’s efforts. That alone seemed a good reason to share.
I also felt profoundly passionate about their values and their efforts to conserve the environment in the Hudson Valley, both for the aesthetic and practical benefits. It’s something I wanted to be a part of, where I could donate my time and energy to benefit current and future generations, starting with my children.
Study after study has shown the benefits of spending time in nature for individuals and communities. Scenic Hudson also helps support the local farming industry, which create jobs, provides whole food for local communities, and is beneficial for the environment in general.
Finally, my decision also hinged on the integrity of the staff members I interacted with at Scenic Hudson. On this point there is no doubt—they have been some of the most dedicated and professional people I have ever interacted with, and I am extremely proud and grateful to call them friends.
That’s not a title I give out lightly, and eight years later I continue to appreciate how valuable that is in this world of wide but shallow human connections.
Scenic Hudson publishes a yearly annual report, and it features many images showcasing the farms and landscapes they’ve protected. It includes images I capture on specific assignments they give me throughout the year.
They are often hard to access, visually challenging, and have limited time constraints either because of deadlines or weather. While I’ve used drones more frequently to help in very hard to access locations, a camera in hand is still my preferred way to approach any landscape.
For me it’s still the best way to become familiar with a location and achieve the goals that Scenic Hudson has for the images; to celebrate the beauty of nature and make an emotional connection with the viewer. That helps with critical donations, the necessary requirement for any non-profit.
While this places a certain amount of pressure on me and the images I need to capture, I use the same techniques I share here and on workshops; light first, strong composition, and an emphasis on conveying the story of a place.
Why is this location special? What is essential and what is not? How can I best convey the details within the overall setting? And finally, what do I see and feel as the photographer?
Doing this kind of work on a regular basis has been hugely influential in my ability to eliminate the excess, and focus on the essential in terms of gear, my creative mindset, and in composition. The creative limitations have forced me to become more creative, and that has been my greatest teacher.
I will be sharing and discussing many of the ways this work has helped me become a better photographer over the years, and hopefully they will fuel your own creative work. But more than that, I hope they inspire you to consider donating your time and energy as a visual communicator to a worthy cause.
There’s no better feeling from my perspective.