Each of the last few years, Susan and I have created a calendar of my outdoors photography which I sell to fund marketing for my book. Susan has outdone herself this year (it’s mostly in her capable hands) and has created yet another inherently useful work of art – our fourth Wild North Country Calendar.
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My photography is serendipitous. I don’t travel to the best-loved scenic spots in the east to shoot what 10,000 other photographers are shooting. Rather, I go about my usual off-the-beaten-track explorations with a camera in hand, looking for whatever nature might offer me and whatever the sunlight might illuminate for my lens. I sometimes find the incredible landscapes in incredible light that might catch any photographer’s eye but more likely, I find interesting angles to shoot the small things found below the canopy. And, of course, I’m always shooting the water.
In my early twenties, I latched onto the idea that great accompanying photos helped when trying to persuade editors to publish one’s articles. I had no idea at the time how many more years of refining my work with keyboard and camera would be entailed before the publishers could be convinced to place me. But I started wandering around the Ohio River valley, the cheapest of SLR film cameras in hand, learning about composition, subjects and then the much more important moods of light. I was unemployed and film and developing were expensive so each shot became deliberate.
I’m still not likely to wind up in National Geographic and I feel like a slacker these days when confronted with the works of a genuine dedicated photographer. Great photos aren’t about having great cameras – it’s all about learning to use the capabilities of those cameras. Or I could say it’s all about understanding light but the truth is probably that it’s both of these. At any rate, shooting with a new Canon this year, I still have a lot of work to do in making the most of my new tool.
Like so much else I do in the out-of-doors, the reality is that I just do it for the joy and fascination, however else I may rationalize it or however many books or calendars I actually happen to sell. But that’s always at the heart of real art and outdoorsmanship, I think.