Northern Michigan is a special place. It seems that no matter where you find yourself on a map, a preserve, natural area or recreational (or historical) park is not too far away…easily at a distance that would make for an unforgettable day trip. These protected areas are host to myriad habitats and species…each area just as unique as the next. They all can reveal much about the past in Northern Michigan. Some preserves where once bustling orchards, while others where hubs for the lumber boom. And yet others are hidden gems that have been spared the hand of development. These preserves are priceless.
The National Parks Connection
Not long ago, if memory serves, the National Park Service put out an advertisement for a photographer. This photographer would be set to the task of documenting the beauty and splendor of the many parks that can be found within the United States. The moment I heard about this opportunity, I began to dream about how amazing such a job would be. The lucky photographer would be freezing time, for the world to see, and appreciate. And, of course, visiting all these parks would allow contemplation, reflection and a sense of fulfillment. Just to see all these places! I would consider such a job an honor.
The more I began to consider the position, the more I began to question the quality of my own photography. Am I skilled enough? Am I up to the task? Do the images I capture strike a cord with those who view them? Do they leave an impression? Am I worthy of such a photographic opportunity? There are SO many incredibly talented landscape photographers: what could I offer that would set me apart? Would the viewing public like my work?
Do the images I capture strike a cord with those who view them?
For a couple years afterwords, my work began to evolve. But in the back of my mind, I was asking myself if I am taking pictures of what I found fulfilling, or for the fulfillment of others?
More recently, I have begun to capture what I believe to be beautiful and inspirational. I capture what I find fulfilling. I take pictures for my own pleasure. I am not trying to aspire to please others. I am very critical of my work. I am my own worst critic. Despite this, I do think my work has evolved over the years. Each year, I find that my work is coming closer to what I wish to express. My goal is to express the beauty of Northern Michigan’s preserves, parks and natural areas.
As of the 30th of September, 2018. If I was asked to travel the country documenting the parks, I would feel confident enough in my ability to do so. A few years ago, I would have declined. I have found my voice behind the lens. I know now how to capture the natural worlds beauty the way I see fit. To transfer what I see in my minds eye, to an image has taken many years. I am still learning though.
A Lofty Goal
While I won’t be traveling the country anytime soon, I am still quite taken with the concept. While visiting my favorite preserves over this past summer, I decided I would capture the beauty of as many parks, preserves and natural areas as I could in the next two to-three years. And once I am finished, I will perhaps consider publishing a book.
The current plan: to photograph all the lands managed by two local conservation organizations. These organizations are the Grand Traverse Conservation District (GTCD) and the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy (GTRLC). The GTCD manages eight parks, while the GTRLC manages 58 parks. It was not until I actually counted the properties that I realized what a challenge I am faced with. Currently, I have completed approximately 10% of the parks.
I have enjoyed visiting these parks. I cannot wait to see where I end up next. There are, after all, quite a few more parks to photograph!
Updates to follow soon. Until then, get outside, and breath.