In my photography, I gravitate to landscapes; my hope is that I can elicit in viewers a passion to visit the natural wonders that I’ve fallen in love with. This is a visceral connection, similar to the eternal wonderment that the characters Carl and Ellie must have felt the first time they scouted a photo of Paradise Falls as explorer kids, and unsuccessfully tried to visit as an aging, loving couple in the Disney film Up.
Between photographic sojourns, I have read countless “how to” photography books by professionals that are weighing down my nightstand. During trips to national parks with my wife Lenn — who has unnatural patience for my need to wait for the perfect light to compose a photo — I’ll haul a Nikon D800E SLR, carbon tripod, cable release, and 20-pound backpack stuffed with lenses and filters. I think all these accoutrements are part of the self-deception that if I realize Malcolm Gladwell’s controversial “10,000 hours rule” of practice, I will achieve some form of mastery over the craft of photography. However, I must admit to a selfish need for visiting and photographing the national parks—because of their protected status and the glacial pace of evolution, they are expected to change little, if at all, over my lifetime. I fully expect that my repeat visits to Zion or Grand Teton National Park in five or 20 years will be a comforting return to sameness.
This permanence has value to me, and is a much-needed counterbalance to the large number of patients and academic acquaintances who have fleeted in and out of my life. In some ways, taking photographs of the national parks, and hanging them on walls within eyeshot takes on a similar meaning to my parents’ practice of cradling memories from another time — it is a form of “photo-therapy.”