Engaging Nature Through Photography

While most of my experience with photography has been spent around busy people and bustling places, getting out into a more natural setting requires a fresh review of the skills I thought I had as a photographer. It also allows a chance to weather down the distinctly different sense of busyness that comes when engrossed in an full, flourishing, and unfamiliar environment.

After finding some free time one afternoon, I decided to wander down some trails that I had previously visited briefly in the weeks before. Coming from an urban environment, it really is a shock to the system to be somewhere with so little noise.

This is a close-up of the Douglas fir that is seen to the left of the previous photo. Partially because there was nobody else around, and because the sun began to set in a fantastic way that shone through the flora, I spent around twenty minutes in a stretch of the trail not more than five meters long.

During a trip to Fort Yamhill State Heritage Area, the small group I was with repeatedly heard a bird call that we could not place. Instead of putting on my city lens and walking away without paying the event any mind, I decided to stop and look for the culprit. The wait between each call was a struggle with impatience, but after a couple of long minutes, we spotted this (most likely) osprey hanging out and yelling at us from about 50 meters away.

One of the first things that was pointed out to our group on a trip to Mt. Hebo was the existence of wild strawberries that grew practically everywhere around the visiting areas. The size of the berries surprised me at first, while I was not expecting full grocery store sized strawberries, the wild ones were no larger than a dime. Getting a decent photo of them took becoming uncomfortably familiar with the low lying plants in the area as I had to nearly lie down on top of them.

Wild berries have since lent themselves a much more central role in the free time we find ourselves, resulting in our crew planning our weekends around the optimal times to go collect more.

Queen Anne’s lace or poison hemlock? A question that was asked far too many times for anyone’s comfort on our trip to Cape Meares. I found myself noting the more subtle differences between the similar looking plants as we wandered. In an effort to take pictures of the flower with the prettier name that is markedly less poisonous, I ended up with over a dozen pictures of very similar looking flowers. In the end, this one was my favorite… and it is definitely poison hemlock.

At the end of the fourth week of the program, it still feels like there is so much to learn and do out here in the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. We are kept busy every day with new projects and fresh dirt, all of which offer new photographic opportunities on site. Photography offers a window to focus on a subject that can be as broad or specific as one’s own technology allows. In my case, preferring a longer lens forces me to consider more definite and distinct focal points, helping me slow down and take in the environment piece by piece. Each of those pieces has a story to tell, and I’m hoping to capture a single perspective of the massive narrative around me.

All photos are my own, taken with a Nikon D7100, and are unedited.

-Luke