Erin from The Familiar Wilderness takes stunning photos of the world around her. I didn’t invite Erin just because of her skill in photography or her eye for catching something interesting and beautiful, but because Erin’s perspective of the nature at her doorstep is always inspiring to me. Here’s Erin on nature, photography, and why she does what she does.
I’m a good noticer — such a good noticer that I’m a bit of a pain to hike with. On a typical day, I might see twenty stunning things to stop and look at within a hundred feet of trail. I’m often yards away from anybody, with no one close to share my discoveries. So I started aiming a camera at the things that caught my attention: swamp azalea blossoms, earth star funguses, flocking butterflies, and so much more.
Nature is the real artist. I just try to capture and share the coincidences of colors, patterns, light, life cycles, ecosystems, and environments that happen regardless of whether people are around to appreciate them. Each flower or fungus reminds me that, no matter how many times I walk a trail or open my front door, the backyard or neighborhood park that seems so familiar is just as much a wilderness to explore as the most remote destinations. And cheaper. Budget safari, anyone?
When I started shooting photographs, I used what I had — a pocket-sized Canon point-and-shoot. It does the trick. I’ve taken at least half the photos posted on my blog with that camera. My understanding of photography, and the capabilities of my “equipment” were limited in the beginning, so I focused on things I could handle: composition, contrast, light, color. Over time, I developed a more sophisticated idea of how I wanted my pictures to look, and eventually I picked up a big, bad DSLR. Gaining that refined control, and learning how to use it, has gotten me much closer to being able to share my discoveries the way I see them.
As a kid, most of my encounters with nature happened on paper. I read the encyclopedia. I read Ranger Rick Magazine. I burned through my grandmother’s stack of National Geographic Magazines. I have a lot of old facts hanging around in my memory, waiting to get attached to real life experiences. So sometimes when I’m snooping, I have an idea of what I’m looking at. Just as often though, I can only narrow it down to Animal, Vegetable, or Fungus. Then I use my pictures for reference and remembering, and identify what I find with the help of my shelf of field guides and the power of the Internet.
There will always be more and different and better pictures for me to take. There will always be more species and phenomena to know and find. The light, weather, and season will never be the same twice, and I’ll never exhaust the places I can explore. And, as a photographer, I can always improve my technique, skills, and speed. I just keep going outside, camera in hand, and every time I shoot and snoop, I get better as a photographer and a naturalist.
But the best thing I’ve learned so far is this: The more walks and photos I take, the more I love where I am. The more I love it, the more I want to take care of it. And that’s one of the coolest things I think you can get from a picture.
Thanks so much for sharing with us, Erin!
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