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As far back as I can remember, I have loved nature and the outdoors. Growing up on my father's Arkansas farm, my friends and I were outside most of the time, exploring nearby woods and rivers, sometimes camping in an old canvas tent.
I also fell in love with traveling at an early age. My family traveled quite a bit. These weren't wilderness trips — my parents were more of the Holiday Inn persuasion — but we visited many national parks and wildlife refuges, exposing me to the deserts of Arizona, the mountains of Tennessee, and the marshes of Florida.
Finally, I have loved science since I was young. My uncle was a biologist, and he left a legacy to my family. Books. Lots and lots of books. Our house was full of them, on many topics, but it was the science books I read the most.
These loves — nature, traveling, and science — have been the backbone of my life, both personally and professionally. Periodically, they've intersected in a new undertaking: backpacking the Darién Gap rainforest between Panama and Columbia; joining a team studying atmospheric dispersion in the mountains of California; guiding rafts on the white-water rivers of the Appalachian wilderness.
Through it all, I have taken photos. Originally, I took photos merely as a record of what I was doing — snapshots. But I became increasingly interested in photography, coming to view it as an end in itself. Over time, I found myself, not taking photos while traveling, but traveling to take photos.
I suppose that isn't surprising. Photography — and nature photography in particular — does nicely involve all of my loves.
Actually, there is one more love in my life.
No discussion of my photography would be complete without mentioning my wife, Fiona. My companion on many photo-taking journeys, she loves animals and nature, and is a talented bird watcher. I owe many shots to her excellent spotting.
Like myself, Fiona is a traveler — we met on an extended overland trip across Africa. She's originally from Victoria, Australia, where she trained as a veterinarian. More recently, she earned a microbiology PhD at the University of Florida, where she now works.
The bulk of my work is nature photography, with a bit of travel and outdoor adventure photography mixed in. I consider my photos to be art, insomuch as I intend them to produce an emotional response. My goal is to create images that evoke the strong feelings — awe and fascination; humility, delight, and wonder — that nature evokes in me.
I'm a proponent of what might be called total-immersion nature photography — going out into the wilderness and spending time camping in the area I'm photographing. I consider tents to be as much a part of my photographic gear as cameras and lenses. When you live as part of your subject — sleep there, eat there, bathe there — you start seeing details that you just don't see when you visit for a few hours then return to town.
I view my photographs as works of art, and only display those that excite my inner artist — those that have both emotional and visual impact.
And yet, I also have an inner scientist, which can be just as passionate. My most memorable shoots, and my favorite photos, are those that excite me both artistically and scientifically. Spectacle without meaning has its place, but for me, a deeper level of enjoyment is had when I understand what I am looking at.
So, for those like-minded souls who are interested, I try to share a bit of the science behind my photos — what relation a railroad has to the color of the Great Salt Lake; why a gull might drop bits of wood onto a beach; how the viscosity of lava erupted millions of years ago can affect the choice of shutter speed when photographing a waterfall today.
For me, knowing how a subject relates to the wider world leads to a greater appreciation of both. It is hard to express this idea better than did Marcel Minnaert, in the preface to his 1937 book "Light and Color in the Outdoors".
Never think that the poetry of nature's moods in all their infinite variety is lost on the scientific observer, for the habit of observing refines our sense of beauty and adds a brighter hue to the richly colored background against which each particular fact is outlined. The connection between events and the relation between cause and effect in different parts of the landscape unite harmoniously what would otherwise be but a chain of unrelated scenes.
We have three cats: Brutus, Clyde, and Polly.
Polly is so named because she is polydactyl — she has extra toes on her front paws.
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