Yup that's me in the snow there. If you happen to live near Jackson Hole or frequent Yellowstone it wouldn't be a rare sight to see me hurdling sage brush with a giant 400mm lens trying to get in position to capture a shot. I often tell people that place is my second home and I intend to live there one day.
While the greater Yellowstone ecosystem is one of my favorite places in the world. I often frequent other National Parks in the US and Canada. Since my serious travels first began in 2012, I have visited at least 10 parks every year for lengths at a time. My friend Kirk of 23 years accompanied me on a lot of my trips. We would camp out for weeks, be up before the sun rose and still be photographing well into the night. Kirk loved to kid with people who often said our trips must be so relaxing with "Well yeah the trips are relaxing I guess but we don't sleep. We're making photographs 19 hours a day. We're working." I've never been the type of person to just go and sit in a park and read a book or something. I always have a camera with me and the most therapeutic thing I could possibly be doing is hearing that shutter click away at a scene.
Through our National Park trips, Kirk and I met people from around the country and around the world. A lot of the time it was because we were in ideal shooting locations with masses of people or conversations were struck up about the amount of cameras we were lugging around. Most of the time though, it was from people noticing the images that were loading up on the back of my camera screen. I'll never forget our trip to Bryce Canyon National Park in 2016. We were standing up at an area called Sunset Point. (Hence the name you can guess why myself and others gathered here for sunset.) As the sun began to set the hoodoos in the canyon came to life. They illuminated to a point that they almost looked as if they were glowing from within. I began firing off shots and bracketing HDR's at different angles through the canyon. Before long I noticed that a group of people began watching me and waiting to see the next image that was going to pop up on the screen. Then people began asking me questions. "How are you getting shots like that? What kind of camera are you using? Why can't I get my photos to look like that?" So I began telling people to set their cameras and tripods up closer to me. Camera bodies ranging from $300-$4000 all gathered. I walked quickly through their lens capabilities and showed them how to adjust their settings in full manual to achieve similar shots that I was creating. Some people didn't have tripods and others my Nikon knowledge was not at a level to explain their camera functions. In their cases I asked for their SD cards to put in my camera. I snapped a few pictures then gave it back to them. I was so surprised how grateful all of these people were. Some of them had been saving up for years and traveled from opposite ends of the Earth to visit the parks. Others had been to Utah before but never took home any photos that served the place justice.
Over the campfire that night Kirk and I recapped the day. I recalled my very first trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park. I had a very nice full frame DSLR accompanying me the whole time. I took thousands of pictures that trip and to this day I still cringe when I see a lot of them. At the time I had no idea how to shoot on full manual. I was just a point and shoot "photographer". I wished for years that I had some of the subjects and conditions of that trip to do over again. I couldn't imagine all of the people visiting the parks this year with no clue how to capture the essence of what they were experiencing.
I was a little used to the questions I experienced out in Bryce Canyon that year not because of any reputation as a nature photographer but because for the prior 4 years I had been training photographers for a worldwide event company. A lot of the new subcontractors that came in claimed to be professional photographers. Unfortunately, once they arrived they had a lot to learn about camera fundamentals. The events were held in harsh lighting conditions and they required a holistic sense of camera settings/equipment to achieve high quality photos. Being a self taught photographer training these incoming photographers came naturally to me. I explained photography the way I had really taught myself--Starting from a layman's perspective and moving towards a more technical aspect. Understanding your equipment is key. Photography does require an "eye" for truly unique images but even if you want to just document your trip and show family and friends what you were experiencing and feeling you need to know how to create that through the settings on your camera.
Theodore Roosevelt's quote on the North entrance of Yellowstone states "For the enjoyment and benefit of the people." I love everything about National Parks. I love everything about photography. I have collected over 1 million photographs today. It truly is my passion to capture and document the world. I hope that I can help people enjoy National Parks and help give them an outlet to express their experiences through photography.