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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Think Locally

Inspiring photographs help a community save a landscape in danger of being lost to development

Martis Valley, Sierra Nevada, Calif. This image helped raise awareness and funds to save undeveloped land near Elizabeth Carmel's home.

I've been reading Outdoor Photographer long before I ever entertained the dream of being a landscape photographer. This magazine has helped me learn valuable photographic techniques, develop an eye for good photography and inspire me to become a full-time nature photographer. I'm looking forward now to making my contribution to educating and, hopefully, inspiring readers of this iconic publication.

I've always enjoyed photography since my teenage years, and I became more devoted to photography when digital photography began to hit the mainstream about 12 years ago. My first digital camera was a 2-megapixel Nikon Coolpix (I don't know what happened to it; I wish I still had it!). My husband Olof and I invested in a large-format Epson printer, almost on a whim, and lo and behold, people showed interest in buying our newly created prints. Fast-forward 11 years and many technological advances later, and we're both full-time landscape photographers selling fine-art prints out of our own gallery in Truckee, California.

Through this column, I'll share many of the insights and lessons I've learned on my rapidly developing and often intense climb to success along this difficult career path. My inaugural column focuses on my philosophy of photographing and protecting the beautiful places that can inspire us in our own communities. As I write this column, I'm thinking about my hometown of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, which was heavily damaged by a tornado on April 27, 2011. While most of my photographic career has evolved in the Western U.S., I have fond memories of the beautiful forests and rivers in Alabama. I've been meaning to take a trip to photograph the rare Cahaba lilies that bloom in a river near Tuscaloosa in the spring—I hope they still bloom after the devastation. While such a loss pales in comparison to the loss of human life, the recent tornado highlights for me how fragile these landscapes can be and how fleeting our time is to appreciate them.

Calling all photographers with a keen eye for beautiful landscape shots bathed in the glow of magic hour—your local landscapes need you!

In our increasingly crowded and developed world, the few remaining swaths of natural land are often under extreme pressure from encroaching urban development. That has been the case for many years in my own community of Truckee, which is located amidst the huge attractions of world-class ski resorts and scenic Lake Tahoe.

As landscape photographers, we're in a unique position to bring attention to these threatened areas in our own backyards and to work with organizations that are working to protect the most ecologically sensitive areas in our communities. The general public sometimes isn't aware of the natural treasures in its midst. Often, local nonprofit groups such as land trusts and environmental organizations are the only barrier between the long-term protection of a sensitive natural area and its conversion to suburbia.

A few years ago in my community, a 1,400-acre ranch full of biologically diverse high Sierra ecosystems was planned for a luxury home development, complete with a golf course in the wetlands and development up to the shores of the property's small lake. Our local land trust, the Truckee Donner Land Trust, was working to raise the funds to purchase the land from the developers in order to preserve this pristine natural habitat. A pitched battle erupted between developers and conservationists. Eventually, the developers agreed to sell the property to the land trust if they could raise the $23.5 million purchase price.


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