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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

The land trust contacted me, requesting that I photograph the area and provide photographs for their fundraising brochure. I jumped at the chance to help in whatever small way I could contribute to the effort. I was granted access to the property and was able to photograph it numerous times, which resulted in a collection of images I donated to the land trust. These images then were used in a large fundraising campaign that educated the public about the biological diversity of the ranch and its scenic values. My photographs of the ranch also were published in numerous newspapers, magazines and online stories about the effort. One of the images, "Summer Sunset, Martis Valley," became a successful fine-art print that sells well at our gallery in Truckee. I've been rewarded many times over for my pro bono work for the land trust. The best part of this story is that the fundraising campaign was successful and the ranch is now permanently protected open space. This is an area that will be protected habitat for many species and will be an important recreational and scenic resource for future generations.
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.
I know there are many other scenarios like this playing out around our country, not to mention the rest of our planet. If you're looking to develop an audience for your landscape photography, and to make a lasting contribution through your work, I encourage you to think local. Become familiar with the scenic landscapes unique to your community. If these aren't publicly accessible, maybe you can arrange access with the property owners in exchange for giving them a framed print of the scenery you photograph. Contact your local land trust or environmental group and see if they need photographs of an area they're working to preserve. You'll be able to make an important contribution to their efforts in addition to developing an audience for your work and getting valuable exposure in publications. Make sure all published images are accompanied by your byline and website address.

When photographing a new area, look for interesting foreground elements that lead into a scenic backdrop. A great recipe for this is to use wildflowers or other natural features such as grasses or creeks in the foreground, and use the evening sunset or morning sunrise light to give color to the sky in the background. Always think in terms of making an image have depth—that's what separates a snapshot from a photograph. Make the effort to get to these locations at the magic hours of dusk and dawn (with your split ND filters and tripod, of course!). Even if there are no "threatened landscapes" in your area, creating photographs of your local landscapes is a great way to share the beauty of your corner of the world with your community. They will appreciate it, and you will grow your audience.

Many landscape photographers want to focus only on the "big-game" locations—places such as the Tetons, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon. These are all wonderful and inspiring locations to photograph; however, don't overlook the scenic treasures in your own communities. Your local landscapes need your photographic talents!

You can see more of Elizabeth Carmel's photography by visiting her websites, elizabethcarmel.com and thecarmelgallery.com. Workshop information is available at elizabethcarmel.com.


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