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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Capturing The Land

Scenic master George Ward gives insight into his passion for photography and how he keeps his vision fresh

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This Article Features Photo Zoom

Detail of ancient bristlecone pine, The Snake Range, Nevada
Toyo 4x5, Nikkor 135mm, Gitzo tripod, 4 sec. at ƒ/45

Aspens above the Dolores River, San Juan National Forest, Colorado
Arca-Swiss 4x5, Nikkor 240mm, Gitzo tripod, 2 sec. at ƒ/45
Having photographed the American West for more than 20 years, George Ward’s images have become a familiar sight on Outdoor Photographer’s pages along with many other periodicals. Bringing the beauty of North America to our fingertips, Ward uses his photographs to open people’s eyes to what’s in their own “backyards,” with a fresh perspective that always conveys his love of nature. A self-taught photographer, he shares what he has learned over the years, including how he makes the best of his time in the field and how he stays inspired through all of the changes in imaging technology.

George Ward was 33 years old when he first picked up a camera in a meaningful way. Having grown up as a surfer from the age of 13, the seashore always has had a magnetic effect on him. The pivotal moment came when he awoke one morning and drove to the shore well before sunrise. Looking down, he saw millions of tiny multicolored stones in the sand and was compelled to photograph them. So he drove home, found the Nikon FE and 105mm ƒ/2.5 Nikkor lens that a friend had given him years ago and became obsessed with nature photography.

Experiences like hearing the bark and wail of coyotes, the high-pitched cry of elk in rut and the deeply satisfying call of sandhill cranes—a wild noise that simultaneously combines a rattling sound with a soulfully hoarse voice—filled him with creative inspiration.

Tufa formations along the shore of Mono Lake at dawn, Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area, California
Nikon D700, AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm ƒ/2.8G ED at 38mm, Gitzo tripod, 1/10 sec. at ƒ/11
“I’m also moved by wonderful images wherever I find them,” Ward says. “My attention is drawn to images of nature with very minimal or no alteration of what was apparently in front of the camera. With millions of images uploaded to Facebook each day, we’re clearly in the post-film era, and there are many special showcases for a magical image to show up.”

Ward believes compelling outdoor imagery always combines some kind of personal connection to nature and skillful technique.

“The former seems to be a form of grace,” he says, “the latter an act of will.”

Staying Fresh
To keep his passion for photographing nature fresh, Ward puts himself in situations that keep him feeling connected, such as waking up at 4 a.m. to get as far out into the wild as possible to re-live all of the sensations that inspired him in the first place. Before sunrise is his favorite time of day as the air is usually still and the smell is sweet, he says. To Ward, the will to get away from city life, with just a camera in tow, is as essential to becoming a good photographer as working on technique or acquiring new equipment.


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