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Friday, August 1, 2008

From News To Nature

A landscape great turns his eye on the Grand Canyon

This Article Features Photo Zoom

A scene from Marble Viewpoint at dawn looking eastward toward Navajo Mountain in the background. Images is Dykinga’s ninth nature advocacy book. He says that raising awareness about conservation issues and causes is the highest calling of nature photography. His photography was instrumental in establishing Mexico’s Sierra Alamos National Park, a United Nations Biosphere Reserve, and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah.
A number of laws have passed and programs put in place to protect and restore the Grand Canyon. Just this past February and March, volunteers helped to remove one of the most aggressive, invasive plant species. Nearby power plants are now required to place scrubbers in smokestacks to reduce pollution, and fences have gone up along the park boundaries to keep out cattle and reduce waste.

Dykinga’s ability to take pictures that evoke a sense of wonder, yet are based on fact has made him a favorite of numerous publications, including Arizona Highways (the publisher of Images), Audubon, Harper’s, National Geographic and OP. He has said that advocacy is the driving force behind his photography, leading him to publish nine books that mostly draw attention to the western part of the United States and Mexico.

In the field, he carries two 4x5 Arca-Swiss F-Field cameras, a Wista DX2 4x5 camera, three Gitzo carbon-fiber tripods and Really Right Stuff ballheads. He uses an assortment of Fujinon, Nikon, Rodenstock and Schneider Optics lenses that range from 58mm to 720mm. In total, he packed some 50 to 60 pounds of equipment into a Four Wheel Camper, which was mounted to his Toyota 4x4.

The catalyst for his switch from news to nature was twofold: a climb up Mount Rainier while doing a photo essay on a middle-aged man pursuing his dream and an article in Backpacker magazine by Gary Braasch on Philip Hyde, who was working to create national parks with the Sierra Club. Years later, Dykinga met Hyde who later served as his mentor.

Dykinga’s Tips
About five million people visit the Grand Canyon every year, and most probably go with cameras in tow. So how do you capture such an iconic landmark? Jack Dykinga shares some advice:

1 Slow down and become a student of light.
2 Commit to a composition and wait for the magic.
3 Don’t try to show the whole canyon—you simply can’t.
4 Avoid the images others have done.
5 Be content to just be there.
6 Best place: in spite of the tourists—Cape Royal on the North Rim.
“At different times, different issues sort of rattle my cage,” he says. “My journalism background serves me well because I immediately create a narrative. A lot of photographers don’t do that, but I start with a concept to get people’s attention.”

Over the years, he has turned his lens on the Texas-Mexico border, showing the biological richness and diversity of protected areas along the Rio Grande River corridor, the Arizona desert and the Sonoran Desert, which stretches from Arizona and California into Mexico. He serves on the board of the Sonoran Desert National Park Project, an effort to create a binational park on the border of Arizona and Sonora, Mexico. His striking images were instrumental in creating Mexico’s Sierra Alamos National Park, a United Nations Biosphere Reserve, and Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

“This is such a powerful medium for affecting change,” Dykinga concludes. “Transforming the way people view things is the highest calling of nature photography.”

To see more of Jack Dykinga’s images, visit www.dykinga.com.

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