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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Mid-Atlantic Wild!

From lawyer to naturalist, Ian Plant is now living the dream

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Mid Atlantic Wild: Tundra Swans
Although he originally settled in the area to practice law, photographer Ian Plant now dedicates his talents to capturing the beauty of the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. Tundra swans, Potomac River, Virginia.

To reach Smith Island, Maryland, from the mainland, nature photographer Ian Plant must navigate a kayak across the Chesapeake Bay for eight miles. While calm seas and blue skies yield an uneventful and rather rapid crossing, it also means a lackluster opportunity for powerful photography. He sets up camp on a remote beach and waits for something better in the morning.

Much to his chagrin, cloudy skies and heavy winds greet him the next morning.

The bay waters churn and pound against the shore. But Plant must move on and cross another six miles of open water to reach his next island destination. He endures the full force of a late October squall, complete with four-foot waves crashing over his kayak. Progress is slow and uncertain, but after several hours of nerve-wracking paddling, Plant struggles ashore at a spot suitable for camping. Within moments, the wind dissipates and the clouds break apart. The light is spectacular, and Plant grabs his camera gear and begins photographing.

The golden light of sunset shifts to the pastel hues of dusk. As remnants of the storm drift by, its tailing edge paints reddish-gold reflections in the now calm waters. The scene lasts for only a moment, but that's enough time for Plant to photograph. Persistence, patience, a reliable kayak and strong arms all play a role in helping him capture the memory.

Mid Atlantic Wild: Great Egret
A great egret, sunrise, Chincoteague National Wildlife Reserve, Virginia.
Such is a day photographing for Ian Plant, one of the emerging talents in nature photography. Plant is quickly gaining both a well-deserved reputation from the public for his stirring images and a deep respect from his colleagues. To date, Plant's six books, which include Shenandoah: Wonder and Light, West Virginia: Wonder and Light, Maryland: Wonder and Light and, his most recent release, Chesapeake: Bay of Light, have celebrated the extraordinary beauty of a region of the United States often ignored. But more on that later.

Mid-Atlantic Wild
It’s where Plant focuses his work that sets him apart. He's one of only a handful of professional nature photographers who primarily centers on the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States.

"It happened by accident‚" recalls Plant. "I settled here for my legal career, but I soon discovered the region has plenty of beautiful natural areas‚ from the ephemeral barrier islands of the Atlantic Coast to the thundering rapids of the Great Falls of the Potomac River to the endless ridges of the Blue Ridge Mountains. And the concentration of wildlife in the area is astounding. The Mid-Atlantic has a staggering array of biodiversity."

And while the Mid-Atlantic is within reach of nearly two-thirds of the American population, Plant has successfully avoided the crowds.

"That's the great thing about photographing in the East," he says. "There are still many areas that haven't been overshot, so it's easier to find a fresh perspective than in some of the popular parks out West."

Venturing into the backcountry also helps Plant stay fresh and away from the crowds. Backpacking and kayaking are his primary modes for getting into the region's remote corners.


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