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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Solitude Is Bliss


Kurt Budliger creates peaceful landscapes in the uncharted territory around his New England home

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A carpet of colorful aspen leaves, northern Vermont. Canon EOS-1D Mark III, EF 24-70mm ƒ/2.8L, polarizer
"It's a hard place to photograph," Budliger says, "no doubt about it. That's partly because [the Northeast] does not have those grand icons. It's about nooks and crannies. You get down in these little river valleys and you can't see very far—it's maybe a mile or two across the valley—and you're in the woods and a lot of times it's cloudy. And if you want a big sunrise or sunset sky, you've got to get up high or you've got to get out by the lake or in a big open valley. It definitely requires you to put in the time to find the spot.

"You could come here and take a lot of postcard shots," he continues, "like the white steeple church and a farm field full of cows, but a lot of those shots, to me, are just too simple. They're not all that intricate. I really like things that are simple, but also have a level of complexity, a level of refinement, that's a little bit above what you see in tourist magazines. I like to challenge myself to shoot something a little different, so maybe it's not what the average tourist will see when they come here."

Though it's not Budliger's focus, the New England countryside is heavily influenced by the hand of man. Those working farms and white steeple churches have crowded out untouched land, but pristine landscapes do exist. Wild places abound. They're just not vast open spaces. A born naturalist, Budliger constantly works to refine his vision and find simple, subtle, natural beauty.
I photograph what I've chosen to focus my attention on," he says. "I think my background as a naturalist informs the way I shoot. I spend a lot of time simply observing nature. I've always felt a great sense of calm and peace when I'm in nature, and I think that resonates in my work.
"I photograph what I've chosen to focus my attention on," he says. "I think my background as a naturalist informs the way I shoot. I spend a lot of time simply observing nature. I've always felt a great sense of calm and peace when I'm in nature, and I think that resonates in my work. I want my images to convey a sense of place and allow the viewer to enter the scene and have something to explore and get lost in for a while."


Clearing storm and peak foliage, Seyon Pond, Groton State Forest, Vermont. Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF 17-40mm ƒ/2.8L, polarizer, 2-stop grad ND
Adds Budliger, "I may notice things that many people would pass right by. I may overlook a rundown farm, but then I see the pattern on the edge of forest—the way the mix of red maple and sugar maple might be or the new spring green in a farm field. I spend a lot of time exploring and looking for those things, especially when the light or the atmosphere or the season is just right."

One of his favorite indicators that the time might be just right is when it recently has stopped raining. The moisture from a recent downpour—in the air and on the land—tends to create exactly the working environment Budliger covets. Water turns light in the landscape into something magical.

"I'm so drawn to water," he says. "I shoot in and around water all the time. It's my favorite thing to photograph. There's something calming, something peaceful about it. In Vermont, there are more days when you can go and photograph in and around a stream than there are days when you're going to get some kind of beautiful, dramatic sky. We get a lot of cloudy, overcast, drizzly days, especially in the fall and spring. So I just find I can spend more time shooting and less time driving and looking and waiting for light if I go and sit by the stream.

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