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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The More Things Change...

Although his techniques and tools evolve, Edgar Callaert’s drive to explore the American landscape remains constant

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Washo Reserve, Nature Conservancy Santee Coastal Reserve, McClellanville, S.C.

As a young boy, Edgar Callaert's family traveled constantly. He had lived on three continents by the age of nine, and he never resided anywhere for more than three years before he settled down in Mill Valley, Calif., a few decades ago. Since then, his suburban San Francisco location has served not only as a home base for a few long photo trips each year, but also as an ideal place for exploration.

"I got to Marin County and never left," he says. "It's a natural paradise so close to so many more. It's so beautiful and has such a diverse landscape, it's easy to keep the creative juices flowing—rain forests, crashing waves and parched golden hills all within about 20 miles of each other. Sometimes it's a sensory overload, but there's enough monotonous office work and Photoshop time to balance it all out."

Sunset, Bolinas Ridge, Mount Tamalpais State Park, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Marin County, Calif.
Callaert says his early travel instilled his wanderlust. Wherever he lived, there always was one reassuring constant: nature.

"Being comfortable early in life with many different settings and with a wide range of people made it all easy and rewarding, and still does," he explains. "Always being the new kid on the block makes you independent and self-reliant. These are very useful traits for my extensive trips. I still do about three long four- to six-week trips a year to whatever spot sounds good. It's like Steve McQueen said: 'I'd rather wake up in the middle of nowhere than in any city on earth.'"

Callaert has seen the world, but it's the western United States he holds closest to heart. Rather than confess to one favorite locale, though, he says he has developed preferences instead for favorite types of terrain and landscape elements.

"The features that draw me most," he says, "are when combinations exist—diverse elements in one scene, things that tie a place together and give it dimension—when things are more than the sum of their parts, when a bit of good luck adds to it all. Lucky fog banks, calm lakes that produce perfect reflections, unpredictable sun rays in the right place.

"I also look for some dynamic," Callaert adds. "Movement, tension, curvature—a flow. What I want more than anything is an image I can't go back and reproduce. I want it to have a uniqueness, a one-time-only feel. I actually do look for that 'one-in-a-million' image, but it's so rare. I think I make photographs more for myself to capture these moments and to be able to relive them. Sometimes long Photoshop sessions become reveries."

An image of rolling hills and wildflowers represents this extraordinary good fortune for Callaert, as the light changed literally by the second. Only through a combination of dogged perseverance, preparation and good luck are images like this possible.


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