"Natural" is relative.

I describe my images as "natural landscapes." As such, one might expect that my goal is to capture places of natural beauty that are pure and unaffected by humans, to hold them up as an example of what we need to protect and why we ought to protect it. To a point, that is true. I do try to get off the beaten path, away from traffic, development and other people, and commune with nature on its own terms, as best I can. I then try to capture these experiences, photographically, to share them with others. However, regrettably, there is now no place on Earth that can claim to be pure and completely unaffected by humans, conditions which most people seem to associate with the state of being "natural." So "natural" is a relative term. Therefore, what I try to do is capture the kinds of experiences I have in places where human influences or artifacts are not readily apparent. On the other hand, as with this image, I will occasionally photograph places where the presence of humans might be apparent, but the story will still be about nature. Other examples of this are Image #9173 and #0032.

To put a finer point on it, my intent is not so much to show pure, perfect, unadulterated nature as it is to illuminate the relationship between humans and nature. I do this not by showing people in "natural" settings -- which would be too literal for my purposes, and would tend to "date" the images (because of clothing, hair styles, etc.) -- but by creating images about natural subjects and places composed in such a way as to imply the presence of a human who is aware of and sensitive to his surroundings. When I compose an image (by choosing a certain lens, locating the camera in a specific spot and aiming it in a particular direction), I create certain relationships among the visual elements I choose to include in the image. Although photographs are often seen as capturing objective reality, their expressiveness, which is in part the product of those relationships, is highly subjective. Those relationships exist more in my eye and my brain than they do in nature. This is not nature, per se; it is nature as perceived by a human.

I should also say that I intend this particular image to be more than a picture of a tree; it is a picture about a tree. I am telling a story about the tree, as I perceive it. And that story is, in part, about the relationship between the tree and humans. The meaning I give to the tree is determined to a large extent by its context, and I try to include in the image just enough of the main subject's context to convey that meaning. The act of telling a story in a photograph involves intensive visual editing, which is highly subjective. But this is the art of photography. By virtue of the fact that no place is completely isolated from human influence, it is appropriate and informative to consider nature in relation to humans, either explicitly or implicitly. We humans are as "natural" as anything else, though we sometimes consider ourselves apart from nature, or even in control of nature. But the truth is that every component of the Web of Life evolved from the same materials and forces -- everything that is, is made of stardust. Therefore, we should acknowledge and celebrate the fact that we are an integral part of nature. I try to do that implicitly through my images.