Val's Blog - Nature Photography Day: She Called it a Cathedral
June 15th is designated as nature photography day by the North American Nature Photography Association “to promote the enjoyment of nature photography and to explain how images are used to advance the cause of conservation and protect plants, wildlife, and landscapes both locally and globally.”
Looking for the positive out of the terrible, a return to living closer to nature might be one unexpected consequence of the pandemic. Camping, hiking, and biking were often used as the antidote to the boredom of social isolation. Forced out of our usual routines, some of us rediscovered how powerful the experience of just being in nature can be.
Shinrin-yoku, or Forest Bathing, is a practice in Japan that advocates being immersed in nature for well-being.1 Immersion in nature can be as simple as a walk through a city park if done with a mindset of appreciation for the world around oneself and the inclination to absorb nature.
Nature photography day is a reminder that an appreciation of nature and the pursuit of photography can be a force of good for one’s own soul as well as global well-being.
I find that when I am in a photography frame of mind, I connect in a different but very powerful way with my surroundings through the lens of my camera. My perspective is different when I’m behind a camera. My view is much more focused and inclined toward an artistic view of the world. I see more narrowly the shadow of the limb, the bent stem of the wilting flower, the dappled sunlight across the forest floor – all with the goal of capturing it forever. Well, maybe that is my goal – it certainly seems like it would be. I’m not sure, though, because I can spend hours and hours capturing an image only to ignore it for years. I think I am more enthralled with the moment of capture than the result. Or perhaps it is my version of shinrin-yoku. Nature photography is a conduit to my “Calgon-take-me-away moment”. My forest bath is made easier through a different lens.
Although I sometimes purposely leave my camera at home, I do find that without my camera, I am more apt to feel the stone in my shoe. I find fulfillment in nature both with and without a camera in hand, but to be honest, the camera seems to be a shortcut to my forest bath.
As I write this post, my husband and I are on our first post-covid-vaccination vacation with friends. We brought our campers to a small farm in Northern Michigan owned by their mutual friends. My husband and I quickly made friends with the Michigan friends as we are inclined to do with amazingly warm and kind people. We have spent the last few days walking the white sand beaches of Lake Michigan and enjoying being outdoors with friends.
Our new friends, retired teachers, live in a nature lover’s dreamland – a 10-acre home carved out of a rugged nature-scape through hard work and a tender appreciation of their environment. We marveled at their flowers, herb gardens, and lilac bush filled with butterflies.
We hiked the back of their property and expressed our joy to our hosts at finding the last leg of the trail, along a beautiful meadow, was a long evergreen needle-strewn lane through towering pines.
“Oh, the cathedral! That was my favorite part of the property when I bought it.” Responded our host.
As we continued our exclamations, she declared that she had named that pine lane “the cathedral” as soon as she saw it, as it reminded her of the awe-inspiring cathedrals of Europe. She then added that the pines were planted in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps following a period of prolonged deforestation in northern Michigan.
She and her wife have spent over twenty years sculpting an amazing tribute to nature, interspersing their own artistic touches of wooden arbors, ceramic art, and homemade bird feeders through the cultivated and uncultivated grounds.
In the midst of the great depression, President Roosevelt had established the CCC’s as part of the New Deal to give meaningful employment to young men to improve public lands, forests, and parks. The projects were meant to save people and places. By renewing the earth around them, the young men not only received food to quell their hunger but purpose to fill their hearts.
As my husband and I wandered the property taking photos, discovering something new with every shot, our admiration grew of our hosts and the unknown young men who have been such wonderful stewards of nature.
1 Retrieved from https://time.com/5259602/japanese-forest-bathing/