I am pleased that Joshua Tree National Park and Jeff Sinon were both mentioned in this challenge. I happen to be fans of both! And of Wilderness, of course. (There’s a page dedicated to Wilderness above – please take a look!)
Landscape has been an inspiration for me from a very young age. My father used to take me for walks in the Morton Arboretum in the far western Chicago suburbs. I was overjoyed to be set free running across open expanses of rolling lawn dotted with dandelions and trees. Suburban landscapes are quite domestic, though. I longed for something wilder.
I would stare out my second floor bedroom window towards the west, imagining that the frontier started just beyond the GAR Memorial Forest Preserve and the Des Plaines river. I finally learned that there were just more suburbs on the other side. Then, when I was 10, we went to Colorado to visit my cousins, and I saw a mountain for the first time. It was like all the magic of a fairy tale come true, more majesty than I could take in with my arms spread wide and my feet clambering tirelessly upward!
When I was 14, we moved to California, and I discovered a diversity of landscapes to love – the shore, the deserts, the redwood forests, the foothills and the Sierras.
By my 30th birthday, I had moved back to the Midwest to raise my four children in a less dramatic but safer environment. I fell in love again with the prairie.
But Wilderness calls me to the North Woods and the West whenever I can travel, and these landscapes are the ones I want to photograph with more care and passion (and better equipment!) in the future.
This is my passion. Landscapes – wide open spaces, gently rolling hills, big sky. When I was a little girl, my family went on outings to places like the Morton Arboretum. We would follow a walking path and come upon an open field of dandelions or daffodils, and I simply couldn’t contain myself. I would take off running, cartwheeling, spinning and singing….like Julie Andrews in the opening shots of “The Sound of Music”. Freedom and joy as big as all outdoors is the feeling that landscapes give me. I have met a few expert landscape photographers on the blog scene. They go above and beyond (literally) to get spectacular shots. I am not likely to be up at 3am to climb a snowy peak. I take my camera where I’m going and shoot the scenes that present themselves. I am still picking up techniques for making those shots more compelling. One is to have something really interesting in the foreground:
It’s more challenging to get depth and interest in a scene without those things. Of course, equipment plays a part. I don’t use a tripod; I don’t have a special lens. I end up with more flat, snapshot-type scenes. They’re missing a bit of drama, I suppose. Something to work on.
“Look wider still” was a slogan used by the Girl Scouts and Girl Guides in the 70s for their program curriculum. My mother was a leader at that time and this phrase stuck with her. She connected it to all sorts of insights and still does, even now when she is just about to become an octogenarian. I’ve always thought of this phrase as it relates to the way I am stimulated and entranced by a panoramic view. As a very young girl, I loved looking at a spreading seascape or landscape. I was born in Massachusetts, grew up in Illinois, vacationed in Michigan at a beach cottage, and then lived in California for 15 years. My personal panoramas are waves on the horizon, infinite prairies and fields, and vast mountain ranges. These always make me feel that there is a bigger picture. My anxieties are founded in the smaller loops of stress and the claustrophobia that comes from forgetting to look up. The best way to look wider, to look up, to get a healthier perspective, is to climb to the top of something. James Taylor might suggest going up on a roof, but I prefer to be in a natural setting. Up there, I feel calmer, more peaceful, like I belong to something bigger, more ancient and more durable. There my petty problems fade away, and I breathe easier.
© 2014, essay and photographs, Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved