Why Do I Photograph?

February 13, 2022

Every so often, someone will ask me a question. Sometimes it's just a general "Why do you like to photograph?" Other times it's more specific, such as "Why do you like to photograph landscapes?" Or the even more specific "why do you like to photograph (insert specific subject)?" The answer to all of those questions can be somewhat complicated, or it can be pretty simple, depending on how much I think the inquirer really wants to know the answer. I'm going to attempt to give you the full, unabridged answer here.

The Alaska Range towers above the landscape in Denali National Park at Wonder Lake.
Alaskan Majesty

The Alaska Range towers above the landscape in Denali National Park at Wonder Lake.

My Own Mental Health

The first part of the answer is very personal. I've previously written about research that shows that getting outside in nature makes people happier. There is also corresponding research that shows that looking at nature photographs also makes people happier. For most of my adult life, like many people, I've battled depression to one extent or another. It took me a long time to figure it out, but I finally realized that my excursions outside with my camera always left me feeling better than before I left, whether they be to a local beach, a nearby trail, or a road trip to one of the many national parks scattered across the country. So that answers why I choose to get outside and enjoy nature. Heck, lots of people have come to that same conclusion and get outside every chance they get as well. So... why photograph it?

The sky glows pink just before sunrise on Little Hunters Beach in Acadia National Park, Maine.
Sunrise on Little Hunters Beach

The sky glows pink in the early morning on Little Hunters Beach in Acadia National Park near Bar Harbor, Maine.

Well, why do we photograph anything? Usually, it's because we want to remember that moment, that scene, that vista. We want to remember the people we experienced that with. Pictures trigger memories for us. For myself, hanging my prints on the wall serves a dual purpose. First, it makes me happy. As I mentioned earlier, looking at nature photographs does that for people. Our brains react just like it does when we go outside. Second, my photography is personal for me. While it may not have this meaning to anyone else, for me, my photographs are a record of my life. Yes, I know I was standing on Little Hunters Beach (above), but I also recall that I was starting a new job at that time, that my children were waiting back at the cabin we were staying in, opting to sleep later and miss this gorgeous sunrise.

The sun rises behind sand dunes on Bodie Island, North Carolina in the Outer Banks.
OBX Sunrise

Limited Edition

The sun peeks between some clouds just after sunrise on Bodie Island in North Carolina's Outer Banks.
Large format wall art prints available.
Fine Art Limited Edition of 100 prints. A signed Certificate of Authenticity will be provided with each limited edition print purchased.

Interestingly, I find that others purchase my landscapes for similar reasons. For instance, my first sale of Maroon Bells II was to a woman who gifted it to her son and future daughter-in-law. They had gotten engaged the day before I made that photograph, in that location. This is my favorite reason to sell a print- because that print has triggered a happy memory for the buyer.

The view from the top of Gorham Mountain shows Otter Cliff in the distance on a foggy morning in Acadia National Park near Bar Harbor, Maine.
Gorham Mountain Autumn

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Gorham Mountain looks out on the Atlantic Ocean as Otter Cliff stands in the distance on an autumn morning in Acadia National Park near Bar Harbor, Maine.

Limited Edition of 100 prints. Each limited edition print includes a signed Certificate of Authenticity, mailed separately.

Environmental Concerns

Now, I'm far from being a tree-hugging hippie, at least on the surface. Honestly, I couldn't say whether my interest in environmental conservation came first, or my interest in landscape photography did. The fact is, one now feeds off of the other. Put simply, I'm afraid that one day, these beautiful places will be gone, or will simply no longer be beautiful. My photographing them is my way of preserving them. It is my way of trying to make people aware of their existence, their fragility, and their need to be protected.

I donate to several environmental causes when I am able. Some of my favorites are the Sierra Club, 4Ocean, and Parks Project. Ultimately, I believe we should all help however we feel is best. When I'm out photographing, I try hard to adhere to the principle of "Leave No Trace". A favorite saying I have is "Take only pictures. Leave only footprints. Kill only time." Ideally, I'd like it if the only evidence I was ever in a place was the photograph hanging on the wall.

 red and pink just before dawn at Marshall Point Lighthouse in Port Clyde, Maine.
Sailor Take Warning

Marshall Point lighthouse awakens to a brilliant, fiery sunrise, as the sky glows with a radiant blend of red and orange hues. The lighthouse stands tall and proud, its white tower standing out against the vibrant sky. The colonial revival keeper's house, located in the background, adds a touch of history to the scene. Its classic architectural design, complete with a red roof and white walls, is a reminder of the maritime heritage of Port Clyde. The combination of the brilliant sky, the sturdy lighthouse, and the charming keeper's house creates a serene and picturesque image that transports the viewer to a peaceful coastal setting.

A Love of History

Ever since I was a child, I've always been interested in history. Growing up in New Jersey, the "Crossroads of the American Revolution", I quickly became enamored of the history around me. Random houses with plaques stated "George Washington slept here". As I've traveled more around the country, historic subjects have often caught my eye. The various lighthouses in the places I've grown up or traveled to or lived in have long held my interest. What was the keeper's life like? What caused the lighthouse to be placed here? What kind of drama had unfolded on this coastline? What heroic acts took place? Lighthouses are picturesque, yes, but for me, it's the historic importance that really draws me.

A covered bridge in northern Maine on a misty autumn morning.
Autumn at Bennet Bean Bridge

A cool mist hangs in the mountains near Wilsons Mill, Maine at Bennett Bean Bridge. Bennett Bean Bridge is a Paddleford truss bridge built in 1898 across the Magalloway River.

The same holds true for old mills, covered bridges, one-room schoolhouses, cabins, you name it. They all recall days gone by. They all make intriguing subjects, not only for the questions they raise, and for their significance a hundred years ago, but also for the reasons they still stand today, either as a monument to days gone by, or a still-used element of the community.

Hodgson Mill near Dora, Missouri.
Hodgson Water Mill

Constructed in 1897, Hodgson Water Mill sits on Bryant Creek in Ozark County, Missouri. It's pictured here on a spring afternoon.

Just So I Can Show You

The last reason why I photograph is quite simple. So I can show you what I see. What I find interesting. What I find beautiful. Not everyone will care. Not everyone will see the beauty I do. But I take joy in those who do. When I met my wife, I'm not sure she'd ever watched a sunrise before. I'm not sure she'd ever noticed one. But now she always tells me she notices the color as she's driving to work in the morning. She may be just showing a bit of favoritism, but she tells me she never noticed before she met me, before I showed her my photographs. Others have mentioned that they enjoy my photography because they get to see places they've never been or that they may never get to go. Maybe this is selfish, but it makes me happy to know I've been able to show them that.

A one room schoolhouse at sunset.
The One-Room Schoolhouse

Maple Ridge Schoolhouse, a throwback to days long past, catches the brilliant setting sun through its windows on a spring evening in Harrison, Maine. You can't help but be touched by the beauty of the quiet moment painted here. The schoolhouse stands alone in a grassy field, while the setting sun casts a warm orange hue over the landscape, a reminder of simpler days before technology took over our lives. The view is pure and peaceful and one can't help but feel a sense of timelessness.

So these are the reasons why I photograph, and why I choose the subjects I do. I assume if you've read this far, you enjoy my work, so I'd love it if you left a comment below telling me which photo is your favorite, and why. Thanks for reading!

Glade Creek Grist Mill on an autumn day in West Virginia.
Glade Creek Grist Mill

Standing as a monument to other West Virginia mills that once dotted the area, Glad Creek Grist Mill was constructed from parts of three other grist mills, and completed in 1976. The vivid autumn reds, oranges and yellows of the surrounding trees frame the picturesque mill, giving it an air of warmth and mystery. Sitting atop the hill, the mill is a striking sight, its rustic structure recalling days long past in the morning light. With the creek gently rolling by, the scenery is completed with a gentle, soothing murmur of the falls.

An old shack sits among the sand dunes at sunset on Cape Cod.
Solitude in the Dunes

Limited Edition

Set amongst the dunes near Provincetown, Massachusetts, dune shacks like this one began popping up in the early 20th century as a retreat for artists and creatives to rejuvenate on Cape Cod.

Limited Edition of 100 prints.

Buoys and rope litter the dock in Friendship Harbor, Maine as the sun rises on a summer morning.
Buoys and Line

Limited Edition

The rising sun bathes Friendship Harbor, Maine, in a warm glow as vibrantly painted lobster buoys and rope lay strewn on the wooden dock. Lobster boats wait, anchored in the harbor's waters glistening with the orange and tangerine reflections of the morning light on this summer morn.

Available as a Fine Art Limited Edition of 100 prints, which includes a signed Certificate of Authenticity with serial number. COA will be shipped separately.

A man feeds the seagulls from an Art Deco lifeguard tower on Miami's South Beach at sunrise.
Morning Ritual

A man stands on an art deco lifeguard tower, silhouetted against the stunning oranges and pinks of the sunrise coming over South Beach. He is feeding pieces of bread by hand to a flock of seagulls that seem to float in the air around him, while the glint of the morning light on the small waves rolling in can be seen in the distance. This was one of those special moments that happen when you least expect it. I was photographing the sunrise when this gentleman climbed the stairs to the lifeguard tower and began feeding the seagulls. The birds flocked to him. Silhouetted against the dawn sky, it was a magical instant in time I was glad to be able to capture.

Posted in About Rick and tagged reason, passion, environment, .