The good folks at Long Island Photo Gallery asked me to write a blog post and share the story of my experience creating “Seeking Serenity – the True Nature of Long Island”. The book includes over 250 original images and takes the reader on a photographic journey of discovery encompassing seventy-five locations spanning more than 25,000 acres of exceptional natural beauty. I may be just a tiny bit biased, but I think it should be in every home on the Island.
So my story begins way back in 2010. I had just finished a hard day and was having a few drinks with a colleague and I said: “all I really wanted to do is quit my job as a management consultant and go off into the woods and take pictures for The Nature Conservancy”. As fate would have it, my colleague happened to be a TNC trustee and she made that introduction possible. That, in turn, set me on a path that would define my future direction as a nature photographer.
Up to this point, my photography was a part-time pursuit but always had an overarching mission to “advocate for preservation by using the power of the visual image to create greater awareness and to stimulate increased protection of our natural environment”.
Now I had an opportunity to focus my efforts and that led me to the idea for a project to provide a photographic collection of the Conservancy’s sixteen preserves on Long Island. I didn’t want to make this a scientific pursuit but rather an artistic one that endeavored to capture the unique energy and personality of these serene Long Island landscapes. My hope was that the viewer would “experience” these places and connect to our local environment on a deeper emotional level. So off into the woods I went.
The years passed and with each new location the body of work grew and with each new discovery, my appreciation for the beauty of this Island deepened. So I continued to seek out and photograph beautiful, serene, places. In the winter of 2015, I did finally walk away from my corporate job and ramped up my photography work and became involved with other conservation organizations.
Fast forward to the spring of 2018 when another conversation sowed the seeds that motivated the book. It came about with what seemed a simple question that went something like this. Is it still possible to experience serene, natural, unspoiled places to enjoy in solitude on Long Island? The assumption being, how can this be possible in such a busy suburban area amongst millions of people. While I knew that the answer was yes I wondered to what degree it was actually possible?
I began to organize my work and found my portfolio included close to one hundred places like this (guess I spend a bunch of time in the woods). We are in fact blessed with a network of federal, state, county, town, and private preserves, sanctuaries, parks, arboretums, and beaches – the possibilities seem almost endless. I think what surprised me most was how many people are unaware of this. In this, I saw an opportunity to share my work.
I began to do research and found Long Island books about biking and hiking, kayaking and canoeing, about towns and villages, about the north and south forks about historic places, wineries, and tourist spots but few providing a visual perspective of our many serene, tranquil and inspirational natural places. I decided my book would say little in the text but would let each of these places speak for themselves through my imagery with the hope that the viewer might page slowly, linger awhile, step into the scenes, let their minds wander and feel a connection.
The book came together in February and the early feedback has been very positive. I decided to go the self-publishing route initially so I could get direct feedback and make adjustments. The first printing of twenty copies sold out in two days and that’s encouraging. For the time being, social distancing has slowed things but I have used the time to create three spinoffs from the original book to appeal to specific audiences. The overall experience has been a rewarding one and I have found that my photography skills could, in fact, be put to use as a powerful tool to engage, communicate and educate people about the need to protect our fragile environment. For this I am grateful.
We want to thank our friend Tony Graziano for sharing his book writing and photography experiences and, more importantly, for showing other photographers the treasures of The Nature Conservancies right here on Long Island. Tony regularly works with Long Island Photo Gallery to help to organize outings and gain private access to areas of these parks that are not open to the general public. Email me, firstname.lastname@example.org, so that you may be included in event information for our next photography outing.
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