Nature Through the Lens
By James Reddoch
“I am always looking for opportunities to record hidden beauty and tell the story of life,” says Steve Wolfe, a photographer who splits his time between Pennsylvania, Western Maine, and any other natural place where he might find the perfect landscape, unique bird, or animal subject for his art.
You may have seen Steve’s photos of birds in issues of this newsletter or during one of the Mahoosuc Land Trust’s birding webinars. Steve also has a display of his landscape photos at The Philbrook Place in Bethel, and his photos have appeared as covers for scenic calendars for California, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania.
Steve has been interested in photography since 1976 and received a degree in professional photography from Rochester Institute of Technology. After that, he spent 38 years in architectural photography shooting interiors and exteriors of universities, churches, and commercial buildings where he learned to see the world through what he calls “varying proportions of rectangles.”
Steve has retired but has not stopped his photography. He has shifted his focus to nature-based photography that can only be described as art.
Through the lens, Steve transforms a field of hawkweed, an often-ignored spring flower, into eye-popping color. Clouds and fall leaves reflected on Pleasant Pond in Maine blur the line between sky and water. Water flowing over granite at Step Falls Preserve conveys movement and energy.
Steve says his work allows him to, “convey not only what I see but also what my other senses experience, such as the sound of a rushing stream, the cold of a winter's day, or the smell of an ocean.”
At a time when most of us walk around with pretty good cameras in our pocket, what can we learn from a professional like Steve?
1. Get out in nature.
“I've always loved experiencing the beauty of the natural world and I've been fortunate to travel extensively throughout the US and Canada to record it photographically.” Avid hikers, Steve and his wife Sally plan their trips to national and state parks, monuments, and other scenic areas. “When I go to good places, I can trust that there will be plenty of opportunities,” says Steve.
2. Be ready.
When driving through a park or scenic area, Steve’s camera is on the seat next to him. Birds and other animals appear unexpectedly when he is hiking or setting up for a landscape shot. Steve says, “It seems that whenever I plan to pursue one species [or scene], a different one presents itself.” So, be ready for whatever may appear.
3. Take a lot of photos.
When an opportunity presents itself, Steve begins shooting. He tries different angles. He may crouch or even lay down to convey the point of view of his subject. Moving an inch or two one way or the other may give a different perspective and make for a better shot. He knows he will discard most of the photos but maybe, just maybe, one will capture the moment.
Other tips Steve shared are that he saves his early mornings and late afternoons for photography. That is when the lighting is usually better. Also, cloudy, even stormy days, provide the most interesting light and contrast. Bright sunny days, though beautiful, are not always the best for photographers.
Finally, Steve says despite his preparation and diligence, it is not unusual to miss the shot leaving him with nothing but memories. But for most of us, isn’t that the most important thing? Our camera should be a vehicle to help capture and crystalize memories of the beauty we find around us.
If you would like to explore more of Steve’s work, visit his website or stop by The Philbrook Place in Bethel, Maine.