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Find beauty in your backyard

My passion for nature developed quite unexpectedly—a slow, gradual revelation that had as much to do with seeing as with learning to just be. After an injury that led to surgery on both knees, I was unable to return to the gym for my usual treadmill runs. My body and spirit both needed healing and my perspective on what that meant was about to change.   

I am fortunate to live in the Hudson Valley, a short drive away from its sprawling state parks, lush public gardens, and a wealth of trails that often start just steps from one’s front door. Walking such a trail—a small portion of the 51.5-mile-long Hudson River Trail—became my morning exercise before work and the seedbed for my photography through the changing seasons.   

This journey meant overcoming my aversion to early bedtimes and early mornings and learning that just beyond feeling a bit cold or a bit damp at times, there was a world of sight, sound, and scent waiting to be discovered. It seemed a miracle that yards away from a busy main street, gray pavement, and impatient commuters was this quiet path where everything grew and decayed into the moist, pungent soil, small creatures rustled through the leaves, and mist hung in the morning air.  

I started using my phone more and more to capture multicolored berries along the trail, wildflower patches far lovelier than any manicured lawn, fiery red and yellow autumn leaves alight in the rising sun. The hikes got longer and longer until five to six miles became the norm. Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, Nyack Beach in Rockland County, Bear Mountain and Harriman State Parks, and the Palisades Park in New Jersey all became my beaten paths. I outgrew mobile photography and gradually upgraded my equipment and skills to a professional camera and multiple lenses.   

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Looking at nature through a macro lens opened up a fascinating new landscape. A tiny, blue flowering weed, or blades of meadow grass shivering in the breeze became larger than life in the viewfinder. Sunrays and water droplets transformed into objects of desire—the play of light that brought wonder and awe to the most ordinary things. Not having access to exotic scenery taught me to find beauty in my backyard. When the urge struck I chased the light, often crawling on the ground to get the first-person view. I found such unexpected beauty there. Even on the cloudiest, darkest of days, the viewfinder held treasures if I was just a little lucky. My graphic designer eyes saw shapes and patterns everywhere. And my spirit found peace.  

There’s nothing more authentic to me than photographing nature in its unaltered state. While it is tempting to pick flowers and stage the perfect mood indoors, I found unique joy and serenity in taking nature’s candid shots. It is often messy and probably odd to passersby to see someone on the ground twisting to get the right angle. It can take a hundred shots to get the proper focus as living things are always in motion. And there’s the insatiable need to capture the richness the eye sees, a photographer’s greatest challenge and accomplishment. After a decade doing photo editing for the advertising industry, shooting nature’s imperfections feels refreshing and genuine—no retouching, compositing, or pretense.  

What I’ve gained through my injury is the ability to see beauty in the details—the shifting light from summer into fall, the magical ebb and flow all around us when we stop long enough to look, listen, and be present. I strive to create photographs that convey this newfound reverence for nature and the peace I feel documenting it. It is an experience I feel compelled to share. The journey has only just begun and I am still learning how to tell a story. 

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