What drew me to see geology as art? I’ve always been interested in fine art landscape photography books and have collected many of them throughout the years. I love to travel and take landscape photographs and sometimes I’ve managed to create original images, when I photographed the popular Horseshoe Bend in Page, AZ, or Shiprock in NW New Mexico at dusk, with tall backlit grass. These are very photographed sites, but I’d never seen them rendered quite like this. I’ve always been attracted to geology, though I regret I never took a geology course in college. I found, though, that if I concentrated on geology as art, I could produce more images the likes of which I’d never seen before. So after 15 years of photographing this way, I produced a creative geology art book, Earthforms: Intimate Portraits of Our Planet, that also turned out to be a fine art landscape photography book. This was largely due to the inclusion of intimate landscapes, that is, short-field landscapes, of views that were one to eight feet wide with little or no sky, which I dubbed “miniscapes.” I tinkered around with 3rd-party photo editing software, to make their sculptural features stand out more, and as a result, my book won the prestigious 2019 Nautilus Gold award for Photography and Art, which put it in the category of the best landscape art books of the year.
I was, however, afraid that my geology art book was a little too unconventional to be considered as a proper art of landscape book. I feared that my miniscapes, might just appeal to me and no one else, especially since I hadn’t seen anything like them before. A few prominent photographers had published images of rocks in the late 1970s and early 80s, but I didn’t find them particularly strong, and the artists didn’t seem to travel very far in search of exceptional or unusual formations. Now, in the age of digital photography, I had developed a process by which I could bring out the aesthetically interesting features of rocks that I had traveled far to see. Finally, I began showing them in portfolio reviews and receiving positive encouragement. I realized that to be an original artist doesn’t just take vision; it takes the courage to put the products of one’s vision out there, despite their newness, and in the face of rejection, incomprehension, and indifference. Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” What he didn’t talk about is the courage and emotional stamina required to stand behind one’s originality. After all, one doesn’t want to be discovered (as so many artists have been) after one is dead.