I started collecting landscape art books in the 1990s, when I finally began to realize that photographing landscapes involved more than just standing in front of a breathtaking vista, pointing and shooting. By then I had gotten my education, traveled to Europe photographing mostly city scenes and people, taught at a university, and, living in New Orleans, embarked on a jazz piano career. But I eventually came to admit that I earned money largely to support my photographic habit. I bought David Muench’s magnificent Ancient America in the late 90s. There are no people in these photographs (although there are plenty of ruins and petroglyphs), so naturally this tended to be more of a geology landscape book, with three of its seven sections devoted to “Earth,” “Rock,” and “Water” (including ice, the other ones being “Light,” “Trees,” “Ruins,.” and “Growth’).
But this was a geology landscape art book, much more than those collections of regional photographs that record the sights of a place without giving you a feeling for them. Muench paid exquisite attention to light and time of day in all the photographs. Most of them are taken at the “golden hour” close to sunrise or sunset, and a few are taken when there’s no sun in the sky at all, and the viewer has to work to savor the delicate formations—a very effective technique to make them appear magical. He also demonstrated a compositional technique that I immediately adopted of putting an object of interest, like a fascinating rock or petroglyph, in the immediate foreground, against an evocative, often dark background, demonstrating what was possible in a creative landscape book, and not just one that obeyed the stand rules for making good landscapes.
Inspired by Muench and by his colleagues such as Jack Dykinga and Mike Fatali, I continued to photograph landscapes—in Newfoundland, on the Colorado Plateau, in the Northern Rockies, in British Columbia, in France, Wales, Québec Province—and collecting art landscape books. But although I loved landscapes, I felt too overwhelmed by the excellent photos in the stock photography market to put much energy behind trying to exhibit my own landscape photographs.
This shifted when I realized that I was deeply fascinated by the geological wonders of the world. Stock photographs tended to favor conventional concepts of beautiful landscapes, mainly breathtaking vistas, often at the most mysterious times of day, dawn and dusk. By placing emphasis on geology IN the landscape, I carved out for myself a much less crowded niche in the landscape/nature market.
In 2017 I was approached by a publisher to put a book together, and when that didn’t work out, I decided to do it on my own. So I assembled my best photographs from the previous 15 years and began collecting books of landscape wonders of the world and geology wonders of the world. My book, Earthforms: Intimate Portraits of Our Planet, finally came out in February 2019, and it seemed to be perfect as a geology landscape gift book: coffee-table book size (11×11 inches), good color printing, hard color covers, and essays that addressed the protests of the Lakota people against the Dakota Access Pipeline as well as my particular approach to art landscape books, namely one that included looking closely at geology as artistic subjects.
My book received glowing reviews from Kirkus, Midwest Book Reviews, and elsewhere, was featured on several geology blogs, and finally won a prestigious Nautilus Gold award for Photography and Art Books for 2019. I realized it was that it worked very well as a geology landscape gift book, so I sold a number of copies to science museum gift shops. It’s on Amazon in the category of landscape gift book, where I hope that people searching for such products will be even more interested in a landscape geology gift book, which is mine. It’s an uphill battle to sell a self-produced landscape geology book, but I’m determined to do so—so I can create its sequel!