Hours of Idleness-A Photographer's Journey in St. Louis

History of Nature and Landscape Photography, Transition to Artform

George Shiras and John Hammerin a canoe equipped for jacklighting, Whitefish Lake, Michigan, 1893; © National Geographic Creative Archives

Around the beginning of the 20th Century, significant innovations in camera technology, chemistry, and photographic equipment coalesced at a time when photographers were beginning to recognize the expressive potential of their image-making. An era was fast dawning wherein the photograph would no longer be simply relegated to the realm of science or to cheap novelty, but would instead serve to drive culture, both in and out of art.

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History of Nature and Landscape Photography, The Beginnings

Sir Henry Fox Talbot; early 1840’s

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Photography has had a preoccupation with nature almost from the very beginning. In fact, it was probably a preoccupation with nature that led to photography in the first place. The Pencil of Nature was a photobook published in the mid-1840’s by Sir Henry Fox Talbot, who was the first to successfully develop a reproducible negative.

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Hickory Canyons Natural Area

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I am well aware that much of the country does not think of Missouri first when they think of “outdoor adventure”, and that’s just fine. As a state positioned dead center in the continental U.S., we enjoy an abundance of resources that result from being a point of convergence: the convergence of cultures (and the legacies of those cultures- often this is a struggle too), the convergence of the largest rivers in North America, the convergence of a once sprawling ocean and once soaring mountains, lost in time, but leaving a geological uniqueness found little elsewhere on Earth. It’s all here, and frankly, if you want to flyover it, that’s fine too; it just keeps the crowds down for those of us that choose to revel in it.

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Rainy Day Hiking and Nature Photography

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Cool, rainy days are for Netflix, cocoa and the couch, right? Well, sort of. I believe that they also offer some of the most fun hiking around, and some of the best conditions for nature and landscape photography. In fact, I think that just about any weather event is a good opportunity to get outside (not that I hate sunny days- they are just less interesting, photographically).

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St. Francois State Park

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St. Francois State Park is a pleasant park with a surprising variety of landscapes to explore. On our visit, we hiked the shortish Mooner’s Hollow Trail (2.75 miles), but still found ourselves transported through Ozark fens and glades, past a gentle cascade, and even across bridge-less streams. Our son, Harper surprised himself (and us) when he slipped into a creek (!!). The cool water was a relief, however, and he was quickly all smiles.

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Castor River Shut-Ins Natural Area

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There are some places in nature that you just luckily stumble across. Places that are in the vicinity of your regular spots, that you finally take notice of, and are amazed that you could have missed them all this time. Castor River Shut-Ins Natural Area is not one of those places. It is tucked away inside the Amidon Memorial Conservation Area, down remote gravel roads, susceptible to wash outs after a heavy rain, that dead end at your destination. From St. Louis, it is also a bit of a haul (to be more precise, it is about the exact distance away as to necessitate ten or twelve “Are we almost there?!”‘s from a growingly impatient five year old). That said, it is totally worth all the effort.

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Things to do in Denver (When You’re Not Dead)

Posted in Adventure, art, black and white, family, Hike, Jason Gray, learning, nikon, Park, photography, Travel, Uncategorized by Jason Gray on February 28, 2019

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Friends, here are some things (I call them ‘musts’) to do in Denver when you are not dead. I happened to fit them all into a single day, but you could definitely spread them out over a longer trip.

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Outdoor USA

Posted in Adventure, Backpacking, family, Hike, Jason Gray, photography, Travel, Uncategorized by Jason Gray on February 21, 2019

Riverway Getaway

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Ozark National Scenic Riverways (ONSR) is Missouri’s largest National Park Services property, of which there are twelve, and the first national park in the United States to protect a river. It is a wonderful space for family camping or for an outing with friends, and summer float trips here are both a State tradition and right of passage. 

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What’s in My Camera Bag, 2019

New Year, new gear! In fact, it has been many years since I’ve dramatically changed the photography equipment that I use (last one was perhaps my switch from 2.8 zooms to primes in 2015), and this year’s complete brand switch from Nikon to Fuji had many extenuating circumstances. Nonetheless, with the generous help of an Artist Support Grant from the Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis, and quite a bit of luck on holiday deals, I was able to not only make the change, but to continue photographing professionally. I am so deeply appreciative of this, and to be included among a list of very talented visual artists, musicians and other creatives to receive this award.

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