Since late last summer I've been traveling (and blogging some) about making images for a book focusing on the conservation successes of the South Carolina Conservation Bank. I've really learned a lot during this process and consider it a milestone in my photo-career from an experience stand-point.
Most of the properties are privately owned and directions to each are not exactly distributed without a lot of work and digging. When I first started out, I relied on some general maps that I had downloaded but quickly found that these were not always accurate. Since then, I've learned the value of having a network of friends in the conservation community who are willing to help me out and not being too proud (or shy) to ask for help. I've been amazed by the kindness of people who love the land as much as I do who are willing to go out of their way to make your work a success without asking anything in return. It has been really nice to involve others in the project and shed the self-assummed veil of secrecy that I often throw over my projects (character flaw, perhaps).
Another thing that I've learned is that conservationists come in all flavors. There are folks who have different views concerning why land should be saved. Hunting is a perfect example. I am not a hunter and don't expect to ever be. However, there are a lot of people who hunt responsibly, respectfully, and do a lot of great things for the natural world. Additionally, although I have always been one who prefers for land to be preserved and left to its own devices, I have witnessed sustainable harvesting of timber and other farming methods that, at the very least, preserve the current state of the land without losing acreage to development.
Due to the very hurried nature of this project (because of time sensitive issues and reasons for creating the book) I have been utilizing a photo-journalistic approach to landscape photography. I don't always have the luxury of waiting for the best light because of time and budget constraints and sometimes I only have a few hours at a given location. This is hardly enough time to really get a sense of place so I must force myself to really focus and search for the essence of a scene right away. On a recent visit to the South Carolina Low Country I shot in the rain for a couple of hours because I didn't know if I would be able to return to the sites that were on my schedule. It was terribly difficult to make a good image standing under an umbrella in 'side-ways rain' (as Forest Gump would say) but at the same time the process was invigorating!
This type of photography isn't for everyone and I will admit that I prefer the slow, methodical approach, which allows me to search for the perfect moment and subject matter. However, I believe that the experience that I've gained from this experience will allow me to be better prepared for any assignment, regardless of the conditions that I'm forced (or blessed) to work in.
The book is slated to come out in early summer. I don't mind admitting that it has been a grueling process. I believe that this sentiment would be echoed by everyone involved with the project. However, at the end of the day, I am hopeful that the resulting product will be a book that we are proud of and one that will hopefully change the hearts and minds of those who aren't aware of just how special the State of South Carolina happens to be.