Panamint Mountains viewed from Cottonball Basin, Death ValleyArtist Statement

Geologists behold in rocks their stories waiting to be told. Meteorologists read signs of weather in clouds. I see in Nature reasons to revel in wonder and, as best I can, to translate what I see for others to discover and enjoy.

I was all of six years old when, standing in our backyard, I noticed the way our living room window reflected shadows behind me. I was so struck that I called my father to come and look with me. I couldn’t explain to him why I liked it, I just did. Looking back it may have been because I was looking at both color and gray tone manifestations of the same object, without looking directly at it. I think it was a tree. I might have been fascinated at how these two very different clues, shadow and reflection, tipped me off to what was behind me and its color, shape and form.

Did I inherit this from my writer/painter mother, or my grandmother who created beautiful textured lampshades? Both, I believe. Perhaps it was my engineer father’s influence that contributed to my appreciation for geometric shapes; puzzle pieces in so many great landscape photographs.

My mother would watch me play in Yosemite National Park’s Tuolumne River. I was fascinated by the rock textures and infinitely different and always beautiful curves the cascades designed on their way down the mountain. Once at Devils Postpile National Monument playing in the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River I tried to carry out more than my share of rocks. Even then I was drawn to their incredibly rich tints of red and yellow.

As a teenager I took a six-week trip to California, my native state, where I attempted to photograph all that I saw with a Polaroid Big Swinger. Years later I pointed out to a friend how interesting it was that standing in a particular spot two very disparate objects aligned in such a way they seemed to relate to one another. He commented I often reported such observations. I was in my late twenties when I bought my first single-lens reflex 35mm camera. I shot only slide film. The large transmitted-light images were entrancing.

I see in the most mundane subjects happy coincidences of line and light that attract the eye and plead to have meaning accorded them. Since I first applied for a wilderness permit in 1981 to hike to San Jacinto Peak, I feel at home where you will not find electricity, buildings, or roads. These are places as Nature intended them, to be preserved (or so we hope) for all to enjoy. It just takes will and, sometimes, a visual record brought back from beyond civilization by a caring advocate to persuade the timid to leave behind their comfort zone and explore on their own.

Along the way I found I could endure pain and discomforts. Although it isn’t necessarily fun or easy photographing in wind-driven rain and clouded light, I consider it a privilege to personally witness such events. And it is an honor to share with you the landscapes I can justly record and interpret as I like to remember them.

Focus on the art in Earth.

Mitch Miller | Fine Earth Photography

October 2015