Sonoran Desert Sunset

Sonoran Desert Sunset

12 April 2016


(Click on any image to enlarge)

Old homestead along the Rocky Mountain Front

Today's post continues yesterday's premise of introducing talented contemporary nature photographers through their work, in hopes of presenting the gentle reader with unexpected moments of beauty, and also in hopes of expanding the awareness and support given by the new viewers of chosen artists.

This morning we shift from southern Arizona to western Montana.  I've been following Mark Mesenko on Facebook for several years ~ he and his friend and fellow outdoors photographer Patrick Clark formed a collaboration under the name (talk about coincidence) 'Western Montana'.  There, in addition to posting copywritten photos under their individual names, they joined forces to enhance their followers' awareness of the stunningly rugged and sometimes unforgiving beauty they've discovered in their travels through the region.

Mark is a master at capturing sweeping (yet detailed) landscapes and skyscapes.  His images often tell a more complete and intriguing story by what they imply, than many photographers can achieve by what they explicitly show.  This, to me, is the heart of great and compelling art ~ understanding what is happening in a scene, choosing the right moment, being so familiar with one's gear that adjusting it requires little if any attention, freeing the imagination to notice, to wait, to compose, and to capture excellence.

One frequent feature of Mark's landscapes is the inclusion of human structures ~ an old railroad bridge traversing a mountain stream ~ a weatherworn, abandoned church standing silent vigil, braced against the ubiquitous prairie wind ~ a  solitary homestead (even just a corral long out of use) nestled sited optimistically in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains' Front Range (east-facing edge), at that magical confluence of mountains and prairie and boundless sky (see image above).

Why human structures in nature photographs?  Perhaps because (a) we are undeniably a part of the natural world, in addition to being its biggest threat;  (b) the activities of ranchers, trappers, miners, farmers, lumberjacks, railroads, hunters, recreational hikers, all leave something behind which nature's creatures (more often than not) either reclaim for their own uses ~ such as string woven into a bird's nest or a mine shaft converted into a roosting spot for bats ~ or else discard to rust, rot, and eventually to become one with the habitat again;  and/or (c) our own history on the land deserves to be preserved, remembered for both its courage and its hard lessons from choices poorly made.

In addition, those human structures tell their own story of the lives of humans interwoven into the fabric of life in nature.  They provide a visual and a temporal reference point for our imaginations as we regard the natural world, for both comparison and contrast.

But don't be misled into thinking that all Marks photos include human artifacts.  His wildlife and mountain-prairie-sky moments can be breathtaking, and the best ones suggest a story.  Two of my favorites appears below.  

Male Trumpeter Swan on a moonlit swim

Western Meadowlark scolding the weather gods
for not realizing it is already Spring

You can find more of Mark's outstanding work here.

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