I often get asked by potential clients what I like to do in my spare time. Usually my response is something like this: "I'm a professional photographer, so I don't have spare time!" But the real answer is this. I like to take photos in my spare time. I am a photographer because taking photos is who I am, so when I don't take photos for my clients, I take photos for myself. It can be anything. My kids; landscape photos; or lately I've been working on a personal project to document the recovery from the wildfires in the Methow Valley in Washington state (my home state).
Over the past two summers, the Methow has endured devastating fires. Each year experienced the largest wildfire in state history. That's two years in a row of record breaking wildfires. Not a good sign for future wildfire seasons as climate change really kicks in. Let's hope we can turn that around before it gets too destructive.
The Methow Valley is a special place in so many ways. But I have a strong personal connection to the valley. I fell in love with the Methow the first time I saw it, and I've been traveling there for about 20 years to ski, bike, hike, run, and take photos. My wife was on a similar path before we met, and we ended up getting married in the valley about 10 years ago. We've since bought a cabin there and spend as much time as we can in the Methow with our kids.
So it was that much harder to see the wildfires create such environmental and human devastation in the past two years. Wildfire has always been part of the natural landscape. The residents of the valley know it. They have always lived with wildfire. But fires are getting bigger and more intense and out of control in a way they haven't previously.
So I recently reached out to the Methow Conservancy, a Methow Valley based organization that helps people care for and conserve the Methow Valley. It's a great grass roots group that brings together a diverse group of people that all care about the Methow. I wanted to use my photo skills for a project to document the effects of the wildfires on the environment and community and document the recovery of the land.
We kicked off the project a couple of weeks ago. The Conservancy organized a 'seed bomb'. About 75 volunteers from the community came out to help spread seed to areas that were severely burned in the August fires near Twisp and help the land recover and minimize damage and erosion.
So this, as it turns out, is what I do in my spare time. I wish I had more spare time!