"Your best work always comes from the heart," says photographer Daryl Hawk, and although he may rely on corporate, editorial, and portrait photography to pay the bills, nature photography is the true love of his life. "When I'm photographing in the wild, I'm getting the best of both worlds: I'm in an extremely solitary and peaceful environment in which there are endless creative opportunities and constant visual stimulation."
For Hawk, nature photography really is equal parts nature and photography. "Of course it's important for me to come back with the pictures," he says, "but it's just as important to immerse myself in the total experience, to take the time to smell the pine in the woods, to discover a stream and feel the rainfall. I love to return to places in different seasons to experience them under different circumstances."
Hawk's nature photography serves a purpose beyond his own satisfaction. "I consider myself a strong advocate of conservation, and my mission is to give as much exposure as possible to nature's beauty, and to try to make people realize what they're losing each and every day."
Several years ago Hawk began introducing a third factor to his nature photography experience. He had previously experimented with black and white infrared film for urban images- in fact, regular readers may recall our March, 1998, story about his infrared photography in New York City. His purpose then was to try and create a timeless look for the city, and he felt that infrared film perfectly expressed his emotional, nostalgic vision of Manhattan. His experiments with infrared in nature produced dream-like images that also matched his moods and feelings.
We don't use the word "experiment" lightly, for with infrared film, you can't tell how the film will react to the scene, so you can't predict what you're going to see on the print.
"For me," Hawk says, "infrared film seems to work best when there's lots of contrast in a scene. Strong light coming through trees, for example, is perfect-that's when you really notice the contrast and the look of the infrared film. When the lighting is even, you probably won't notice the difference as much as you do when there's, dramatic light coming into play in the picture.
"I always watch the light very carefully. I find myself stalking the light, looking for dramatic sidelighting, strong shadows, light breaking through clouds and branches."
Anyone who's shot infrared knows the basic rules: loading and unloading the camera in total darkness is necessary, so Hawk always carries a changing bag. He always has a #25 red filter over the lens in order to best achieve the infrared effect. (Infrared film sees color beyond the spectrum we can see, and it displays that color as tones.)