There are grander and more sublime landscapes – to me. There are more compelling cultures. But what appeals to me about central Montana is that the combination of landscape and lifestyle is the most compelling I've seen on this earth. Small mountain ranges and open prairie, and different weather, different light, all within a 360-degree view.
When I first went to 'National Geographic,' I thought I was the least qualified person to step through the doors. But because of my parents and the culture of continual learning they imposed on us, I later came to believe I was the most qualified person who ever worked there.
As I have practiced it, photography produces pleasure by simplicity. I see something special and show it to the camera. A picture is produced. The moment is held until someone sees it. Then it is theirs.
My parents, grandmother and brother were teachers. My mother taught Latin and French and was the school librarian. My father taught geography and a popular class called Family Living, the precursor to Sociology, which he eventually taught. My grandmother was a beloved one-room school teacher at Knob School, near Sonora in Larue County, Ky.
Photography, alone of the arts, seems perfected to serve the desire humans have for a moment – this very moment – to stay.
I wanted life to be episodic. I wanted to be a magazine photographer and I was willing to do what it took to become that.
I had luck, but I worked hard and I suffered. It's not just photography I'm talking about. It's about whatever dream you want it to be.
'Woman on the Plaza,' with its distinct horizon, snow-like surfaces, wintry wall, stunning sunlight, sharp shadows, and hurrying figure, would become the most biographical of my photographs – an abstract image of the landscape and life of northern Ohio where I grew up and first practiced photography.
In almost every photograph I have ever made, there is something I would do to complete it. I take that to be the spirit hole or the deliberate mistake that's in a Navajo rug to not be godlike, but to be human.
Life rarely presents fully finished photographs. An image evolves, often from a single strand of visual interest – a distant horizon, a moment of light, a held expression.
My best work is often almost unconscious and occurs ahead of my ability to understand it.
It matters little how much equipment we use; it matters much that we be masters of all we do use.
The best lesson I was given is that all of life teaches, especially if we have that expectation.
My father taught me photography. It was his hobby, and we had a small darkroom in the fruit cellar of our basement. It was the kind of makeshift darkroom that was only dark at night.
How the visual world appears is important to me. I'm always aware of the light. I'm always aware of what I would call the 'deep composition.' Photography in the field is a process of creation, of thought and technique. But ultimately, it's an act of imaginatively seeing from within yourself.
A mad, keen photographer needs to get out into the world and work and make mistakes.
There isn't an aspect of book creation I don't enjoy, and there has always been a book in my life to dream about or work on.
There are a lot of ways to be expressive in life, but I wasn't good at some of them. Music, for instance. I was a distinct failure with the cello. Eventually, my parents sold the cello and bought a vacuum cleaner. The sound in our home improved.
My dad had been an ardent amateur photographer, and he taught me to compose a photograph from the back to the front, and then populate the picture.
For sheer majestic geography and sublime scale, nothing beats Alaska and the Yukon. For culture, Japan. And for all-around affection, Australia.
I think of myself as a writer who photographs. Images, for me, can be considered poems, short stories or essays. And I've always thought the best place for my photographs was inside books of my own creation.