There is no greater art than that which is found in nature. There is no greater artist than the Creator, God Almighty, from which all beauty, and the ability to appreciate it, comes forth. All of humanity, without exception, is hard-wired to appreciate the captivating allure of creation. Natural beauty is something that goes far beyond the intellect and reaches deep into the heart and soul. It is divine, transcendent, and powerfully inspirational. We all have a similar reaction when beholding something magnificently beautiful in the natural world…there is a sudden pause, and an instant halting of our soul that commands us to treasure what is before us. Our jaws drop, our hearts skip a beat, we quickly inhale a breath of fresh air, and our facial muscles relax when we witness the stunning sight of natural artistry. At such moments our pupils dilate in unbridled attraction as we proclaim, “Oh my God! Look at THAT!” It is interesting to note how we naturally speak the name of God at such times, and not in vain! Whether we admit it or not, whether it is conscious or unconscious, we instinctively know the source of such beauty.
Spending time in nature does something very positive, constructive, and healing to us. It is a catalyst for peace and tranquility. As we sit in the predawn darkness and watch the sun come up and the world come alive, something in us comes alive. We experience the hope and glory of a new beginning. And as the sun sets in the evening and lights the sky on fire, we can’t help but to feel the calming satisfaction of a restful end.
It’s in the wilderness that the lovely tune of songbirds evokes sweetness in our hearts, while an encounter with a dangerous beast fills us with instant respect. The tenderness of a mother with her young reminds us of the universal power of love. The caressing sound of the ocean waves, the trickling of a mountain stream, and the hypnotic trance of the rain lapses our souls into a state of Divine calm. Our troubles and fears are gently washed away and our hearts purified. The fascinating mystery of the stars and the antiquity of the moon summons forth an appreciation of the eternal. Admiring the seemingly simple lives of wildlife brings us comfort and escape, as we wish our hectic lives were only so peaceful.
When we consider the intricate beauty, the stunning engineering, and the mind-boggling complexity that is present in the natural world, it becomes undeniable that a Master Artist has been at work! We come to realize that it is simply impossible for everything to come from nothing. That everything, in all of its incredible glory, is the essence of God. Without a doubt, creation does indeed tell us something of the one who created it, no matter what processes have brought it about…as those too are part of the totality of creation.
Indeed, we all have a need for nature. It fills a void within us. It teaches and reminds us of things we often forget or overlook. Nature can heal us and cure the chaos of our hyper-active culture. It’s in the raw manifestation of creation that we see the undeniable face of God and hear His voice loud and clear…that is…if we are listening! It is this “face of God,” that I strive to capture by means of my photography. My goal is to reflect the Divine art that is all around us in the natural world. I hope to share with you a priceless moment in time, an experience that has only come around once and can never be repeated exactly the same. I willingly journey far off the beaten path to achieve these goals. But please keep in mind, doing so often comes with a steep price!
In the process of capturing many of my images, I have endured extreme weather conditions, camped out in areas of remote wilderness that are only accessible by bush plane, been eaten alive by hoards of blood-thirsty bugs, and crawled through areas loaded with horrific, thorny, rash inducing plants. I’ve fallen in rivers and lakes, gotten stuck in swamps, have lost hours of sleep in races against the rising sun, have exhausted myself beyond belief while climbing and hiking for miles upon miles in treacherous terrain, been in close proximity of very dangerous animals, and…well…you get the point! Please note, I’m certainly not complaining, I love it! I willing put myself through all sorts of half-crazed rigors to capture the illusive art of the Lord. My point is simply that art often comes with great sacrifice on the part of the artist…which many don’t realize or carefully consider as they look at the price tag or copyright laws.
As you will notice, my primary subject matter is nature and wildlife. This is where my passion is, so this is what I specifically focus on. My approach in the field is aggressive and relentless! I put myself through hell to capture an image of heaven. But, as I process my work in the studio, I do so in a relaxed, careful, meticulous manner to bring to life the essence of what my eyes have witnessed…which is often not fully achievable by the camera itself. That being said, I strive to not “over-process” the majority of my images. However, some of my subject matter I do purposely develop into an image that is reminiscent of a classic landscape painting through techniques such as high dynamic range photography. Either way, my primary intention is always to express the overpowering awe and wonder of a scene or subject as I originally experienced it.
As a photographer, I am entirely self-taught. But while the vast majority of my education has taken place in nature, I have continued to read, learn, and practice all that I possibly can to keep myself up to date on current techniques, gear, software, etc. While I deeply value and welcome constructive criticism from others, my goal has never been to impress “experts and critics.” My goal is simply to create the highest quality images that I can…images that I have been so humbly blessed to behold and capture. My desire is for you to see though my eyes, feel what I feel, and proclaim with a spirit of heart-felt wonder, “Oh my God…Look at THAT!” But keep in mind, "That" is where the journey simply begins. God's greatest work is not merely creation, but rather, redemption!
Joseph Classen. Wild Revelation Photography. Kodiak, Alaska.