Just as the trees begin to flood the ground each fall with brilliantly colored leaves, submissions from across the region flood AMC’s annual photo contest. (Winners of the 2015 contest, which ran from June to September, appear here.) If a photo is worth a thousand words, the 10,000-plus photos we’ve received over the past 21 years—including a record 1,124 in 2015 alone—tell an epic story of members’ passion for photography and their unwavering connection to the natural world. AMC Outdoors caught up with a few longtime entrants to find out what makes photography so special to them.
When did you start taking pictures?
Laberge: I got my first 35mm camera as a wedding present in 1973.
Lewis: Since the 1970s, digitally since about 2004.
Rose: I started as a home birth photographer in 1980. I didn’t start seriously photographing people in nature until 2005, when I began hiking in the White Mountains.
Stone: Forty years ago.
Of all your photo contest entries over the years, which is your favorite?
Laberge: Red-Shouldered Hawk Takes Off, 2014. To have a beautiful hawk take off directly in front of me when I had my camera in my hands was just a special gift. I am glad I had the presence of mind to record the moment.
Lewis: Swamp Sunrise, 2015. I was in the New Jersey Pinelands, all set up for a shot. As the sky changed during the dawn, I noticed something interesting about a quarter-mile away. I ran to that location with my camera gear and set up as the sun began to rise. I took the photo just as the sun peeked over the trees. There are times when the world appears magical, and I was awestruck to be there at that moment.
Rose: Perspective, 2010. I knew when I saw massive Mount Monroe, with the tiny hikers below, the image would always stay with me.
Stone: Intertwined Bare Branches,
2005. My favorite photos are those that I take close to home. I take great pride in finding a scene people often see and showing it in a different light. This photo was taken less than a half-mile from my house on a walk I have done hundreds of times.
What advice would you give aspiring photographers?
Laberge: See the beauty of nature that surrounds you and try to record it faithfully.
Lewis: Digital photography has allowed more people to make photographs. As a result, there are more great photographs being created than ever before. Now more than ever, it is important for a photographer to find his or her own voice with photography. Photograph what moves you and learn to communicate why it moves you in a way that is uniquely your own.
Rose: Find a mentor. Aspiring photographers can really benefit from someone to encourage and teach them the art of photography. You can get the science from books, but the art you need to learn from people and practice.
Stone: Take time to look at your environment from all different perspectives, including behind you. Experiment and take chances.
How do you choose which photos you submit to the contest?
Laberge: There is no science for me. Nature photography is a subjective art form. I just try to select pictures of the outdoors that I think people might like and that meet the contest requirements.
Lewis: All year long, I mark the [photos] that might be potential images for the AMC contest. Just before I submit, I place all of them in a folder and review them based on quality and what moved me to make the image in the first place. I try to always include some images from the New Jersey Pinelands, which is my local area. The Pines don’t have beautiful mountain scenes but it does have a charm all its own.
Rose: No science. I keep a yearly file of favorite images and add to it from every hike I do throughout the year. At the end of each photo contest year, I go through and pick my favorite images. I send my favorites to family and friends and they pick the ones they feel are the most striking images. Their feedback really helps me decide what to submit.
Stone: I haven’t figured out a science to it. In fact, when I show several photos to friends and ask which to submit they all have different opinions. My process is that I put photos I like in a folder throughout the year and periodically whittle away to try to keep the number low. I then try to submit photos with different styles but ultimately it is just guess work.
Where is your favorite location to take pictures?
Laberge: New Hampshire’s White Mountains and Acadia National Park.
Lewis: Anywhere the light is good and the scenery is interesting. However, the areas that attract me the most are the New Jersey Pinelands, Harriman State Park, Delaware Water Gap, and Death Valley and the Eastern Sierras of California.
Rose: Tough question! If I had to pick one spot it would be New Hampshire’s southern Presidentials. I’ve taken some of my favorite photographs there.
Stone: Wherever the light is good.
Undercast or overcast?
Sunrise or sunset?
Canon, Nikon, or other?
Lewis: Canon for me, but I’m not prejudiced. Heck, I use an iPhone to do photography too.
Lewis: All of them, but summer would be a close second to the other three.
Macro or wide angle?
Laberge: Wide angle
Lewis: Wide angle
Rose: Wide angle
Stone: Wide angle
Digital or film?
Laberge: Film until the early 2000s; digital since.
Lewis: Digital, but with a lot of respect for film shooters.
Stone: Digital for color; film for black and white.
Photo credits, from left: Yvette Luxenberg, Kate Laberge, Joe Alfano, Lynne Helfand