Artist Statement - Open your eyes

Educator, learner, botanist, woodworker, photographer.  From the age of 16, I was hooked on both hiking and photography.  As a teenager I realized that the forest gave me an inner peace that I could not find in town.  I found myself drawn to the trail in order to feel that serenity.  In school I gravitated toward the natural sciences so I could better understand this place that I loved so much.  The more I learned, the more I realized there is to learn.  This fact, daunting to some, energized me to gather as much knowledge as I could.  In university I dove into biology and physical geography.  I found that geography helped me to put the forest in context.  It helped me to begin to see the patterns of life, the way that life is not randomly scattered.  The ecosystems you find in a given location are there for a reason.  The unique combination of rainfall, temperature and soil type in a given area translated into a perfect place for the plants, fungi and animals living in that ecosystem.  

As I learned the names of different plants, the forest changed for me.  It became a gathering of friends.  I still fondly remember when I learned the Mountain Hemlock tree on the PCT on the way up to Rosary Lakes in winter.  The droopy leader and starburst needles jumped out at me and I delighted myself in pointing out all hemlocks on that trail, comparing one to the other.  Realizing that each hemlock was as unique as different people are.  Just like finger prints, no two bark patterns were exactly the same.    As I started to recognize all the different trees and other large plants my eyes found new friends.  Ferns, flowers, mosses, lichens.  The more I learned, the more I realized there is to learn.  More and more hikers passing me on the trail found me sprawled out on the ground looking at something hiding off the side of the trail.  

My goal with photography is to light that same fire in others that I found over 25 years ago.  To see the uniqueness of each plant and to feel that same desire to learn more and to explore the forest, to get down low and discover all the amazing beauty hidden beneath the towering trees.  I promise, the more you open your eyes to the world around you, the more you will see the simple and complex beauty right under your feet.  In this display I offer you some of my sprawled discoveries.  Some are from the forest and others I walked by for years in my own back yard.  Only when I slowed down and got down on my belly did I find my eyes opened.  

Happy trails,


© Dustin Dawson 2013