Carl Heilman II is an internationally published photographer and author. He has been photographing the Adirondacks since 1975, working to capture the location’s grandeur and his emotional and spiritual connection to it. He started climbing on a pair of handcrafted snowshoes, and he continues to explore and photograph the mountains and lakes of the Adirondack Park. Carl shares his decades of photography experience with others in his photography workshops and tours, coffee table books and how-to photography books. From September 24-27, Carl and Tom Dwyer will be leading a NANPA Regional Event in Adirondack State Park. Go to http://www.nanpa.org/events/regionals/adirondack-new-york-2017/ for more information.
Carl has had nine books published and did the photography for an additional three. His most recent are 101 Top Tips for Digital Landscape Photography (Ilex Press, May 2014), Photographing the Adirondacks (Countryman Press, June 2013), The Landscape Photography Field Guide (Focal Press / Ilex Press, fall 2011) and Advanced Digital Landscape Photography (Ilex Press 2010). He is currently working on a coffee table book for Rizzoli on the Blue Ridge Mountains from Shenandoah National Park to the Smokies, to be published in spring 2018.
Carl’s website: http://www.carlheilman.com. He is on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/NaturePhotographyWorkshops and https://www.facebook.com/groups/phototechniques/. On YouTube, go to https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFCsO-k001JS406lQ71xHnQ
Do you have a “day” job? What do you do?
I have been full-time at the business of photography since 1997 — 20 years now! Landscape photography was a part-time income for more than 10 years previous to that, while I was in the business of making and selling handcrafted wood-frame snowshoes and manufacturing mountaineering crampon straps. Before that I was involved in carpentry and contracting. I took a couple of semesters of black-and-white photography in college in the late 1970s, but otherwise I am self-taught.
Do you have a specialty in nature photography and why are you drawn to it?
Wild nature landscapes have always been my specialty. When I went into the photography business full-time, I decided that if I couldn’t make a living doing the photography I enjoy doing, then I’d rather go back to carpentry. Wedding and event photography are not my forte. I do enjoy photographing people as long as they are candid shots in the outdoors.
I bought my first camera and a roll of Kodachrome 64 in 1975, several months after climbing my first Adirondack High Peak on a spectacular winter day. I was entranced by the magical beauty and wonder of the Adirondack wilderness and wanted to hold onto the spiritual experience it gave me. I thought perhaps capturing special moments and scenes in the wilderness with a camera might help do that.
Full-time landscape photography means that most of my time is spent finding ways to pay the bills with my photographs. In the digital age, photography has become more of a desk job than when I was shooting film. During the small percent of the time I’m out there taking photographs or teaching photography, I’m in another world and having the best time I could possibly have.
Over time I’ve realized that in addition to capturing and sharing evocative imagery of the many wild places I’ve visited, I’m also documenting changes in the landscape and capturing a historical documentation of locations and people. That adds an additional element to the photographs I’ve created.
I also thoroughly enjoy having a project to work on to help focus my attention and work with the creative possibilities related to the main topic. Over time I’ve worked on a number of book projects (how-to and coffee table), AV presentations and commissioned projects. The latest was a yearlong shoot with the goal of having a photo from the same location in every month of the year, capturing the feel of the Adirondacks and a range of moods throughout the day and night as well as the seasons. It evolved into a major project, shooting the scene 35 times throughout the year, and a third Adirondack Park book, The Adirondacks: Season by Season – another wonderful project.
How have you been involved in NANPA? Do you have a goal as it pertains to NANPA or a committee you currently work on?
I have been involved with NANPA over the years in various ways. I was on the Membership Committee for two years. I feel that finding ways to grow the NANPA membership is something that would be helpful for all nature photographers. A larger group would give greater voice for NANPA in political and environmental issues affecting nature photographers. Plus a larger and more diverse membership could translate to active regional chapters and local events.
How have you benefited from your membership in NANPA?
I thoroughly enjoyed the learning experience at the Summits I attended. It was a pleasure meeting new people and talking with other photographers and editors I had corresponded with or seen in print. Each time I came away inspired and invigorated with many more fresh ideas than I could begin to follow up on.
I was a NANPA event leader several years ago, helping show off the unique Adirondack character to participants and helping them as needed. I look forward to doing the same again this September with a fall colors event Tom Dwyer asked me to co-lead in Lake Placid, at the edge of the magnificent Adirondack High Peaks.
I appreciate NANPA publications for both their educational information and artistic value. It’s inspirational to see the work of others in the nature field. This work can provide the background for new and fresh ideas.
As a professional I appreciate being able to publish my larger events on the NANPA website and be seen by a larger audience than I can do on my own. I had also listed my books along with other NANPA members.
I especially appreciate the lobbying efforts of NANPA on issues related to photography on federal lands. It is reassuring to know I support a national organization that is looking out for the rights of nature photographers on pending legislation for shooting access and copyright issues.
How long have you been a NANPA member?
I’m a charter member and joined NANPA when I first read about the new organization in Outdoor Photographer.
What goals do you have as a nature photographer?
My goal has always been to recreate the feeling of place — to portray how special and unique a place is, and to evoke the sensations of being there at the time the photograph was created. I am inspired by the grandeur of the natural world, and seek out spiritual times in the wilderness when light becomes magical, and we are transformed by the simple power of beauty.
Another main goals has been to give back to the region that has done so much for me over the years. So I help regional environmental groups by photographing for their projects and donating time and images for their use. I teach and share what I have learned with others through my workshops, how-to books, lectures, presentations, and Facebook, etc. There is always something new to learn in photography, and I’ve found photo workshop teaching experiences are one of the best ways to learn new things, whether learning from others in the group or researching a new tip or technique.
Does NANPA help you to fulfill your goals? How?
I feel NANPA goals and mine are pretty similar — helping others achieve their goals and doing what we can to protect and improve the world around us through photography.