Kyle's Wilderness Photography
In God's wildness lies the hope of the world - the great fresh unblighted, unredeemed wilderness. - John Muir
About Kyle Martin
I was raised on the family homestead in the mountains of western North Carolina. My up-bringing was of humble origins and I spent significant time outdoors tending to animals, working the garden, or gathering wood for winter. Whatever my chore, I was continuously surrounded by a natural setting.

Over time I continued to be surrounded by the outdoors by working my way to Eagle Scout, then working at a near-by State Park which inspired me to follow a career in natural resources in college. I immersed myself into my studies, and during summer breaks I continued to work at the State Park and began to work during semesters at a local State Park near college. With time and experience, I found myself wanting to be less involved with the politics and lacked the people skills required for working in the parks. My focus and attention was far more directed towards learning everything I could about the leaves, trees, and the animals of the forests around me. On many weekends during semesters I found myself wandering the woods identifying every tree that I came across. I learned the names of the trees, their historical uses, and studied where they grew in the forest. And those I did not know the names of, I learned. Soon I began to look outwards and notice the forest as collections of stands, and the stands as landscapes, and the landscapes as ecosystems. Understanding the inter-connected relationship of the biotic and abiotic, yielded acute experiences of nature on my wanderings into the woods. These moments and spiritual experiences inspired me to use film to attempt to capture my senses during these times of delight. I was never a very good painter, and I did not have very much artistic capacity. My technical and scientific background did not allow for much creativity. And at first my images of those moments were emotionless, and one-dimensional.

Despite studying the natural world in college, I somehow found myself in a completely unfamiliar discipline of software engineering and computer mapping. And shortly after graduate school, I married a college sweet-heart and moved to Colorado. Colorado, despite being one of the most beautiful places on Earth, did not improve my ability at capturing moments and experiences while hiking the Rocky Mountains. I began to study books and on par for my technical posture was convinced I did not know enough about how the camera functioned. I studied the technical aspects from several angles, but to no purpose. I was at the end of my rope, and allowed the technical aspects of it all to distract from the experiences that I sought to capture. My job and career facilitated a quick and stealthy departure from the classroom that I loved, and I eventually decided that my pursuit to capture the light as I desired was just not to be.

On the steady advice of my wife, Caryn, I went to a book signing of a local photographer named John Fielder on a cool, rainy evening in October. After meeting John and procuring a couple of books, I had a renewed enthusiasm for capturing my experiences that I initiated many years before. I absorbed myself into the books and learned the art of seeing. What I had learned suddenly made me realize that I was too focused on technique and was ignoring the art, and getting to know nature to the depth I needed to capture my experiences. I needed to rise with the sun, sleep on the soft bed of the high alpine, feel the soil between my toes, and become one with my subject. I needed to reduce its complex makeup into simple layers of color, form, moment, perspective, and view. My adventures into the Rocky Mountains after studying John's work soon began to produce images of moments that I could feel again from the light table. Convinced that I needed to learn more, I soon started to accompany John on his adventures into the Colorado wilderness as a sherpa.

Accompanying John in the wilderness was like traveling back in time 150 years and exploring the wilderness with the likes of William Henry Jackson. John was strong, mentally tough, but emotionally attached to his subjects and captured moments on film as good as those he studied (Ansel Adams, Eliot Porter). I do not know why our paths crossed, but I treasure every moment I spend with John in the wilderness. With each and every trip with John in the wilderness, I became more proficient at capturing my experiences. As the years passed, my wife and I traveled the Rocky Mountains organizing our own adventures into the wilderness. I was pleased that I was finally capturing the light like I envisioned so many years before. A very patient journey.

On one cold crisp winter morning in Yellowstone, I was surrounded by the sights and sounds of wilderness. Bison warmed themselves alongside river's edge, the snow glistened with the warm glow of the early morning light. The songs of a wolf pack plumed into the wide expanses of the valley like a thunderhead ascending into the sky. As the howl of the pack slowly moved closer, a solitary wolf hastily approached. The wolf continued to proceed closer to a point of which I could see the condensation resting on his tar black nose. Standing with camera on tripod, the cold in my extremities was quickly transfused with warmth. Almost as if I was wearing the nearly black coat of that wolf, whom by all appearances appeared to be comfortably warm. I starred into the wolf's eyes and he starred into mine. And as quickly as the windows to our soul became aligned, the wolf sounded the most beautifully soft, and harmonious song I had ever heard. A sweet tenor voice. It was the tenor of all tenors.

Despite camera in hand, I was never able to capture any of that moment on film. And to this day I do not have a regret of not doing so. For a brief moment in time, I felt free, and that I had lived life. I experienced the wilderness like the Indians had experienced the wilderness hundreds to thousands of years before me. For a brief moment in time, I lived free like Muir high above Tuolumne meadows in Yosemite, Thoreau living simply at Walden Pond or Adolph Murie exploring the vast Denali wilderness. I had experienced the land as Mother Nature created and intended. It is this ecstasy, this hidden force that attracts me to the wilderness and is why I aspire to preserve it on film.

Live Simply,

FYI: I use film, and a large format camera (with the exception of optics is the same used to capture the first images of wilderness in the 1800's) is my instrument of choice.

Kyle's Wilderness Photography
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Promoting the preservation of wilderness through the art of photography