See Alan's Slideshow
View a slideshow of Alan's amazing work in Maryland and beyond.
A native of Washington, D.C., Alan Eckert received his first box camera on his eighth birthday as a gift from his father and has been hooked on photography ever since. Now a retired attorney living in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Alan shares his talents and passion for the environment with the Conservancy by capturing the beauty of Maryland on film.
For The Nature Conservancy, his imagery is a conservation tool that inspires appreciation and support. Nature.org spoke with Alan about photography and what motivates him as a volunteer for the Conservancy.
"I have yet to visit a Nature Conservancy site where I couldn't find something inspirational to photograph."
— Alan Eckert, Volunteer Photographer
How did you get involved with The Nature Conservancy?
I always knew I wanted to do something more with my photography once I approached retirement from my career as an attorney with the Environmental Protection Agency.
I contacted my friend who was on the board of The Nature Conservancy and she put me in touch with Anand Mishra from the Maryland/DC Chapter.
Anand was good enough to give me an opportunity to show what I might be able to do for the Conservancy with an assignment to capture Nassawango Creek, Maryland’s largest privately owned nature preserve. Since then, and with Anand's help, I've developed a network of contacts in a number of chapters with whom I work.
How did you become involved in nature photography?
Landscape photography has been a passion since the 1970s. At first, I worked primarily in black and white, toting around a 4" x 5" view camera and processing the images in my darkroom. I studied with great photographers whose work inspired me, including Fred Picker, Art Wolfe and Linde Waidhofer.
What I learned from them informed all my work, and when I began working as a volunteer for The Nature Conservancy, I broadened my scope beyond landscape to include wildlife, birds, plants, flowers and people-in-the-landscape images.
For example, some years ago I submitted a variety of images of great blue herons taken at Nanjemoy Creek. I also photographed the elusive lesser prairie chickens at the Creamer Ranch near Milnesand, New Mexico. For maximum flexibility in field and wildlife photography, I began to use 35mm equipment, eventually switching exclusively to digital imaging.
What is your favorite Nature Conservancy place to photograph?
That's a nearly impossible question to answer. I have yet to visit a Nature Conservancy site where I couldn't find something inspirational to photograph.
In Maryland, it's hard to beat the rich imagery in the Nanticoke River watershed and Nanjemoy Creek — the autumn colors at Sideling Hill Creek are also spectacular.
In my now home state of New Mexico, I return again and again to Santa Fe Canyon — a delightful and picturesque wild enclave just minutes from downtown Santa Fe — and I especially enjoyed making images in the biologically diverse Gila Riparian Preserve and Mimbres River Preserve near Silver City.
What do you hope to achieve with your photography?
After a long career as an environmental lawyer, I am seeking to continue helping to protect the environment through my photography. When the Conservancy uses my work in newsletters, fundraising or on nature.org, I feel the personal rewards that come from assisting, in a small way, in saving the last great places.
What do you enjoy most about working with The Nature Conservancy?
In addition to the satisfaction that comes simply from helping the Conservancy in its work, I've enjoyed getting to know everyone I've met.
Not only does what I learn from Nature Conservancy folks enhance my experience in photographing plants, flowers, critters, and landscapes, but more importantly, it makes the photographs better. I have the knowledge of what I'm photographing, what to emphasize and what salient features of the area The Nature Conservancy is trying to protect.
There is no group of more dedicated, knowledgeable environmentalists anywhere.
Interviewed by Madeline Breen, Nature Conservancy web writer/editor based in Arlington, VA.