What do you want in a good nature photography book? Do you want photographs of places you know and love? Or, do you want photographs of amazing places off the beaten track? What if you could find a book that takes familiar places and then shapes them into a means to connect with your deepest thoughts and feelings? That’s what Erik Stensland, Estes Park, has done.
You know he has a good eye for nature when you hear that he has opened several successful galleries of his photography work. While he loves to head out into the Rocky Mountain National Park when he’s not working on one of his projects, but he has travelled the world to include in his book “The Journey Beyond,” photographs of places that first makes you wonder… is that Saguaro cactus in Arizona? Is that swirly red rock formation in Utah? Is that field of flowers in Wyoming?
But then you take the time to read the accompanying text, and the image takes on a new form. The red mountains that might have had you thinking of Garden of the Gods now has you thinking of them as guides… maybe spiritual guides drawing your eyes upward to the sky, or guides like in the pioneer days that took the hand of the pioneers and lead them into their future. The text is what transforms these photographs into far more than a “pretty desk top picture book.”
Each passage is one page long, sometimes only a paragraph long. In the “Unexpected Guide” passage, the author starts out with how he wanted to control everything when he was younger, and now he sees that “I’m learning that what is most important in life is not what I do but who I become. Though extremely uncomfortable, it is those unwanted inconveniences that form me more than anything else.” And, he ends with “I see that they are unexpected guides leading me into deeper transformation than I would have ever experienced without them.”
There are 160 pages of these dual “daily meditations” or “reflections,” along with a photograph in nature. The book acts as a positive, gentle guide to explore the meaning of and enactment of goodness, wholeness and the meaning of life. The author believes that the book has not only helped him in his personal journey, but in societal wholeness, and feels you too can benefit in broad ways.
The book is not your typical coffee table size, but is 6” x 8” so that you could pack it in your backpack as you take a walk to the park, or as you hike a trail, and then settle in to a cove near the river, and read one of the reflections and see how it “reflects your life,” and what you can perhaps change or improve.
Even sitting at home, reading one can transform you into an imaginary journey; like one that goes, “It’s a little after 4 a.m, and once again I’m on my way to a beautiful valley in the hope that I can capture warm morning light on jagged peaks… I’m finding that I don’t need my head lamp this morning… This light is so gentle and yet enables me to see my path… Everything around me is silhouetted…” He goes on to ponder what moonlight is and how we too can be like that reflective gentle light.
When Stensland first wrote down his inner thoughts and took the scary chance of sharing them with the public, he didn’t know if it would resonate with others. The first edition, “Whispers in the Wilderness,” went on to win four national awards, including “best inspirational book of the year,” from the Independent Book Publishers Assn.
“The Journey Beyond, Learning to Live beautifully in a Troubled World,” came out this year. He is currently rewriting his award-winning hiking guide to update it after the recent fires, as well as his photography guide to the Rocky Mountain National Park. His books can be purchased at his fine arts photography shop in Estes Park, or anywhere books are sold..