David Harp
David Harp

Maryland-based environmental photographer David Harp’s image of Bishops Head Gut is featured as the “Last Look” in the American Forests Spring 2012 Issue. In this American Forests web-exclusive interview, David describes the most difficult image he ever captured, which also happens to be his favorite — of his daughters — and how he works to capture the influence of people on the environment.

When and why did you become a nature photographer?

As a kid, I was always outside messing around in streams and wooded areas near my home, and it was always a struggle for my mom to get me to come inside. Even then, I was observing nature and my place in the natural world. I got my first camera-redeeming coupons when I was 10.

Are you drawn to a specific type of nature photography? Wildlife? Landscapes? Detailed close-ups?

I’m more of an environmental photographer than a nature photographer. I’ve specialized in Chesapeake Bay issues for more than 30 years, so I photograph the beautiful landscapes, but also algae-choked ponds and sprawl development. My books run the gamut with photos of details in nature, landscapes and wildlife, but they always include the influence of people in the environment and the issues they bring forth.

What was the most difficult image you ever tried to capture?

Trying to make a nice portrait of my two daughters for the annual Christmas card. Looking back, it was worth the effort, but never easy.

Do you have a favorite story that revolves around your quest for beautiful photographs?

I’ve gone back numerous times to Bishops Head Gut, the small tidal stream in the featured “Last Look” photo, to capture the scene in summer, winter, moonrise, sunrise, sunset and fog. Sometimes, a place sticks with you, and you want to get the perfect photo of it. You go back many times and learn that there is no perfect view, just lots of perspectives and variations determined by light, time of day, weather and even your state of mind at the time.

Conifer Village, Cambridge, Maryland
Conifer Village, Cambridge, Maryland. Credit: David Harp

Where is your favorite shooting location?

The marshes and creek edges near my home in Cambridge, Maryland. I especially love the textures of the grasses, light on the water and the abundance of life along those serpentine edges.

Do you have a favorite photo?

See the answer to the most difficult image I ever tried to capture.

Which other photographers do you admire?

I’ve been influenced by many, many photographers over the years and really can’t name just a few. My real inspiration comes from writers like John McPhee, Aldo Leopold and my friend, Tom Horton.

Digital or film?

I’ve been using digital cameras for more than 20 years and don’t miss film one bit. No pun intended. The control we have over our images these days is extraordinary, especially compared to the times when someone else was developing our film and making our color prints.

High tide in Cambridge, Maryland
High tide in Cambridge, Maryland. Credit: David Harp

David Harp has been photographing the delights and dilemmas of the Chesapeake Bay for nearly four decades, and his images of the bay’s landscapes, people, flora and fauna have been published worldwide. He prefers the marshy edges, where land and water meet and also seeks to work during the day’s edges — dawn and dusk — searching for subjects bathed in warm light and with long, revealing shadows. He was the chief photographer for the Baltimore Sun Magazine for a decade and has produced four Chesapeake Bay-themed books with writer Tom Horton. He and his wife, Barbara, work from a studio in Cambridge, Maryland, and can be reached at www.chesapeakephotos.com.