Nature Photographer Colin Payne Supports Old Growth Forest Campaign!

Photographs have the power to evoke emotion and change in their audience. They have the incredible ability to capture a single moment in time and make it last forever. Soon photographs of natural wonders such as old growth forests and powder-drenched mountains are all we will have left unless we, together make a commitment to look after our planet. Living in the West Kootenays, we are lucky enough to see and feel the old growth forests with our own eyes and hands. But for others, photography is key to communicating the existence and threat of these precious trees that are being logged at rapid rates.

Colin Payne, a well-known Kootenay nature photographer has recently re-launched his photography business with a focus on expressing his vision of the beauty and fragility of British Columbia’s vast landscapes. He has generously committed to donating 25% of his earnings  from print sales to the EcoSociety in support of our new conservation campaign, Protecting Old Growth Forests. Colin shares EcoSociety’s passion for protecting wild spaces and uses his photography to share the joy and sadness he feels when contemplating the beauty of a natural world that’s clearly in distress. His hope is to inspire others to help preserve this beauty before it is gone.

We asked him a few questions.

Why are you donating some of your profits to the EcoSociety? 

For most of my adult life, I’ve been passionate about being in and protecting wild places. To me, there’s no more important challenges facing humans than minimizing our impact on the planet, ensuring the survival of other species, and protecting the precious few wild landscapes that remain on Earth. The place I feel is best to start tacking these challenges is right in my own back yard. That’s where the EcoSociety comes in. Your work is vital to protecting the West Kootenay wilderness, biodiversity and climate. That work intersects with my own in that the region’s natural landscape is the medium in which I work. The images I create are intended to express the joy and wonder I feel when surrounded by wilderness—and also often the ecological grief I sometimes experience when I think about how endangered and transient it all is. Finally, I know that I have an impact on the wilderness simply through the act of going into it. I drive a car to get to trails. I impact soil erosion, animal habitat, and delicately-balanced alpine plant species when I hike in the mountains. And, I acknowledge I also have the unintended impact of attracting more people to these places when I identify them online, which increases stress on the ecosystems. Supporting the EcoSociety by donating 25% of the proceeds from sales of my artwork is a way for me balance that impact.

Why do you think the Old Growth campaign is so important? 

I grew up in a paper mill town in Newfoundland, a province where people have been logging the landscape for more than 500 years. A few years before I left, the paper company was clear cutting some of the last-remaining old growth forest in the province. The year I hit the road for Western Canada, in 2005, they were logging the city’s watershed. You might say I’ve seen a vision of the future for British Columbia, where Europeans have been disrupting the landscape for less than half as long. 

Like so many people, for the first few years I lived in the Kootenays, I was in awe of the vastness of the forest and the grandeur of the massive old growth trees that I found. I’m still continually struck by the scale and immensity of it all, but after nearly 15 years of living here with an increasing environmental conscience, I’ve come to see it differently. West Kootenay’s forests are quickly becoming a massive network of industrial landscapes; a patchwork of clear cuts interspersed with small stands of intact forest. 

For old growth, the situation is even worse. We have a few small groves of giant cedar, fir and hemlock that are protected by provincial parks—otherwise, these ancient trees are fair game. I think of the Incomappleux Valley, where already most of the thousand-year-old trees have been logged and those that remain have been spared only because of lumber prices. We’re now moving into an era of extreme old-growth logging where companies have to push into even more sensitive areas to find big trees because they’re getting increasingly scarce.

On a personal and creative level, when I think about old growth forest, I most often conjure up how I feel when I’m there: the connection to an ancient past; the presence of such majestic beings; the smell of the soil; the moisture in the air; and the way that light penetrates the canopy in only small bursts. There’s a stillness in the air and a presence in these places that bring me peace.

On a practical level, these intact rain forests are critical for confronting climate change. Our West Kootenay old growth rain forests are massive carbon sinks that we will need more than ever as our planet continues to heat. Beyond that, we need to protect all forests and increase reforestation, because trees are one of our greatest hopes to reduce the impact of climate change.

The work the EcoSociety is doing to preserve forests and the old growth we have left is critical. It will help protect our environment, our climate and also keep intact those few places we still have left where we can connect with ancient wilderness and feel its power. I’m more than excited to support the Old Growth campaign.

Your nature photography is beautiful! When did your passion for photographing the natural environment start? 

I’ve been passionate about nature for most of my adult life. My photographic journey started after I picked up an old Olympus film camera when I was in my early twenties and started carrying it with me when I went hiking. I was just learning and fumbled a lot with blurry or underexposed negatives, but I was hooked. I loved capturing memories from my trips. I took some courses in school, spent time learning my way around a darkroom, and made my first foray into digital photography in the late 00s. Then I went on to work as a photojournalist for a number of years and continued taking photos on my hiking trips. Ten years ago I got serious about making nature images. I began studying art, invested in professional camera equipment and bought a large format printer. I began making prints with my own two hands and showing them at local galleries like the Craft Connection and the Kootenay Gallery. I’ve also shown my work at various West Kootenay venues, and even won an international award or two along the way. I still do my own printing and have also found a great online print partner who I work with to deliver museum-quality artworks straight to your door. You can learn more about me and my work on my website.

You can enter to win a 24”x 36” print of the below image and join Colin on his creative journey by visiting: https://www.colinpayne.photography/west-kootenay-ecosociety

If you feel passionate about protecting old growth forests and want to partner with the EcoSociety, please contact laura@ecosociety.ca and help make a change.