On Photographing National Parks

If you follow me on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook, you’ve seen a few behind-the-scenes pictures of my photography tour of the SW United States, like this one:

Behind the scenes at Bryce Canyon.

Behind the scenes at Bryce Canyon.

This trip has been incredible.  I’ve finally had the opportunity to spend some real time with my uncle Peter, after whom I was named, and together we have seen some of our country’s most beautiful destinations.  I know without a doubt that I have captured some of the best images of my life (don’t miss the last 2 days of my Pre-Sale, where you can get up to 50% off the art from this trip by making a purchase before I publish them).

Behind the scenes during sunset at Zion.

Behind the scenes during sunset at Zion.

As beautiful as they are, there is a downside to photographing national parks and monuments.  I often speak of photography as a form of meditation; a way for me to experience nature’s beauty and disengage from the overwhelm of daily life.  While this can be found in our national parks, it has not been the norm on this trip.  Many of the most picturesque places are well known, and well trafficked by photographers and sight-seers.  As a result, many of my experiences along this trip have been reminding me of my recent trip to Multnomah Falls, where I have had to work a bit harder to find the meditation that is the core of nature photography for me.

In the end, these parks and monuments are an invaluable resource, and well worth visiting for anyone who has an inkling.


I think that they will continue to be the exception for me, rather than the rule, as I seek to maintain the sense of calm wonder and discovery that is why I am a nature photographer in the first place.

One Last Shameless Plug:

Yes, this is really, actually your last chance to take advantage of the SW Parks Tour Art Pre-Sale.  This trip has given me huge opportunity to add some of my most beautiful work ever to my portfolio.  Click here to take advantage of 35-50% off of this work by purchasing before Easter!


#SWParksTour Has Begun!

Although Wi-Fi has been strangely hard to come by, and cell service nearly as bad, I’m doing my best to give you a few peeks of what I’m seeing on this great adventure.  The best way to see the latest is to follow along on Instagram.

I have also extended the Art Pre-Sale through the end of the trip, so if you are intrigued by what you see, you can still pre-purchase to get 35-50% off the images I will create from this trip!


My setup for sunset over Yosemite Valley.

Me capturing the sunset over the Grand Canyon.  Taken by the "other" Peter Blanchard with my phone.

Me capturing the sunset over the Grand Canyon. Taken by the “other” Peter Blanchard with my phone.

It’s been a great time so far, getting to know my uncle better and seeing some of the amazing beauty of our country.  I can’t wait to share the final images after I return in April!


"Milestones" Painted Hills, OR

Painted Hills, OR

Every step that you take moves you further in the direction of your destination.  Though each step may seem small in itself, progress in any direction is comprised of these thousands of smaller steps.  Worry more that each step moves you in the direction you wish to go, and less for how you will cover the great distance to where you’d like to end up.

The Healing Art Cart: Status Update

As many of you know, I’ve been working for more than a year on a program that will allow long-term hospital patients to choose the art for their own hospital rooms.  It’s a very long process to implement a new program for hospitals, and here is my progress so far.

The Healing Art Cart

The idea for this program came to me while reading a paper about Evidence-Based Art that was put out by the Center For Health Design.  The idea is fairly simple: fill a cart full of artwork that has already been vetted to meet the standards of Evidence-Based Art, bring it around to patient rooms, and let people choose what they want on their walls.

Elements identified by Evidence-Based Art as beneficial in healthcare settings include calm or slow-moving water, bright vibrant colors, verdant foliage, and foreground spacial openness.

Elements identified by Evidence-Based Art as beneficial in healthcare settings include calm or slow-moving water, bright vibrant colors, verdant foliage, and foreground spacial openness.

For such a simple concept, it is remarkable how much work has been involved to design each element of the program and jump through the hoops to get it approved at a local hospital.

The Saga

The last year and a half have been a big learning experience for me in what it takes to get a new program going in a hospital.  I’ve established a strong relationship with Legacy Emanuel Hospital, and even received approval to pilot the program in the Oregon Burn Center there.

The project suffered a major setback in October when we brought it before the Grants & Foundations Committee to request funding, and they denied the request.  I couldn’t believe it.  Every hospital employee who had heard about the program had been so positive, and then in 10 minutes this group of community volunteers decided it wasn’t worth paying for.  The 8-page proposal that I had prepared, outlining the benefits and research background for the program, went largely unread as they thumbed through just long enough to see the price tag.  It was devastating.

Some images walk the line when it comes to Evidence-Based Art.  The vibrant colors of this flower are in counter-balance to the beginnings of decay.  I would not display this image on its own in a healthcare setting, but it could be included in a series of images placed in the right setting.

Some images walk the line when it comes to Evidence-Based Art. The vibrant colors of this flower are in counter-balance to the beginnings of decay. I would not display this image on its own in a healthcare setting, but it could be included in a series of images placed in the right setting.

I spent a week or two in the doldrums before rallying my determination that I would not be stopped by this rejection.  I still had approval to run the program, I just needed to find another way to fund it.

How To Fund A New Hospital Arts Program

As far as I could see, there were 3 possible ways to raise the needed funds:

  1. Apply for independent grants
  2. Seek out corporate sponsorship
  3. Conduct a crowdfunding campaign

Each of these has its drawbacks, and I have spent the last few months doing a bit of research about the pros and cons of each model.  I decided early on that Kickstarter was not the way to go for this project.  Although it could potentially raise enough money, I needed to pay attention to the sustainability of whatever funding model I chose.  If I managed to raise the roughly $20,000 needed for the pilot program, I would still find myself in a bind one year later when it was time to renew the program or expand to additional hospital units.  Crowdfunding would only work if there was some way to get recurring revenue from it, rather than one-off support.

It was around this time that I learned about Patreon.  Patreon is a new model of crowdfunding designed specifically to allow artists and other creatives to garner ongoing support from people who believe in the work they are doing.  Although I knew it would be a long stretch to fully fund the Healing Art Cart pilot program through Patreon, I saw this as one piece of the bigger puzzle, so I created an account and have begun to gather support little by little through this platform.

Watch my brief video and then add your support to my Patreon campaign.

Watch my brief video and then add your support to my Patreon campaign.

In the mean time, I am also doing further looking into both the grant-writing and corporate sponsorship models for funding.  Neither will be quick or easy, but both offer some hope of bringing this program into reality.  If you have expertise or resources that you would like to share in support of this goal, please contact me to let me know!  I am overwhelmed with the amount of work to be done, and any help would be greatly appreciated.

Although I am not yet ready to make the official announcement, I am also pursuing a 4th avenue to raise funds for this program.  It’s an exciting idea that came to me only a few weeks ago – stay tuned for more information once I have the details hammered out!

Your mom is overweight, and your dad is starting to forget things

No, this isn’t a “your mom” joke, and my blog has not been hacked and taken over by teenage pranksters.  I chose the title because these things are inevitable.  Aging, illness, injury . . . they happen to everyone.

I made a statement in my recent video that everyone will end up in the hospital sooner or later, either for yourself or attending a loved one.  Yes, even you.

Why am I talking about this on a photography blog?  I’m talking about it because several years ago I learned that I, a simple nature photographer, had at my fingertips the tools to make a difference.  I learned that much of the art I was already creating was in alignment with the principles of Evidence-Based Art research – research demonstrating that art with specific elements can have a very real and tangible positive impact on the quality of life.

Can this art prevent our parents from getting older?  I wish.  But since aging, illness and injury are all inevitable parts of life, it makes good sense to pay attention to the ways that we can improve the experiences that our loved ones (and ultimately we ourselves) will have as we go through them.  That’s where the art comes in.

Simply Choosing

Simply Choosing

Evidence-Based Design is a field of study that examines how the built environment can impact stress, wellbeing, and health outcomes.  Within this field lives a smaller body of research called Evidence-Based Art, which looks specifically at what kinds of artwork are most beneficial in healthcare settings.

The research is fairly incredible.



Through the vehicle of stress-reduction, images like these have been shown to be associated with all kinds of tangible, measurable benefits.  Benefits like lower blood pressure, reduced intake of pain medication after surgery, better reported experience, and even shorter hospital stays.  I invite you to visit the Evidence-Based Art page on my website, where you can also download a PDF with more information and references to some of the better-known studies.

It won’t be long before each of us needs a little healing.  Please consider helping me create calming art and hospital programs that can make our healing spaces a bit more pleasant to be in.

Art In Healthcare: Representational vs. Abstract

Evidence-Based Art

When choosing art for a healthcare setting, it is important to choose art that will have a positive impact on the experience of patients, visitors, and staff members.  Evidence-Based Art is a sub-domain of Evidence-Based Design; whereas Evidence-Based Design examines many aspects of design, including how lighting, shapes, or acoustics can impact visitors, Evidence-Based Art focuses specifically on how to choose artwork that will positively impact patients and other visitors to the space.

Representational vs. Abstract

One of the key findings of Evidence-Based Art research is that representational art is more appropriate for healthcare settings than abstract art.

This can be difficult for some to understand, since in the art world abstract art is often critically well-received.  The reason is fairly simple, however.  It’s not that there is anything inherently bad about abstract art, but rather that abstract art will tend to amplify whatever emotions a person is currently feeling.  Because it is open to a wide range of interpretation, one person might look at an abstract piece of art and find it fascinating and wonderful, while another may look at the same piece and find it disturbing.

This is one of the things that makes abstract art so great in certain contexts, however in the healthcare setting it is best avoided.  Patients who are distressed and family members who are tired and nervous will tend to have their negative emotions magnified by the presence of abstract art, leading to even greater stress and discomfort.

Learn More

If you would like to learn more about Evidence-Based Art, please click on the highlighted words anywhere in this post to visit the relevant page on my website.  There you will find a basic overview, as well as a downloadable PDF with citations to several of the major studies that have established best practices for art in healthcare.

You may also visit the Art For Healthcare gallery on my website, where you will find images that have been selected based on this research.

Finally, please add your support to the work I am doing to improve healthcare with my art by becoming a contributor to my Patreon campaign.

Why I’m Selling Art I Haven’t Created Yet

Some of you have already seen my somewhat zany idea about “Pre-selling” the art that I will create from my upcoming trip to the parks & monuments of the SW United States.  Perhaps you thought this was just a fun way to create some buzz.  Well, it serves that purpose as well, but in fact it’s something much bigger than that: it’s an opportunity for you – yes YOU – to play a tangible role in making my artwork better. 

Let me explain.

Before getting my Nikon D800, my primary camera was the Nikon D300.  When I switched up to the D800, many of my “DX” lenses (which are made for crop-sensor cameras like the D300), had to be replaced with bigger, better, more expensive lenses, as the old ones would not fill the frame on the D800.  I set about doing so as quickly as I could afford to, but I had to make choices, prioritizing some and letting others wait.

One of my favorite DX lenses was the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 ultra-wide zoom.  It’s just so wide and sharp and beautiful!  Here are just a few of the images I took with this lens on my D300:

Disagreeing With Meriwether

Disagreeing With Meriwether

All Along

All Along

In Time

In Time

Well, as it happens, this gem of a lens had a little secret up its sleeve.  Although made for DX cameras, it can be used on full-frame cameras at 16mm!  Naturally, this bumped it way down the list of priorities for replacement, and in fact I’ve managed to take several of my very favorite pictures using the Tokina 11-16mm on my full-frame D800, like this one:

Bridging Every Chasm

Bridging Every Chasm

But here’s the rub.  It works, but it’s not really the best lens for this use.  Stuck at 16mm, it’s not very flexible, and it’s also fairly muddy in the corners, where the manufacturers didn’t intend for anything to be recorded.

Zoomed crop of upper-left corner shows muddy focus.

Zoomed crop of upper-left corner shows muddy focus.

So as I prepare for this epic journey, I’ve set my sights on a lens that I’ve wanted for quite some time: the Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 ultrawide zoom.  It’s about 13% wider, sharp as a tack all the way to the edges, and has a much more flexible zoom range that will allow me to compose exactly the shots I want.

It’s a $2,000 lens (about $1,400 if I buy used), and I created the pre-sale with the specific intention of using the proceeds to buy this lens before I leave for my trip.

So you see, by buying in advance, you’ll not only be getting 35-50% off of my newest work before it’s even made, you will also be ensuring that the work I will create will be even better than it would be if you waited until after the trip to buy it.

So please, buy lots.  And thanks!

Video: Crowdfunding To Support Evidence-Based Art

Patreon is a new crowdfunding platform designed specifically for artists and other creatives.  It differs from the better known funding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo in that it is not designed to raise a single large sum of money for a one-off project.  Rather, it is designed to let artists gather patrons who will support them by pledging small “tips” or donations for each new creation that is posted by the artist.

I have created a Patreon campaign to support my work providing calming, stress-reducing art for healthcare settings, and I’m excited to show you the video that I created for the purpose:

I will be using funds from this campaign to create art that aligns with Evidence-Based Art research principles, and to promote programs that deliver this art to those who need it most, such as the Healing Art Cart.

If you or anyone you know have spent time in the hospital, please consider sharing this video with your network, and contributing to my campaign if you are able.

Parks & Monuments of the Southwest United States: Art Pre-Sale

As Intended

As Intended

In 2010 I had my first look at the Nevada desert.  I was visiting a friend who lived in Vegas, and I was struck by the incredible landscape, so different than my home in Oregon.

I was also struck by Vegas itself.  I found the place incomprehensible.  Call me romantic, but I couldn’t understand why anyone would choose to invest their time or energy into the disorienting chaos of the strip, when they could have been out looking at this.

In March I will be returning to the SW United States, on a photography trip with my uncle, after whom I was named.  We will be exploring several of the national parks and monuments in the SW, including Yosemite, Zion, Arches, Lake Powell, The Grand Canyon, and more.

Looking Forward

Looking Forward

For that trip, I am offering a unique opportunity to pre-purchase art that I will create at discounts of 35-50% off of the retail gallery prices.  Please click here to take advantage of this offer, and be sure to share with anyone you know who has an appreciation for the canyons and deserts in the southwest.