About the Photographs
Natural History of the Upper Peninsula - This website consists of photographs and commentary about the natural history of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Natural history is the study of organisms in their environment with the goal of understanding how their natural surroundings influence their behavior, forms, function, and abundance. This differs from ecology in that natural history leans more towards observational than experimental methods. I take the broad view espoused by Natural History magazine that natural history also includes geological and atmospheric processes. In this broader view, natural history also includes the human species, especially its role in manipulating the environment.
Finding Photos – To find photos with text, type what you are looking for into the Search Box on the home page. To visually browse, select a subject category (e.g., Animals) on the menu bar near the top of the page and then click one of the galleries (e.g., Birds). Each photo is initially assigned to a home gallery based on species or other subject matter. Some photos are also assigned to Collections, which are secondary groupings that bring together photos by different criteria than in their home galleries. For example, the Monochromes collection includes all the black and white photos regardless of their subject matter and home gallery. To see the whole scheme, see the Complete List of Galleries on the PDFs page.
A Little About Me
I’m Chris Burnett, and I’ve spent most of a lifetime observing Nature, studying and teaching ecology, and working on the land. Over the years, I’ve worked in academia, industry, government, and the non-profit sector (see more below). Now semi-retired, my main work is photographing the native species and landscapes of the Upper Peninsula and leading an ecologically healthy lifestyle. As a life-long environmental activist and homesteader, I'm passionate advocate of both wild places and well-managed lands.
As a hybrid of the Observer and Creator personality types, photographing Nature gives me a way of integrating these two aspects of myself, and a way of serving others. When I’m in the Observer mode, photographing acts as a kind of therapy, helping me forget the challenges of the everyday world, and making me focus (in more ways than one) on seeing who’s out there and what they’re doing. When I’m in the Creator mode, photographing gives me numerous ways of sharing my observations and interpretations.
Knowing that our lives are supported and enriched by the biodiversity of this uniquely valuable ecoregion, I believe it’s our duty to learn as much as we can about the lives of our other-than-human neighbors and find ways of co-evolving with the natural ecosystems of the UP.
Want more UP nature photography? If you want to learn more about the natural history of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and ecologically healthy ways of living, or simply enjoy my photographs, I invite you to sign up for UP Shots, my monthly email to subscribers. If you opt-in, I’ll send you a free copy of one of my monographs on UP natural history and give you have exclusive access (long with other subscribers) to future monographs.
More About Me
I have been photographing Nature since my youth, traipsing through the woodlands of the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts with my Kodak Instamatic. As an undergraduate at the SUNY College of Forestry in Syracuse, my interest in photography was greatly advanced by meeting Professor William Harlow, one of the early greats of macro and time-lapse photography. Shortly after Bill showed me the kind of equipment he used, was the only time I seriously tested my parents’ decision to make me a signer on their checking account. As the photo editor of the college yearbook, I shot and developed a lot of black and white in those years, creating a strange mixture of nature celebration and late 1960’s campus turmoil.
Working as an environmental consultant and interpretive naturalist after college, I photographed everything in Nature that I could afford to given the cost of film and developing. Inspiration in those years came from the photographs of Eliot Porter. In the late 1970’s, my doctoral studies at Boston University lead me into the world of flash photography and infrared videography while studying the ecology of bats.
In the following decades, I continued to use photography as an important tool in my various positions as an academic, forestry consultant, environmental activist, homesteader, and parent. But photography as art was still waiting. Then came the digital revolution, and shooting lots of photos became possible without going broke. And shooting lots of photos is what it takes to make photographs worthy of being called fine art.
Today, the pieces I present as art are created more from a spiritual than a practical viewpoint. Sometimes, I purposely seek out subjects, especially to celebrate the extraordinary beauty of the Upper Peninsula that I have called home since 1989. My usual approach, however, is to wander about in a natural area testing my belief that great beauty can always be found nearby if you quiet your mind and simply observe.
As an excessively practical person, “getting lost in the woods” with a camera balances my life. I think of photographing Nature primarily as a form of reverence, an attempt to see and appreciate the essence, the Gestalt, of other species and natural phenomena. Through the process of developing and printing high resolution images, my reverence and understanding of Nature have been greatly furthered as I often discover other, smaller species and structures that I overlooked in the field.
I hope that the beauty and wonder of Nature, as interpreted by my photographs, will inspire you to contribute to the protection of natural areas in your community.