Photographer aims to start conversations

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John Fielder plans to use his photographs of Colorado's wilderness as the "ointment to draw the flies" into a deeper discussion about conservation.

Just as photography brought him a greater awareness of the environment and our need to protect it, Fielder thinks his art will have the same effect on his audience.

The slide show Fielder will present Saturday follows a book he recently published called "Seeing Colorado's Forest for the Trees."

The book was inspired by the wildfires the state experienced in 2002.

"You (in Steamboat) know fire well," Fielder said. "But there has been a lot of misinformation about forest fire and how important fire is. Suppressing forest fires is a formula for disaster."

A 10,000-word essay by author and environmentalist Steve Smith accompanies the photos in Fielder's latest book.

"It's a very thoughtful essay about the multi 100-year cycles that forests go through," Fielder said. "We see the forest in such an anthropomorphic way. A forest burns and we think it's ugly. But if we all are patient, we will have healthy forests."

Fielder's hour-long slide show and lecture will discuss the life cycle of a forest and the need for responsible logging practices, but he also will give advice to photographers about composition, design and tips on use of light.

"Many of the photos evoke environmental issues, but this show will be mostly entertainment," Fielder said. "We will discuss the 4 billion years of the miracle of life as well as great places to go in Colorado."

The timing of Fielder's slide show corresponds with the release of a new draft by the Bush administration of a Roadless Area Conservation Rule that many think will weaken previous protection of roadless areas in the national forest. The revised roadless rule is a matter of concern for slide show organizers, Colorado Wild, a Durango-based citizen group formed to educate the public about timber issues.

The group hopes to encourage the Forest Service to thin areas close to private property, where it will do the most good to protect homes from wildfires, rather than in the backcountry, said Colorado Wild board President Jeff Parsons.

"At the end of the Clinton administration, 65 million acres were set aside for protection, but this new (Roadless Area Conservation) Rule will overturn that," Fielder said. "The Bush administration has implemented a thoughtful and focused breakdown of clean air and clean water and public land protection. I think there is a kind of vindictiveness behind it."

Protecting the open spaces and wild places of Colorado is the only way the state will have a sustainable economy, Fielder said.

Fielder sees himself as part of a tradition of nature photographers whose works have contributed to the conservation of the places they photographed, such as Enos Mills whose photography led to the creation of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Fielder's environmental beliefs were not always as strong.

"I was very conservative in the beginning," he said. "But the more I photographed, the more I ventured into nature. That begat my beliefs.

"I morally have to get back to the places that give me my livelihood."

To reach Autumn Phillips call 871-4210

or e-mail aphillips@steamboatpilot.com

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