By Jasmine Willis
DANSVILLE — A local photographer is sparking an awareness of the emotional healing nature can have on our state of mind in this pandemic.
Dick Thomas, photographer, has a solo exhibit at Dansville ArtWorks until the end of November. It is bringing people peace of mind in these dark times. Thomas had an opening on Oct. 16 with his loyal supporters there to encourage him.
Letchworth State Park, Stony Brook State Park, and Nations Road in Geneseo are some of his most highlighted places in landscape photography.
As of now he has been working on a project for Finger Lakes Tourism on Route 36 from Monroe County to Jasper. It showcases the beauty of nature in the area. The guide wanted a strong focus on the parks like Letchworth State Park and Stony Brook State Park. He will always highlight Rattlesnake Hill in Swain. This has been a yearlong project during Covid 19.
“I love getting out there as much as I can with my camera. Taking nature photos is good for the soul in these times. We are at time now when everyone is on edge about illness and politics. It is good to get out there by yourself or in a small group and enjoy nature,” he said. “When we talk about relationships with nature it can be a very spiritual thing. I am not talking about religion. I am talking about a deep connection with nature. It is acceptable to talk about how this heals the soul.”
Thomas has been taking landscape photos most of his life. He started a love for photography in high school. His parents got him his first camera to take photos for the yearbook. Ever since he has grown as a photographer and spent countless moments looking for the perfect photo.
“I have found people’s relationship with nature very interesting during the Covid Pandemic. The first thing I noticed about it was when I was finally able to go back to my favorite store. I can spend hours walking around Barnes and Nobel. I could live there since I love it so much,” he said. “I always go to the nature section. What I found was there were completely cleaned out on bird watching books. It is how people have handled their isolation this year. They have gotten bird watching guides to watch birds in their backyards. They want to relate to what is going on outside and feel better about their world.”
Often there comes a time when an artist is asked about their favorite spot. Thomas’ favorite spot is Nations Road in Geneseo. It is filled with some of his most famous photos.
“I have many of my Avon and Geneseo barns I love from that road. I have lots of photos on my ancient oak trees. I always enjoy spending a lot of time there. There is a lot of history on our rural heritage on this road. There is a strong evidence of our past found here,” he said.
The most famous photo is the Solitude, Red Fox. It was taken from a window in the chill of the winter one day. He sells prints of that photo more every year.
Many of his prize winning photos come from Letchworth State Park. Thomas has spent many hours combing this park for hidden treasures.
“Letchworth Park is full of so much light and really is a photographer’s playground. I lucked out one day getting the perfect shot. I saw the moon was still in focus above the railroad bridge. The mist had developed a rainbow in the waterfalls. I snapped the photo and got the moon, rainbow, bridge shot,” he said. “A lot of what you do as a landscape photographer is wandering around looking for what you have envisioned in your mind. Some days you don’t find what you are looking for. I am not disappointed when this happens. I find fulfillment in the challenge of finding what has never been seen before, comes from your vision, and is completely fresh. Sometimes it takes days, weeks, or months to find that successful photo.”
Thomas said it not about how expensive your camera gear is, but in how the photographers view the world through the lens.
“You can have your cellphone or the most expensive camera gear in the world. It doesn’t really matter. All that matters are the person’s vision. You can take an outstanding photo. It is all about your creativity. All that matters are if you are pleased with it,” he said. “It is all about developing how you see the world. This is what I am trying to capture and teach people with my photography.”
Thomas spent over three decades working for the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. He has never stopped the mission he started to get people to respect and value nature.
“When I worked for the D.E.C. as an officer I would go out and take photos of landscapes and wildlife to relax. I wanted to enjoy the very thing I worked so hard to protect. I value the world around us. My job was to protect the natural world and educate people how important the world was to our very existence,” he said. “I am continuing that mission with my photography. I want to show people how special our surroundings are. I need to capture as much of it as I can. This includes a lot of the wildlife. It all goes back to my own emotional health as well. We all need nature to help us get through this and heal. I pursue this every day with my camera.”
The major parks are a place of serenity and solitude for people in all walks of life. They give everyone the healing they need for their emotional health.
Thomas spends a lot of time in his own backyard in Caledonia. He has an 1839 Farmhouse with plenty of land to wander in with his camera. He took 10 years to restore the home before moving in with his family. It is a lifelong dream to enhance the value of the wildlife and work on his land.
Check out Dick Thomas Solo Exhibit at Dansville Artworks until the end of November. It is located at 153 Main Street. It is open Wednesday to Friday noon to 6 p.m and Saturday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information on Thomas including how to purchase prints visit http://www.dickthomasphotography.com