Q & A: Paul g. Wiegman
The Pittsburgh-based photographer discusses his passion for capturing Western Pennsylvania's natural beauty.
As a naturalist and former vice president of science and stewardship for the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, Paul g. Wiegman has spent his career exploring, learning and educating others about the marvelous natural history of Western Pennsylvania. Through his photographs of our region's farms, fields and forests, he hopes to inspire viewers to explore nature, experience its genius, and share his desire to protect and preserve it. We took a few minutes with Paul to discuss the natural world as seen through his lens.
How did you first become interested in photography?
It’s been a lifelong pursuit. I got my first camera when I was 8 and learned to process black and white film in a dark corner of the basement. Throughout high school, college and beyond I’ve never been without a camera. My undergraduate studies focused on botany, and photography was a natural extension of field work. While working for the Western PA Conservancy, I photographed land we had acquired or were considering for acquisition as part of my responsibilities.
Where do you get the inspiration for your photos, in particular those featured in the Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL)?
My inspiration comes from the subjects. I have a love of the natural world and photographing species and landscapes comes naturally. The pieces in the CSL are best described as found subjects. An example is my photograph of the fall view across the Yough River in Ohiopyle State Park: I had been riding on the Great Allegheny Passage; it was late afternoon and the clouds were breaking after a shower. The light skimmed the top of the adjacent mountain and illuminated the peninsula across the river. The photo wasn’t planned. The subject just presented itself, and I was lucky enough to be there at the right time. It was simply found.
What are your favorite places and subjects to photograph and why?
Most of my recent work has been of the Allegheny Mountains of Fayette, Westmoreland and Somerset Counties and the Great Allegheny Passage. I’m also very much interested in photographing plants, both native and cultivated. I’ve recently been working on a technique for photographing plants with a pure white background, creating images that are reminiscent of botanical prints of the 18th and 19th centuries.
What is the most difficult part of the photographic process?
The most difficult part is finding the right subject in the best light. I’m constantly looking for subjects and watching the light as it moves and changes. I often find wonderful views, but if it isn’t the right time of the day or the clouds aren’t quite right, I pass and wait for another opportunity. On the other hand, I need to be ready when a unique situation arises, and the subject and light come together.
What impact do you hope your photographs will have on CSL visitors?
I hope that they like the work and will take time to visit and enjoy the locations I captured.
Photos © Paul g. Wiegman
Other Featured Exhibits & Events
- Fall Flower Show
- Oct. 18 – Nov. 9, 2014
- In celebration of the harvest season and its changing hues, this colorful exhibit showcases beautiful chrysanthemums, vibrant foliage and other festive flowers as tiny trains wind their way through many of the Conservatory’s display rooms.
- Wines Under Glass
- Oct. 30, 2014
6:30 – 10 p.m.
- Join masked revelers and friends for select wine, cuisine and specialty cocktails as we celebrate the success of Tropical Forest India, our gorgeous Fall Flower Show, and Phipps’ many pacesetting firsts.
- Poinsettias and Pointe Shoes
- Friday, Nov. 21, 2014
6 and 7:30 p.m.
- Kick off the holiday season with two of Pittsburgh's most treasured traditions. Don’t miss this one-night-only opportunity to enjoy the botanical delights of Phipps and vignettes from Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s rendition of The Nutcracker on the very same night. Tickets are limited and must be purchased in advance!
- Farmers at Phipps
- Wednesdays, June – October 2014
2:30 – 6:30 p.m.
- Refresh your food shopping experience! Visit our sustainably managed front lawn to browse organic and Certified Naturally Grown fruits, vegetables and more from local farms.
- Garden Railroad
- A unique twist on the traditional Garden Railroad, this year's display takes you back in time to the California Gold Rush — complete with water features, interactive buttons for children to push, and miniature living plants.
- Romero the Corpse Flower
Turns Over a New Leaf
- Last year, he wowed thousands with his inimitable odor, and this year, he’s back with an amazing new look. After 10 dormant months, Romero has produced an enormous leaf to collect energy for his next big bloom. Visit the Tropical Forest Conservatory to see his transformation firsthand.
BETA Art Tours
- First and third Saturdays, October – December 2014
Next Tour Oct. 18, 2014
11 a.m. – noon
- Discover the BETA Project, a new collection of art at the Center for Sustainable Landscapes designed to enhance and restore the bonds between people and the natural world. Tours are free for members; however, space is limited and reservations are required by the Thursday prior to each tour date. To reserve, please contact us at 412/622-6915, ext. 6505 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Halloween Happenings
- Oct. 24, 2014
4 – 8 p.m.
- When you feel a chill in the air and start to see pumpkins everywhere, you know it's almost Halloween! Bring costumed kids for a spooktacular time in the gardens as we offer a host of healthy snacks and family fun, including games and a pot-a-plant activity. All activities are free with Conservatory admission.
- Native Plant and Sustainability Conference
- Nov. 1, 2014
8:30 a.m. – 2:45 p.m.
William Pitt Union, University of Pittsburgh
- Phipps’ annual Native Plant and Sustainability Conference brings together national experts for a one-day forum on plants, landscapes and our roles as environmental stewards. This year’s program pairs an entomologist with a landscape designer to help illuminate how a well-designed landscape can be a place of beauty while fulfilling several important ecological functions.
- Biophilia: Pittsburgh
- Next Meeting Nov. 6, 2014
6 p.m., with networking and refreshments at 5:30 p.m.
- Biophilia: Pittsburgh is the pilot chapter for a Biophilia Network of creative minds meeting monthly to discuss strengthening the bond between people and the natural world through education, discussion and action. Meetings are free to attend; advance RSVP is required. Join the conversation!
- Party in the Tropics
- Select Fridays
Next Party Nov. 7, 2014
Featuring Wigle Whiskey
7 – 11 p.m.
- Gather your friends and get ready to dine, drink and dance the night away at Phipps! Make our paradise your own as you indulge in sweet and savory morsels, taste unique cocktails, and dance to the beats of a live DJ in our Tropical Forest Conservatory. Entry is free with Conservatory admission.
- Members-Only: Peek Behind the Petals
- Nov. 8, 2014
9:30 – 10:15 a.m.
- Explore the history and future of Phipps with Executive Director Richard V. Piacentini at this edition of our members-only Peek Behind the Petals series. This event is free for members; however, space is limited and reservations are required. To reserve, please contact us at 412/622-6915, ext. 6505 or email@example.com.
- Winter Light Garden
and Flower Show
- Nov. 28, 2014 – Jan. 11, 2015;
Winter Light Garden open evenings 5 – 11 p.m.*
- Take a walk in our Winter Wonderland as we bring to life one of the most beloved carols of all time. With glowing evergreens, festive poinsettias, illuminated glass and our stunning outdoor Winter Light Garden, Phipps will sparkle and shine like never before this holiday season.
- *Weather permitting
- Candlelight Evenings
- Nov. 28, 2014 – Jan. 11, 2015*
Extended Hours: Open until 11 p.m.
- Winter Flower Show is even more enchanting at night – a time when glowing candles light your way and live music fills the air.
- *Note: Phipps will close at 5 p.m. on Dec. 24 and reopen at 9:30 a.m. on Dec. 26.
- Santa Visits
- Saturdays and Sundays, Nov. 29 – Dec. 20, 2014, plus Nov. 28 and Dec. 1
11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
- Bring the kids, or the entire family, to pose for a photo with Santa: It’s a perfect way to get into the spirit of the season and share a special memory with your holiday mailing list! Santa Visits are free with Phipps admission.
- Gifts and Greens Market
- Dec. 4 – 6, 2014
Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
- Free and open to the public, this special holiday shopping tradition at Phipps Garden Center is sure to help you find the perfect gifts for everyone on your list this season.
- Saturdays with the Sugar Plum Fairy
- Sat., Dec. 6 and 13, 2014
10:30 – 11 a.m.
- Phipps and Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre are pleased to present Saturdays with the Sugar Plum Fairy, 30-minute creative movement dance classes and story time sessions with a dancer in costume. Activities are free with Conservatory admission and appropriate for comfortably-dressed children of all ages.
- Family Fun Days
- Dec. 26 – 30, 2014
11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
- Featuring a variety of engaging educational activities, all free with the price of admission, these special days at the Conservatory are filled with adventure and fun.
- New Year's Eve Family Celebration
- Dec. 31, 2014
6 – 9 p.m.
- At this family-friendly event, featuring a variety of activities for children, we will welcome 2015 with an early countdown at 8:45 p.m. so that everyone can join in the fun.
- Tropical Forest India
- Now Open
- Explore our new exhibit showcasing one of the most botanically rich regions of the world. Highlights include an Ayurvedic healing garden, spice and tea market displays, a stunning temple facade on Special Events Hall, and more!