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
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