Why do we get into landscape photography? A lot of reasons, probably. For some, it’s a business. For others, photography is a creative outlet or hobby. The pessimistic among us may point fingers, saying the new generation just wants notoriety or validation. Conversely, the silver-lining sort might talk about art as a form of expression or therapy. No matter what type of landscape photographer you are, though, I’d wager that we all have one thing in common. Spending time in nature just feels right. Why else would we hike nine miles to see the sunrise over some mountains? Or slog through incessant mosquito attacks? Or freeze under a winter sky to catch a glimpse of the aurora?
For photographer Journé Germain, landscape photography is something more. It goes beyond just a love of the outdoors. Landscape photography - and the time spent in nature doing it - provides an opportunity to bond with his son, whose photo compositions have inspired several of Journé’s own images.
Journé’s journey as a photographer started the same way it did for a lot of us. In his words, “I’ve always been an outdoors guy for as long as I can remember, hiking and exploring all of the local areas since I was a child. Growing up, I enjoyed photography and frequently had a camera with me. But truthfully, my passion for photography really ignited with the birth of my son ten years ago. It was then that I bought my first DSLR camera. When the camera wasn’t focused on my son, Kailen, I was off in the woods on a trail or sitting on a hill watching a sunset. The camera never left my side.”
In those ten years, Journé has built an impressive portfolio and is often referred to locally as the waterfall master. When asked about it, he explained that he loved the way long exposure clouds looked, or the way waves and water looked on the beach but didn’t live near the ocean. Then it dawned on him. Western Massachusetts contains a large catalogue of waterfalls that he already loved to visit. Waterfalls quickly became a priority.
Being an avid outdoorsman, it wasn’t long before Journé began sharing his love of nature with Kailen. “I’ve been bringing my son along on photography adventures since before he could walk,” Journé said. “I’ve always wanted him to share the same passion for the outdoors that I do and firmly believe in the ‘teach them young’ philosophy. At first, we’d spend the majority of the time searching for critters in pools and throwing stones. I’d sneak in a few shots here and there.”
When Kailen was three years old, someone gave him a cheap camera. “He loved it,” Journé said. “That was the AHH HAA moment for me. We’d bring it along with us and he’d use it a bit, then drop it to go find a snake. When he was four years old, I let him use my backup mirrorless camera. He found that much more satisfying because he could see his images a lot better.
“At this point, I already carried Kailen’s camera everywhere we went. I never forced it on him but would let him know it was available. Sometimes he’d take it and sometimes he wouldn’t. To this day frogs, snakes and salamanders are still a much larger priority for him. If there are animals around, he’ll take a few shots of them. Then the camera goes back in the bag so he can study whatever critter he’s found.”
Journé and Kailen have been on many photo trips and created countless memories through their shared love of the outdoors. Last summer, Journé took him to see Bash Bish Falls for the first time. Three photography friends joined them. Kailen showed every one of his shots to the group. Journé thought it was his way of subconsciously saying, “Hey guys, I’m one of you.”
Although he’s only ten years old, Kailen is definitely a photographer in his own right. He has his own creative style and a vision for his images. For example, last winter, Journé and Kailen photographed a low-flow waterfall. Kailen was having fun crunching the brittle sheets of ice. “All of a sudden,” Journé said, “He’s yelling, ‘Hey Dad, look at this!’ He had taken his camera, climbed under the ice, and was shooting the waterfall from an ice cave he carved. I found that insanely creative. We started playing with angles of his shots and taking pics with his camera of us poking our heads under the ice.”
Kailen also adopted the use of foreground elements on his own. In Journé’s words, “It’s not a unique thought but it’s not my style. Kailen has never seen anyone to copy, so he genuinely came up with it on his own. Two years ago, we visited a waterfall in the fall. I look over and he’s picking out the brightest leaves he could find and holding them in his hand. The photo’s focus was on the leaves, and not on the waterfall. The images came out perfect. I remember being blown away.”
In fact, having Kailen along on photo outings has been very inspiring for Journé. When he first dove into photography, Journé told people that he saw the world differently. He always searched for compositions and saw beauty where he hadn’t before. “But now with Kailen at my side,” Journé said, “it’s ten-fold! I start to see things through his eyes. It’s fascinating to see what he finds interesting.”
In the end, Journé is just grateful that his son has an appreciation for the outdoors, and that through their hiking and photography trips, they’ve created lasting memories. His philosophy of teaching them young has paid off. Journé is a self-professed doting father and when I asked how he felt about sharing photography with his son, he said, “Kailen loves coming with me on trips. He picks hikes and places he wants to visit now. We don’t necessarily bond over taking photos - we bond over being together outside. But I hope he sticks with his photography. I think he’s really good.”