These days it seems that nearly every drive you take through the countryside brings an awareness of change and of loss.
You might have a favorite country scene you pass over and over again. Then someone builds a suburb in the middle of it, and suddenly your comforting view of green pasturelands is gone. Or maybe a storm comes up and then you notice a favorite old tree has been uprooted. Or maybe you see an entire way of living -- whether the methods of old-time farming or the ways of the Eastern Shore watermen -- is slipping away.
Only through photographs can we stop time. Only by taking pictures can we keep safe and unchanged the things we value as beautiful in the natural world.
"I fell in love with the region in which I live," says photographer Richard W. Brown, author of "Pictures From the Country" (Camden House, hardcover, $29.95) "And I wanted to preserve it, at least in photographs, and affirm how beautiful I thought it was."
Photography can be a way of making a statement, he continues.
"In my photographs I'm trying to show what it is that's really unique and wonderful about the rural life and people who are making their living from the land."
Many other people see their photographs as a way of capturing time as well as beauty.
David Orbock -- a panoramic photographer whose studio, Full Circle, is located in Charles Village -- goes down to Tilghman Island at least once a year to record the oystermen and their skipjacks. he also takes photographs of a particular farm along I-83 to show its changes through the seasons.
"Most of the photographers I know have projects," says Mr. Orbock. "And a lot of them involve this thing of recording changing things over time. I'm not taking about a month or two months, I'm talking about years: 10, 15 years."
Baltimore photographer Greg Pease is one of those. He has been photographing the Pride of Baltimore for the past 14 years. His photographs were brought together in a book, "Sailing With Pride" (C. A. Baumgartner, hardcover, $49.95) which was published last year.
"I've photographed the Pride in all sorts of backgrounds all over the world," he says. "Each photograph was somehow different but a sense of place is the underlying theme."
All three of these professional photographers agree that a sense of connection and a passion for what you're photographing can actually make you a better photographer.
"When you find something you care about, the more you go back and revisit it, the more your feelings evolve and mature," Mr. Pease says. "And you become visually more articulate."
Mr. Brown, who teaches photography at workshops all around the country, says it's not enough just to see something you like and take a picture of it. Instead, you have to define what it is about the landscape that you want to communicate.
Landscapes, he says, are some of the hardest things to photograph.
"What is it there that captures your interest?" he says. "There must be either some quality of light or some rhythm in the formation of the landscape or the way the trees are going or the clouds are shading it or whatever. This is what gets your attention and this is what you need to concentrate on."
Mr. Brown, who studied painting in college and first took up photography as a way to make quick notations about things he wanted to paint, believes that the less complex your approach toward your subject, the better your photography will be.
"People usually feel a little lost. They take a picture and then they get it back and they say, 'So what. What did I think I was doing?' "
With continued practice, he says, you'll learn not only to communicate something about the scene but about yourself as well.
"You'll eventually begin to recognize what is special about the way you see things and to really bring that out."
Tips for better photos
Often it's our insecurity about our skill as a photographer that keeps us from grabbing a camera to run out and try to capture on film the things we love.
"I think a lot of people are almost afraid of their cameras, they just don't really know what to do with them," says Richard Brown. "It comes between them and what they're seeing rather than bringing what they're seeing out."
A few small changes in the way you take pictures can make a big difference. Here are some tips from the experts:
*You need to have patience to take a picture, says David Orbock. "If you're going out and recording these things that are changing, you've got to take your time, you can't hurry.
Sometimes it takes me literally an hour to take one picture, if I'm real serious about the scene and I want to get the clouds right or the people right. It isn't unusual, if you have something like a barn, and you're walking around looking at shadows and shapes, to say well maybe I'll come back this evening when the sun is close to setting.