For an undergraduate botany course, I drew plants instead of pressing them, and for years afterward made botanical illustrations, among other pieces. One aspect of drawing is capturing the essence and spirit of the thing being drawn, as distinct from mere reproduction of details. Whether the mysteriousness of an oddly shaped pinyon pine, a graceful ponderosa, an awkward box-elder, or sweetly delicate pasqueflower, my aim is always to portray what is unique and special about the tree or plant.

That sensibility has carried over into my photography of conifers. Often I've found myself seeking tree after tree to find the one that epitomizes the species. Simultaneously, I look for the burned, the weak, the struggling, because that's also part of the ecosystem.