A local photographer is utilizing his art as a means of giving back to mother nature – the subject of his photographs.
Kristofer Zieb, a 29-year-old engineer at Lawrence Livermore National Labs, said photography is his passion. The past six months of enforced solitude have given him ample opportunity to spend more time doing what he loves. As his collection of landscape and nature photography grew, he was inspired to share his work with others. In the spring, he began selling prints for personal purchase
“This is relatively new for me, but during quarantine, it really took off,” Zieb said. “There’s nothing to do but be outside and isolated, and it was during this time of being on my own that the idea of giving back to the subjects I’m taking pictures of kind of clicked for me.”
Depending on the subject, Zieb began donating 50% of the revenue from the sale of his pictures to themed conservation funds, with a total of $700 donated. Initially, his donations went to groups like the American Bird Conservancy and the Ocean Conservancy. Since wildfires have made such an impact on the state this fall, especially state parks, he temporarily directed all donations to the California State Parks Foundation (CSPF) to help victims of California wildfires.
“This passion for landscape and nature photography grew for me in California, and that’s where the California State Parks Foundation came out of,” he said. “Currently, during wildfire relief, I’m donating all of the proceeds there because they started a wildfire relief fund.”
The CSPF is an independent, member-supported nonprofit that created a diverse network of champions for state parks. Holly Martinez, CSPF public relations officer, stated that the wildfire relief fund began when the fires in Big Basin and other locations continued to burn through protected state land.
“Our wildfire relief fund is working to immediately address the needs of those impacted by the fires in state parks,” Martinez said. “We are initially giving 100% of the funds that we raise out to those state parks to help employees who have been displaced, to help replace equipment and tools and things they have lost in the fire. We will continue to help them rebuild and get back to work.”
Once initial needs are met, remaining funds will be used to establish long-term climate resiliency grants to help the parks prevent and prepare for the effects of climate change.
Zieb said the remaining half of his profits supports the hobby, covering the cost of tools and maintaining his website. His goal is to make the photography a self-sustaining donation machine, costing him only his time.
Zieb grew up in Oregon, in a family that spent time outdoors. He remembers his mother always had a camera handy and taught him to appreciate photography as a child. Once in high school, Zieb took a photography class that changed the way he took pictures.
“I started to appreciate the aesthetics, and what actually makes a good photo and not just I want to capture this moment,” he said. “We learned all about composition, lighting, different techniques, post processing, and it just opened my eyes to a whole new world . . . it became, ‘how do you set a stage, how do you get lighting just right, what does color actually mean?’ There was just so much to it.”
Throughout college and into adulthood, Zieb continued learning, traveling and honing his skills. He has lived in New York, New Mexico and California. He said the unique landscapes of each of his homes have taught him something new about nature and how to capture it on film. But his favorite spot is right in Livermore.
“I think my absolute favorite spot is Del Valle Regional Park,” he said. “Even prior to its closure, there’s that fork in the road where Mines breaks off and you can look down into the valley and I must have shot hundreds of photos at that location, day and night. I’ve done some astrophotography … that was the first time I’ve seen the milky way with my own eyes, and I’ve been enchanted with that area ever since.”
For more information or to purchase one of Zieb’s photographs, visit www.jamesekkartphoto.com.
For more information on the California State Parks Foundation, call 415-262-4400 or visit www.calparks.org.