Support (and enjoy) our national parks from your living room.
We don’t have to look very far to find inspiration at SmugMug. We’re thrilled that photographers with righteous causes come to SmugMug to find a community ready to be inspired to contribute and participate.
One of our newest customers is for all the outdoorists out there. The Art Rangers are selling a collection of prints that are taken in and of the national parks in the United States. The prints are stunning, naturally, and 100% of the proceeds from each purchase goes to the National Park Foundation. (See the end of the interview for information on contributing your own photographs to the project.) We had the opportunity to catch up with the founder of Art Rangers, Oscar Nilsson, to learn more about his project, his vision, and get a few tips for shooting some of the most iconic landscapes in America.
Death Valley by Dirk Dallas.
Walk me through the step-by-step process that you went through to start Art Rangers. What made you want to start this project?
I moved to California about five years ago now, and ever since I’ve been completely blown away by the beauty of all the preserved public lands of this country. I found my own way into a creative profession through the traveling I did in the national parks around the country. I’ve gotten so much inspiration from being in the various national parks and have found that this appreciation is widely shared among other artists and creatives.
Knowing that the national parks suffer lack of funds to keep their preservation going, I’ve spent some time trying to find a way to give back to these places that have given me so much. A little over a year ago now I had lunch with my partner Alex Tatem, who also is an event producer, and we came up with the concept of a crowd-sourced national parks gallery by talented artists that would benefit the very national parks that are pictured. This concept quickly grew from a rough idea to sketches and research on how to make it happen.
Since then we have grown to a team of eight who are all working pro bono on different aspects of the project to make this happen. SmugMug stepped on as our sponsor for the online gallery and has been vital in making the site go live. We now have art pieces donated by over 60 artists live, and the images represent about 20 out of the 59 national parks so far.
Yellowstone by Trey Amick.
Where did the name come from? Why Art Rangers?
Good question. Park rangers are responsible for protecting our national parks. We wanted to create a community of artists working to keep the national parks protected for future generations using art. Our vision is that the art offered will help people understand the importance of protecting our public lands by showing their beauty and making these amazing art pieces available for everyone. We are also officially partnered with the National Park Foundation to make all of this happen.
Yosemite by Eric Rubens.
Why is this photography important? What are you looking to see from the photographs that are submitted?
I believe that photography has the power to tell a visual story and touch people who either have or haven’t had the opportunity to visit these national parks before. To be able to offer these amazing images by talented photographers who all share the mutual passion and appreciation for the national parks truly speaks to the community among these artists.
We’re allowing anyone to submit their images and are not limiting to any type of imagery; we simply make sure they are high enough quality to get printed and consider how likely the print is to sell and represent the national park. Thanks to our sponsor Sony Alpha, any person submitting images to the site also has the chance of winning a full-frame camera kit from Sony.
Grand Tetons by Filippo Bianchi.
You’re an awesome photographer yourself, Oscar — if someone were to ask for your advice on photographing the national parks, and you only had a minute to give them your best tip, what would it be?
Thank you, I truly appreciate that. If I had one minute, I would recommend taking a couple days off work and spending some more time in the park. There’s only so much of a national park you can experience by stopping by the popular vista points during a busy weekend. To fully understand the power of the national parks, both for your mind and your photography, I would recommend trying to break away for some longer hikes, cook in nature vs. eating in the tourist restaurants, immerse yourself in the park as much as you can.
Yosemite by Oscar Nilsson.
Can you tell us something exciting that Art Rangers will be doing in 2018?
The main thing we have going is [opening] our live gallery event in San Francisco early spring next year. We’re excited to invite artists of various medias to contribute in an evening full of nature-inspired creativity, live music, tattoo artists, cocktails, and, most importantly, a powerful community of people with an appreciation for the national parks. Other than that, we’re going to keep working on spreading the word about the national parks and our project by partnering with talented artists and meaningful partners. Anyone that wants to get involved is welcome to reach out!
Dec 18, 2017 · 5 min read