WHEN I WAS 8 years old, my grandparents gifted me one of those red plastic pancake cameras. It was simple, light and cheap. From Day One, the toy camera and I were inseparable; not a single neighborhood subject was immune from our scrutiny. During lulls, I indulged in my grandparents’ National Geographic magazine archives. Together, these two artifacts kept photography at the forefront of my youth.

Cover story: The Nature Conservancy’s book ‘Human/Nature’ explores our connections — and our responsibilities — to Washington’s outstanding surroundings

Later, I backpacked from continent to continent for six years. I carried little besides pen, notebook, a Nikon FM10 and a stock of Kodak film. Telling stories with words slowly transformed into telling stories with pictures. Back in the United States, I went to school to study commercial photography and worked my way up.

Now, as a husband and a father of two daughters, I keep exploring. This project and my travels abroad have brought me full circle and given me a deep sense of clarity as to why I’ve settled in Washington to raise a family and build a career.

Washington state is a place of magic — from the rainforests to the deserts, from the salmon tributaries and mountainous slopes of some of the largest evergreens, to the misty elk valleys and vast expanses of raw prairie steppes. There is something for everyone. The moments we shared with each individual we met — who rely on this land for happiness and sustenance — reinforce the foundation of why I do what I do: tell a story, their stories, for the betterment of this generation and future generations.

I remember Jack Toevs and his apple orchards east of the Cascades. He had a heart of gold, and his employees in the field combined the same kindness with skilled work ethics. Jack’s wife, Pam, opened their home to us, poured us a glass of wine and shared her passion for art like we were old friends. And likewise, their employees smiled in the soft early morning light, steam rising off their breaths, weathered fingers twisting cold apples from the numerous trees lining the hillside.

And then there is T.J. Greene, a man of beauty and wisdom. He took us up to a plateau sacred to the people of the Makah Tribe. For many years prior, I had surfed the waves below it, looking up and out, wondering what lies on those bluffs. To be granted passage with T.J. and his son further embedded a profound respect for the land; its people; and the elk, bears and other creatures that share our natural environment.

So with this understanding and my experience with “Human/Nature,” I take my work and walk my daily life, still dreaming and creating — but with a more profound purpose to show my daughters how to live out one’s deepest desires and respect the land we briefly inhabit.