Not too many people can say that one of their photographs is on a postage stamp.
But Richard McGuire can.
The award-winning photographer/reporter who works full-time for the Osoyoos Times is very pleased to learn that his photo of Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico now graces a stamp celebrating the centennial of the U.S. National Park Service.
McGuire has had to keep this revelation top-secret until now, but proudly spilled the beans last week.
“Obviously I’m happy about this and I’ve received many compliments from old friends through Facebook.”
McGuire’s name appears on the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) news release, but not on the stamp itself, so he remains anonymous in that regard.
The USPS says McGuire’s “dramatic” photograph of the interior of Carlsbad Caverns is the fifth of 16 Forever Stamp images revealed over a three-week period to celebrate the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary.
Carlsbad Caverns is one of more than 300 limestone caves in a fossil reef laid down by an inland sea 240 million to 280 million years ago.
McGuire took the photo on Dec. 23, 2009 when he drove from Ottawa to the Southwest U.S. for two weeks.
“The pathway through the caverns is very long. It’s a paved path that is wheelchair accessible, so it’s not like some of the other caves I’ve visited where you are actually climbing over rock or wading through water.”
McGuire took a number of photos in the caves, but this particular image worked the best because of the way the columns frame other columns, and also because of the mix of light and colour.
Unlike some caves that are lit with coloured lights, these caves are lit with non-coloured lights so the dramatic greens and reds are the natural colours.
Carlsbad is very dark, so he had to use a tripod and take exposures of several seconds in length. Also, because the range in light between the lit areas and the shadows is so extreme, he had to use a technique in software to blend several exposures into a single image in order to bring out the shadow detail.
He didn’t, however, alter the colours or change the content of the image.
The photo was taken with an ultra-wide lens to capture the spaciousness of the caves.
It doesn’t, however, portray the fact that these caverns extend at great length.
McGuire posts his photos to a photography website called Flickr and he properly keywords and captions them. This makes them easy to find in search engines on computers and mobile devices.
He is often approached by publications that ask to use his photos, which have been published in a number of books and magazines, including Outside magazine and a travel book published by National Geographic.
A company called PhotoAssist that was hired by the U.S. Postal Service to put together photos for the series of stamps to commemorate the centennial contacted McGuire about his cavern photo last year.
“At the time, I was sworn to secrecy, but they told me right away how the photo would be used and we completed a contract,” McGuire said. “I won’t become rich from the sale of this photo, but it did cover the cost of my gas for that trip.”
The photographer said this series of stamps is important.
“As humans develop and alter the landscape, there are fewer and fewer places that reflect the rare natural beauty.”
McGuire said national parks in Canada and the United States are among the few places where nature is preserved as a legacy for future generations.
He noted that some of the larger parks in the U.S. Southwest are very crowded, even during the winter months. But you quickly lose the crowds when you walk a couple of hundred metres from the nearest parking lot.
“Most people never stray far from the paved roads to experience the natural beauty. For those who do, it can be a quasi-religious experience.”
McGuire said Carlsbad Caverns is somewhat different in that you can’t really escape the hand of man. Although it’s immense, it’s a confined space with a paved walkway and lighting.
“Still, for many people, especially those with mobility issues, it’s the only chance they’ll have to experience the fascinating world under the earth.”
McGuire said these stamps, along with other publicity for the 2016 centennial, raise the profile of these natural treasures and hopefully help people to appreciate how vital national parks are to the story of our planet.
See a slideshow of McGuire’s photos at:
By Lyonel Doherty