Mark Carlson seldom gave formal speeches. Rather, the long-time naturalist and friend of the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy used his talent for photography to “speak volumes” about the Great Lake State he loved.
Mark Stephen Carlson passed away on October 25, 2019 at age 60 after decades of devotion to nature and capturing his visions through photography. He and his wife of 38 years, Debra (who survives him), enjoyed the outdoors through trips to the many special “nooks and crannies” of the Great Lakes region, especially Michigan. The resident of DeWitt’s photographs graced everything from books and magazines to calendars and post cards, and are part of his legacy. A celebration of his life was held on Friday, November 1 at the MWC’s Bengel Wildlife Center where he was remembered as a “strong spiritual person who strove to convey the tranquility of nature.”
In 2003, Mark Carlson and fellow photographer, Darryl R. Beers, captured the abundant splendor of the Upper Midwest in their book, “Michigan: Simply Beautiful (FarCountry Press). Their brilliant full color images explored special places from Lake Superior to the base of the Lower Peninsula and included enchanting contrasts: bustling cities, graceful farmland, rolling hills, historic light houses, giant lakes, and lush forests. This type of corner to corner exploration of nature started during his childhood, and his passion for nature and photography grew steadily after his first image was published in 1980. By the time “Michigan: Simply Beautiful” was published, Mark’s fine art had been exhibited in galleries and in private collections throughout the Midwest.
Mark and Debbie Carlson became members of the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy in the 1990s and the Bengel Wildlife Center’s 259 acres were among the nooks and crannies he explored. He expressed a special interest in the bogs of the BWC where he occasionally joined other naturalists on “search and find” missions. He allowed the organization to use his photographs in the Wildlife Volunteer News and in numerous slide/power point presentations given around the state. Mark’s expertise and perspectives will be sorely missed by the Conservancy.
The following excerpts are from Mark Carlson’s personal message that appeared in “Michigan: Simply Beautiful” in 2003--
…..Michigan’s designation as The Great Lake State is very apropos. Always the lure for family vacations, our greatest natural resource became my continuing inspiration as a budding nature photographer. Growing up in the capital city of Lansing, a Great Lake was only a 2-hour drive to the east or west of my home. Soon, my search for natural beauty would lead me on repeat journeys to waterways and scenic shorelines throughout both peninsulas. This passionate vision quest began 25 years ago and happily continues to this day.
…..A favorite venture of mine is photographing the waterfalls of the Upper Peninsula. More than 150 of them adorn the wild rivers and streams of the rocky Upper Peninsula hill country. Translating their hypnotic seduction onto film has always been one of my most welcomed creative challenges.
…..Among all the natural highlights of Michigan rest some of the most charming pastoral farm scenes this side of New England. From the hip roof barns of the “thumb” area to the rolling orchards in the “little finger” of the Leelanau Peninsula, remnants of our agricultural heritage sit like Wyeth paintings across the landscape. My ambition has always been to record as many of these vanishing links to the past as possible. In order to capture their ethereal qualities—the texture of wood and stone structures and the idyllic settings that quietly harken to simpler times—I’ve learned to imagine them from a painter’s perspective before clicking the shutter.
…..Wildlife, such as white-tailed deer, elk, moose, black bear, and a vast assortment of birds, inhabit our fields, forests, and waters. Recently, with the advent of numerous sightings, the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy confirmed—through intensive research, including DNA analysis—that cougars still exist on both peninsulas. These are just a few reasons to support continued preservation of the ecosystems that help to define our Great Lake State and make Michigan simply beautiful. - Mark S. Carlson
Check out all the pics of the 2017 Mid-Michigan Arbor Day Celebration at Potter Park Zoo by clicking on the above photo!
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