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Ed Cleary: Connecting to Nature through Photography

Ed Cleary: Connecting to Nature through Photography
Spring sunrise at Rowena. (photographer: Ed Cleary)
By Pam Davee
Director of Philanthropy
October 19, 2020

Forty years ago, Ed Cleary hiked to the top of Mt. Defiance with a singular goal: to capture a photo of the spectacular view with spring wildflowers. Instead, he got something much more dramatic. Before beginning his ascent, Ed observed a strange phenomenon. The sky to the east was dark with lots of unusual colors, but it was completely clear to the west. It turned out to be an opportune day to have brought his tripod and trusty camera.

It was May 18, 1980, the day Mount St. Helens erupted. (See below for a slideshow of Ed's Mt. St. Helens photos.)

That same year, a scrappy organization called Friends of the Columbia Gorge was formed and a six-year fight to pass the National Scenic Area Act began. Ed eagerly followed Friends’ efforts to pass the Act and decided early on that he wanted to be part of the only organization working to protect the Columbia Gorge that he loved so much.

For him, nothing is as enjoyable as spending time out in the Gorge, capturing photos of memorable moments to share with others. However, ever since the novel coronavirus emerged as a serious threat, he has been staying home and staying safe. It has been difficult for Ed, but a lifetime of captured Gorge images allows a connection to nature that wouldn’t otherwise be possible at this time.

When Ed was asked recently about what aspects of Friends’ work he believes to be the most important, he said all of it. But when pressed, he feels the most immediate threat is our legal and advocacy efforts to block coal and oil terminals. Simply put, “If climate change isn’t addressed, nothing else matters.”

As an ardent conservationist, Ed also feels that we must not lose old growth forest because wilderness is critical for the human condition.

Ed is putting his conservation beliefs into action with his decision to leave a legacy gift to Friends. “I am making my gift to Friends because I want people in the future to be able to see and do what we see and do in the Gorge now. It will be an uphill battle. But it is worth it.”

We agree with you Ed and we thank you for your dedication to Gorge conservation!

Ed Cleary's Mt. St. Helens Photos