Natural Romance

Writer Joseph J. Airdo

Photography by Robert Elenbaas

Experiencing the beauty of nature first-hand has an unparalleled positive impact on cognitive functioning, emotional wellbeing and other dimensions of mental health.

A scholarly article published last summer by the American Association for the Advancement of Science provided points of consensus across the natural, social and health sciences on the inherent value of experiences with nature.

The article is just one of countless studies performed over the years that have concluded that the beautiful sights and sounds that can only be found out in nature elicit feelings of peace, joy and serenity—emotions that are closely tethered to the state of being in love.

Although many people may enjoy dinner at a fancy restaurant and a showing of one of this season’s most buzzed-about movies this Valentine’s Day, Arizona has much more to offer those seeking a romantic date night.

Instead of sitting indoors with several strangers in situations that limit conversation, why not opt for an intimate evening picnic with your significant other against the backdrop of one of our state’s stunningly gorgeous sunsets? Afterward, allow Arizona’s birds and insects to provide the heavenly soundtrack to a night of dancing underneath a sky scattered with glimmering stars.

The natural romance of that date will provide you and your Valentine not only with a purely Arizona experience that cannot be replicated in more urban environments but also a feeling of fantastic euphoria.

Anthem resident Robert Elenbaas has enjoyed the benefits of the Valley’s landscapes for the past decade. Although he admits to occasionally venturing out into nature by himself, he never passes up the opportunity to bring his wife Julia along as he captures our state’s remarkably romantic skies with his camera.

It brings Images Arizona great pleasure to share some of his phenomenal photography with our readers this month. It is our hope that they encourage you to think outside of the box this Valentine’s Day and make a reservation in the most romantic setting imaginable—beneath Arizona’s amorous skies.

Seeing What is in Front of Us

Fine art, landscape and nature photographer Robert Elenbaas has made it his mission to record and capture images that allow people to see things in the natural world that they would not normally see.

“Our natural world amazes me, be it grand vistas or intimate details one sees only on close inspection,” Elenbaas says. “Through the expressive art form of photography, I seek to communicate aspects of our world people may not normally appreciate—either because of the limitations of human vision or because we just don’t take the time to really see what is in front of us.”

Seeing what is in front of us is critically important. Elenbaas hopes the people who view his photography gain an improved and enhanced appreciation of the natural world. He also wants people to understand that our continued appreciation of it is dependant on us taking care of and protecting it for future generations.

Be it our national parks, which Elenbaas believes are overused and underfunded, or wilderness areas that most people may never visit because getting to them involves either riding a horse or walking a great distance, he hopes his photography encourages wildlife preservation.

However, he also hopes that it relays something that may never be able to be put into words.

“It has been said that photography has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them,” Elenbaas says. “My goal is that my images serve as visual metaphors for the emotions I felt when the shutter clicked.”

About the Photographer

Robert Elenbaas first began dabbling in photography while he was in college in San Francisco. However, at the time, it was merely a hobby since he was studying to become an emergency medicine clinical pharmacist.

“The San Francisco Parks and Recreation Department had a really cool photography center,” Elenbaas says. “It was basically a big darkroom. You could just go there and play around. I did not have a lot of time to do so, but that is when I first developed an interest in photography.”

That interest in photography never faded over the years as Elenbaas paired it with another hobby—wilderness backpacking.

“That takes you to some really amazing places,” he says. “I very much enjoy the outdoors and I like to be able to share with people what I see. My treks would take me to unique places whose wonder I was not skilled enough to relate verbally. In this case, a picture truly did tell the story better than a thousand words.”

The advent of digital photography made accurately relaying those stories significantly easier, especially since Elenbass has had very little darkroom experience. Therefore, upon retirement, he leaned into his interests, moving to Anthem with his wife Julia in 2011.

“This allows ready access to many varied and beautiful sites in Arizona, Utah, California and other western states—whose marvels comprise the bulk of my current portfolio,” Elenbaas says. “If I am not playing golf, I am doing something related to photography.”

Much of Elenbaas’s portfolio may be seen and purchased at The Gallery at el Pedregal, 34505 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale.

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