• Laurel Contributor

A Target Rich Environment

by Donna Rhodes




Armed with a lifelong passion for bugs and beasts, and a Naval Intelligence Officer’s unparalleled ability to notice every detail, Greg Clarkson turns his formidable photographic talents to the Plateau’s natural treasures.


It’s hard to know if Greg Clarkson, the kid, captured live snakes, salamanders, and insects to show his mom (“Eek!” being her usual response), or if the critters captured him.

Either way, his fascination for animals earned Greg, the grown-up, a Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology and the hope of landing a job as a fisheries or marine biologist.

But that was 1972 when the Vietnam War was at its peak. Exploration of the natural world was put on hold, for the Navy nabbed Greg with a four-year tour that turned into a career. He retired, a Naval Intelligence officer, 21 years later.

In the service, he learned the concept of a “Target Rich Environment” (TRE), which is military-speak for: A whole bunch of desirable stuff right in your sights. In 1989 the Navy shuffled him to Tampa, Florida, a coastal zoological TRE. This region was a match made in heaven. He treasured, preserved (on film), and shared the bounty.

In 2017 he and his wife, Susan, a Highlands native and Greg’s chief spotter for photo subjects, retired to the Plateau, clearly another TRE, “B-Cubed” as he puts it (Birds, Blooms, and Bugs).

Greg says, “Great nature photography is largely a result of the right place, right time, right conditions (weather and lighting), and right camera settings. Complement that with good photographic equipment, capable post-processing software, and quality-capture techniques; for example, a stealthy approach, a capture-but-don’t-disturb mentality, and intimate knowledge of targets (their seasonal appearances, behavior, and locations).”

From coastal marshes to mountain vistas, Greg sees every location as his own personal TRE. He shares his Nature imagery with family, friends, The Laurel Magazine, the Highlands Biological Station, and others by request via his non-public SmugMug galleries.

TREat yourself to a personal tour of his exceptional vision. His photos will transport you to God’s country, up-close-and-personal, nose to beak, with ospreys, hawks, cranes, bluebirds, and a bounty of beasties caught in their wild splendor and majesty.

View his work and have him autograph May’s Laurel cover on Friday, May 3 at 5:30 P.M. at Studio 106, located on 478 Dillard Road, Highlands, North Carolina, 5:30-7:00 P.M.

Contact Greg at raptor.iris@gmail.com.

The Laurel Magazine

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