Landscape Photographer John Fielder Looks Back on Career as He Fights Terminal Cancer

Earlier this year, nature and landscape photographer John Fielder donated his life’s work to the public, preserving his incredible images of Colorado’s natural beauty for future generations. Sadly, per a new CBS News report, Fielder is battling terminal pancreatic cancer.

After a lifetime of capturing thousands of incredible images and now sharing them all with everyone, Fielder is focused on living in the present moment. As Fielder tells CBS News‘ Barry Peterson for CBS Saturday Morning, he still cannot resist a good photo opportunity.

Peterson first met Fielder in 2015 for a prior story on CBS Sunday Morning where he told Peterson, “I never get tired of being in places like this. It’s my medicine. I’ve been to the park a hundred times in the last 40 years, and it gets better each time I come here.”

John Fielder
Rattlesnake Canyon

Speaking to Peterson this year, Fielder says that 40 years ago, all he wanted to do was be able to quit his department store job and turn his passion for photography into a new career. After authoring dozens of books, and winning numerous awards, it is safe to say that the nationally renowned photographer, educator, and environmentalist succeeded at that and so much more.

While Fielder’s work and career are synonymous with Colorado, he was actually raised in North Carolina. He first visited Colorado on a school trip at age 14.

“In all my life, I have not forgotten my first sight of the Rockies rising up before me over the plains. I was simply smitten by this wall of snow-capped peaks above a treeless plain. And the word C-O-L-O-R-A-D-O, it was the most poetic name for a place I had ever heard. I realized at that moment that someone or something had guided me to this place, and that I belonged here for the rest of my life,” Fielder writes.

John Fielder
Slate Creek, Eagles Nest Wilderness

Fielder’s images have long encouraged others to head out into nature and enjoy the great outdoors. However, he also hopes that his photos will prove critical for scientists aiming to understand how climate change is affecting nature, including the many places in Colorado that Fielder has captured over the last 40-plus years.

John Fielder
Pierre Lakes

The accomplished photographer stresses that the political process is responsible for much of the protected land in the United States, and that people must vote to protect nature. “Unless [people] care, they won’t do it,” he explains. When viewing at the thousands of images that Fielder has collected, it is very easy to care about nature and to feel inspired.

John Fielder
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

To cull his images down to the more than 7,000 that he provided to History Colorado to preserve in the public domain, Fielder needed to go through his huge library of transparencies.

“Good memories when you went through them?” asks Peterson.

“Yes. This was my life happening all over again for the second time going through 200,000 transparencies,” Fielder replies. “It was all very humbling.”

John Fielder
Kepler Pass, Gunnison National Forest

“You have probably seen as much as any man of nature — birth, life, and death. I sometimes have the sense talking with you, John, that it informs the way you are approaching death as part of life. Help me understand this,” Peterson says.

“My mind always tends to think scientifically, logically, deductively, and analytically — trying to understand what’s going on around me,” Fielder replies. “Living in the moment. It sounds like a cliché, but living in the moment, in the present, is medicine for me, and it allows me to appreciate the past and the future but by always being focused on what I’ve been given today and not yesterday or the day before.”

“I never felt that I owned my photos. I felt that was kind of selfish,”

It is worth ruminating on the incredible gift that he has provided for everyone. His selfless gesture of turning over his life’s work to everyone else to enjoy is fantastic. Fielder will also provide History Colorado with various artifacts from his career, including photography equipment, books, papers, and oral histories.

John Fielder
Roxborough State Park

For now, John Fielder is taking life day by day. His work is featured in a new exhibit, “Revealed: John Fielder’s Favorite Place,” at the History Colorado Center in Denver. John Fielder’s photography is available on his website and in the History Colorado collection of Fielder’s work.

“There’s always photos to be taken,” Fielder says.

Image credits: John Fielder