Life & Lifestyle

Kim Leeson

Capturing nature up close through the lens

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Leeson enjoying the outdoors in Granby, Colorado

Photos by Kim Leeson. 

Kim Leeson was always her mother’s “nature child.” As the oldest of four sisters, she cherishes her fondest memories of lying on her back in the family’s yard, her mind lost in the sky, her heart full.

Then life reached for her hands, pulling her up from the sweet green grass into an adult world of school, work, and grown-up responsibilities.

She studied photography and became a full-time photographer for The Dallas Morning News. But Leeson always felt spellbound by the serenity, the peace, the palette, and the pattern of what awaited beyond windows and doors. 

One day, she added a 50-millimeter macro lens to her equipment collection and went outside to play with it.

“I started looking through the lens at weeds or flowers or whatever was in my yard,” Leeson says. “In that moment, it was like a whole world was unleashed in my vision. Right then and there, a window from heaven opened. In a close-up way, I saw this universe of details right beneath our feet, in our yard, and all around us. I saw nature in a whole new way. I became captivated. I still feel that way.”

Given her druthers, nature would encompass almost all of what Leeson photographs. Instead, it serves as a welcome oasis, a respite, a break in the busy freelance career she began 19 years ago when her first child, Gabriel, was born, followed by his sister Quinn 17 months later. 

Leeson is ever grateful for the steady work that fills her days and allows her to support her family.

She’s thankful for loyal clients and their photography needs.

Yet in nature is where she finds soul-filling gratitude; it’s where she loses herself and where she finds herself. 

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Extreme closeup in the middle of a sunflower face

Photographing nature’s intricacies is her spiritual practice, a thirst she sometimes goes without for months. Yet it’s always there, waiting for her to spend time outside, where she gulps it down or sips its splendor in snippets.

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Dragonfly on an Althea bud

Sometimes, she says, she’s out and about for other reasons, and a leaf, or bush, or ray of sunshine catches her eye. But she mostly goes out with intent on what she calls a treasure hunt, “just to see what I can find that surprises me.”

Nature, she believes with all her heart, “is where God lives. I feel God the most in nature, where he shows himself. When photographing nature, I feel like this is the true reality, the simplicity of nature. Not the stresses of the manufactured lifestyle we have all created. What matters is the real stuff. I’d be missing a big part of who I am if I wasn’t connecting to nature.” 

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Droplets of rain on a blade of grass

That connection involves more than snapping a photo of a flower or a random ladybug from above. It involves focusing on   

the detail, but especially on seeing it from another angle, another perspective — an exercise that translates into how she looks at life and situations. 

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Field of coneflowers

On her nature treasure hunt, she may lie on the ground looking up, as she did as a little girl, but now through the underside of a flower or leaf. She may kneel next to what catches her eye, enraptured by how the sunlight creates shadows and symmetry. 

She may — as she and her ex-husband, the late photographer David Leeson, used to do — position herself in one spot for a given time, shooting every minuscule element of creation that catches her eye. 

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Japanese maple

“I’ll see through my lens how things formulate and fall together,” she says, “then I’ll push the lens closer and — Wow! Look at the colors and patterns you find on a leaf.”

During these times of focus and connection, one thought filters through her heart: No one has ever laid an eye on what she’s seeing, how she’s seeing it now — and never will again. “If I hadn’t engaged with it, maybe nobody would ever know this leaf existed,” she says.

“We’re all created to connect to nature,” says Leeson, who goes barefoot as much as possible. “Yet we’ve created these lives where we don’t have to be. We jump in the car, drive to the store, and don’t get earth between our toes. That’s why there’s so much depression and anxiety and stress because we’ve lost who we are. We need to feel the sun and hear the birds.”

And after talking to her and seeing her photos, how can we not open the door and join her outside? 

“When I’m in nature in this intimate way,” Leeson says, “I feel I’m being who I was created to be, who Kim really is. I need this; it’s where I’m happiest.”

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Leslie Barker

Leslie Barker is a native of Dallas and has been writing ever since she can remember. Most of her career was as a staff writer at the Dallas Morning News, covering primarily health and fitness. You can follow Leslie on her blog at:

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