Michelle Matthews: In a new occasional interview feature, we talk with friends of Arlington Garden about their passions. I first met Roberto Gabriel in July of 2017 when I started as Executive Director of Arlington Garden. I spoke with him on his way to work, and this is an edited version of our conversation. All images courtesy of Gabriel Roberto.
MM: Can you give us a little background about yourself? What drew you to photography? And how do you think it relates to the rest of your daily life?
RG: I’ve been taking photos for about three and a half years now: a friend at my Muay Thai gym lent me his camera and encouraged me to take photos.
I was born in El Salvador and my grandmother is Palestinian. I was raised in Belize and came to the US when I was 14. It was a shock to me how developed LA was, and I didn’t find natural spots until I was in my 20s while running and training in Eaton Canyon and Ascot Hills. I’ve been an EMT for five years, and typically work 12-14 hours each shift.
MM: You are clearly a raptor enthusiast: what is it about raptors that interests you?
I love all birds of prey – love owls and their big eyes, and try to catch them before sunrise – you have to be patient and wait, because they are really good at blending into the environment. I love when their eyes are all dilated first thing in the morning and the way they hunt.
MM: What equipment do you use?
I photograph with a cropped frame Nikon D500 and full frame D750 and use a 200-500m telephoto lens. Most of my photos are unedited/not photoshopped, and I usually use my phone to sort/organize them.
MM: Has photographing the natural world changed the way you interact with nature? And have you found that your relationship to nature has changed during the pandemic?
Since the pandemic started nature has become more important, although it was already important before the pandemic! People get caught up in city life, and we forget to enjoy the natural beauty that surrounds us. It’s important to have balance, and I encourage everyone who hasn’t been to visit Arlington and to support free open-spaces, especially in cities.