For 20 years Matt Goff has been adding to his website SitkaNature.org. In that time he has shared many thousands of nature photos he’s taken around Sitka.
Anything in the natural world can catch Matt’s focus – including the weather, rocks and the stunning scenery Sitkans are lucky to experience. He especially loves to photograph the wide variety of life found in Sitka’s marine and terrestrial habitats. He’s taken pictures of more than 2,500 species in the area so far and says he’s “got many more to go!”
A real “product” of Sitka, Matt was born at Sitka Community Hospital in 1975. He grew up attending Sitka public schools, and still remembers his first-grade teacher and early mornings playing bass guitar in SHS Jazz band.
After graduating he continued his education in Idaho and Washington, eventually getting graduate degrees in math and statistics. Matt prioritized returning home each summer and it was during this time that his passions for natural history and photography really started to take root.
“I started as someone who just took snapshots to document my outdoor adventures and then moved on. When I made my first website with photos I had taken, I realized I wanted to have names – the right names, and that opened the door to something more.”
The budding photographer was able to return to Sitka full time when he took a job teaching math at Sheldon Jackson College in 2002. He taught there until it closed in 2007.
Since his return to year-round residency, he says, “much of my spare time has been devoted to learning my place. It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, there is always something interesting going on.”
He describes his approach in part as “getting to know the neighbors. Who are the other beings that I share this place with? I want to be able to observe them and recognize them, much like I would family and friends.”
Matt has become “increasingly compelled by the natural history of Sitka.” His inspiration to begin work on iLoveSitka.com is “fueled by my love of talking about Sitka, and a need to support my natural history habit!”
One of Matt’s photos is the “Maroon Hermit Crab” that appears on the Harbor Guide cover. He noted with characteristic precision, “The shell it has adopted belonged to a blue topsnail, and the photo was taken while snorkeling along a Sitka shore on March 9, 2022. These creatures can also be found on exposed rocky beaches during the lowest tides.”
Reflecting on his approach to photos, he says, “when I am taking pictures, my first instinct is to simply document what’s there. Only afterwards do I work to get ‘nice’ pictures. In the case of the maroon hermit crab, I was doing my best to just hold onto a rock, focus on the crab and get a picture before the waves pushed me off. I feel lucky it turned out as well as it did.”
Matt Goff’s nature photojournal entries can be found at http://sitkanature.org/photojournal/. He’s hosted a natural history-themed radio show on Raven Radio KCAW 104.7 FM airing biweekly for over 10 years. Show archives are available on http://sitkanature.org/raven/
Goff is also on Instagram (@sitkanature) and Facebook.
The cover photo was first published in a photojournal entry titled “Snorkeling at Little Magic Island.” It can be found at here.