When capturing a landscape with his camera lens, Gary Crabbe doesn't merely point and shoot. It's a process.

"I know how my brain works when I have a particular project, a particular story to tell," said Crabbe.

The professional photographer will share his thought process behind capturing California natural landscapes at a photo forum presented by Civic Arts Education at 7 p.m. Sept. 18, at the Walnut Creek Library.

Crabbe, a Pleasant Hill resident, will show photographers of all skill levels his process so they can adapt tips that may be suitable to their style.

Crabbe started pursuing photography while he was a student at Humboldt State, but he aimed for a career in film and theater.

"I had no aspirations of being a professional photographer," he said. "It wasn't even on the radar."

He took on various jobs until he worked for a National Geographic photographer, Galen Rowell. But Crabbe's job wasn't to take photos.

"They wanted someone to do office work, sell his photos to publications and manage his stock photography," Crabbe said. "After being exposed to his work, I thought, this looks like fun."

So after working with many well-known advertising agencies, magazines and publishers, Crabbe ventured into a freelance photography career, choosing to specialize in the natural landscapes of Northern California. Since then, he's amassed a collection of photography books while working for clients such as The North Face, Sunset, L.L. Bean, The Nature Conservancy and Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

His photography books include "The California Coast" (2001) which won the 2002 Book of the Year by the California Outdoor Travel Writers Association. Other titles include "Our San Francisco" (2003), "Yosemite & The Eastern Sierra" (2004), "Backroads of the California Wine Country" (2006), "Backroads of the California Coast" (2009), and "Greetings from California" (2011).

"I've always been attracted to scenic images that you might find in the Sierra Club calendar," said Crabbe, an Acalanes High School graduate who grew up camping and backpacking with his family.

He will go over tips on preparing for a photo shoot using a previsualization technique.

"I've got an imaginary photo in my mind that I will recreate in reality," he said.

At the photo forum, Crabbe said he will share his tips on taking photos of some of his favorite places such as the Mendocino Coast and the Sierra foothills. He said he would talk about shooting photos for publication in magazines as well as those who focus on fine art photography.

Crabbe said as a photographer, he's cultivated a "state of connected awareness for the landscapes."

"Photography is a communication media," he said. "You're going to show someone a story you like so there's got to be a stronger connection between what you're shooting and yourself, and that connection comes across."

Establishing a connection with the subject helps clarify the message, he said.

"I'm telling a story of whatever I'm seeing and putting it in a box in the best way possible," Crabbe said.

if you go
WHO: Photographer Gary Crabbe
WHAT: Photo Forum presented by Civic Arts Education
WHEN: 7 p.m. Sept. 18
WHERE: Walnut Creek Library, Oak Room, 1644 N. Broadway
INFORMATION: www.arts-ed.org or visit http://www.enlightphoto.com