Photo by Dana Romanoff – Me Photographing Yellowstone
Cover Outdoor Photographer, July, 1986
Like all mountain photographers, I was greatly influenced by Ansel Adams and Galen Rowell but the biggest influence may have been the great Jackson Hole landscape photographer Fredric Joy.
I had been making a lucrative living buying and selling real estate in Southern California, but the risk always had me in a state of anxiety. I couldn’t relax; I started escaping into the beauty of photography. I had started buying all the professional grade equipment I could, a Toyo view camera, a Pentex medium format camera, and a bag full of Nikons. I also bought every book off the shelf about learning to shoot especially if written by mountain adventurers like Ansel and Galen. I was also a subscriber to an awesome new magazine “Outdoor Photographer.” While the real estate money was still good, I wanted to learn and finance a new career. The more I photographed the western landscape; the less I wanted to be in Orange County so I moved to Lake Tahoe.
While living in Lake Tahoe in July, 1986, I read in Outdoor Photographer Magazine a feature about Fred Joy and his gallery. As with all featured artists Outdoor Photographer profiled the highlights of Fred’s portfolio and Fred’s stunning imagery of the Grand Tetons spilled out all over several pages, it also mentioned Fred was bringing in six figures a year.
All I could think about after that was “six figures a year”, “Jackson Hole”, “six figures a year”, “Jackson Hole”! I was compelled to visit Jackson Hole to take a look at Fred’s gallery.
The gallery was excellent, but Jackson Hole was awesome! Not only did Jackson Hole have scenery that took your breath away and excellent recreational opportunities, Jackson Hole had wildlife everywhere so I had no choice; I moved there almost immediately.
I bet I wasn’t the only aspiring photographer to read that article as Jackson Hole was awash in aspiring photographers, it was also home to some of the most successful nature photographers in the business, Wolfgang Bayer, Jeff Foote, Edwin and Peggy Bower, and Tom Mangelson, I was in good company, but photography in this little berg would be a tough nut to crack.
Photo by Stephen Oachs – Me in the field
Had I been someone else instead of my impetuous self I would have planned my move more pragmatically, but that would be out of character for me. I should have waited until I had enough cash to start a commercial photography business to support my Landscape/Lifestyle/Wildlife photography aspirations, but that clashed with my hair brained scheme to work the service industry to free my mind of business worry while I built up photo stock library for the budding stock photo industry.
Oh I sold some stock, but it wasn’t a living. I worked the gamut of what the tourism industry had to offer and guiding was my favorite. I guided horseback riders, snowmobilers, wildlife safaris, fly-fishermen, visitors to Grand Teton and Yellowstone and photograpers, my camera gear always in a handy bag at my side. These jobs provided a window to many Jackson Hole lifestyles and a variety of associated landscapes of which I eagerly photographed when the light fell on them just right.
I am a lover of light and enjoy capturing any subject that lights up nicely including landscape, lifestyle as well as wildlife; the Greater Yellowstone is resplendent with all. That said I have found wildlife photography to be an adrenalin sport. Landscape light is fleeting and challenging, but something about capturing critters in their element is an adrenalin rush. The hunting, finding then capturing the image of an animal that could possibly kill you has an element of excitement absent in landscape photography. The adrenalin rush isn’t reserved for carnivores and statuesque antlered ungulates; some of the bigger thrills come from capturing the elusive pine martens, weasels and snowshoe hares. Yellowstone wildlife photographers can find bears nearly every day but to find a great grey owl, or river otter is a special treat.
The adrenalin chase comes at a cost because landscape photography sells more for fine art prints, and lifestyle photography sells more stock photography, yet I often find myself vacillating on lifestyle shooting opportunities, and looking over my shoulder at gorgeously lit landscapes as I hurry past on my way to a wildlife opportunity that may or may not exist at the intended destination. Wildlife photography isn’t rational as are most compulsions.
Fred influenced my location more than my style, but here I am in a nature photographer’s nirvana and I attribute that to Fred and the feature about him in Outdoor Photographer, they changed my life!
It was a satisfying moment when I got published in Outdoor Photographer
Swooping Great Grey Owl, showcased in Outdoor Photographer Magazine
My Portfolio, click through to buy fine art print of license photo