Photo: Charles Howse
I grew up in a small coastal town on the Big Island of Hawaii. I picked up the cameras my father was using to document his growing family as we moved across the country ending up in Hilo, Hawaii in 1966. Hawaii has 10 of the world’s 14 climate zones and there were snowy mountains and cactus deserts, barren rocky lava flows, fern and bamboo forests and huge lush valleys that opened up to wide beaches and the ocean. It was a wonderful tropical paradise of waterfalls and rugged coastlines to investigate and explore with a camera. I joined the local Audubon club in search of elusive endemic honeycreepers. There was an old plantation sugar mill town called Ewa, it’s still there on Oahu, I documented its historical importance and residents with an old Speed Graphic to preserve the old Hawaii way of life.
Those two passions, photography and exploring nature, became my life’s purpose and work. It is however, an island, and I moved to the mainland where all four seasons are happening and the wonderful photography opportunities they provided were inspirational.
After studying in Minneapolis, MN, Rochester, NY and Salzburg, Austria, a short stint at a Chicago photography studio led to more commercial work and photography jobs until I realized photographing buildings, food and products were not my calling and that candid weddings were. I was an early studio to adopt candid B&W photojournalistic weddings that is now the standard. I gained a following for many years and still keep in touch with some of my former clients.
Motorcycling photography trips through Glacier National Park, Spain, Portugal and Turkey convinced me to eventually pursue nature, travel and wildlife photography full time. In 2010 I went back to film, large format B&W film landscape photography with natural scenes in the West, Midwest and Southern U.S. as subjects. I was always pulled to the outdoor life by nature’s immense and peaceful surroundings. I was inspired by the opening up of America from 1850-1950 and the photographers that pictured its new mountains, forests, lakes, waterfalls, rivers and plains. It’s a journey that creates a personal story of discovery. A part of that was using vintage wood cameras and period specialty lenses that coincide with pictorialism. The old equipment and techniques have a romantic look rivaling impressionism.
Recently I became aware of the endangered Whooping Cranes and went to investigate at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin. At dawn they landed right in front of me and started their Jurassic territorial “cawing” against the sunrise. With that came a need to protect and respect the endangered species I photographed. Sandhill Cranes are some of the oldest animals on the planet, fossils in Florida of a Sandhill were over 2 million years old. Their migrations and habits are known and followed by craniac fans the world over. The Whooping Cranes have their own story of recovery from an extremely endangered population to a successful and stable species. Sandhill and Whooping Cranes have a migration route from Florida and Texas to northern Canada and Alaska that is as old as time.
I’m attracted by the natural world and its infinite vistas. I came to nature and wildlife photography through a lifelong appreciation and intrigue with wilderness and natural surroundings.
I have made a home in Chicago and then Evanston since the early 1980’s.