About the Photographer
I've been a part-time photographer since 1969 when I bought my first camera, a Minolta SRT-101 with a 58mm f1.2 lens, which I used for the next 20 years along with a few other lenses. In the early 1990's I decided to become a serious photographer, initially focusing on Mt. Rainer, and expanding to nature, landscape, street, and small studio photogaraphy. All of this has been done with a Minolta manual focus camera system, including the full range of cameras over Minolta's production life, SRT's to X-700's, a full range of lenses from 16mm to 1600mm, along with macro, flash and other equipment.
In 2005 I decided to add large format photography to my endeavors. This is personal to work in photography where your thought process and time are extended and expanded. My original intent was for the film size, to gain the advantages of the larger film size to produce more detailed prints. That changed as I researched it to know it's more about the mental process of looking, seeing, capturing and producing an image with the camera and its controls to capture the image. The photographer and camera requires a serious committment to learn and exercise the craft.
After researching the cameras, I put a deposit on a Layton L-45A, see status of the camera, and Horseman 45HD cameras with six Schneider lenses. For a beginner it's overkill, as I originally bought 4 lenses for the Layton camera, and added two when 3 of them didn't fit the Horseman. I realize, like my 35mm photography, I won't be great, but it's about enjoying the journey and capturing the best image I can. It's a huge learning curve, but one which is full of challenge, enjoyment and enrichment, and which will produce images I hope people enjoy.
In December 2005 I retired after 27-plus years with the U.S. Geological Survery as a hydrologic technician and hydrologist. Before that I was a Vietnam-era veteran (1969-73) and used the G.I. Bill to get a BA degree in Geography from CSUS and a MS degree in Geography from WWU, now part of Huxley College. I can't say enough the choices were the best for me to have great support from the faculty and friends and have the flexibility to study in areas that became my career. Sometimes you have to consider your freedom to explore more than the identity of the college.
In December 2006 I added a full-frame digital camera system, a Canon EOS-5D, with five lenses from 35mm to 180mm, all fixed focal length lenses to replicate the lenses I use most often. In early 2007 I bought a Canon EOS-1N film camera to give me the options fo using film or digital when shooting with the Canon system. I can't say enough about the capabilities of the 5D, which far exceeds my needs but never limit it. It's provided new avenues to explore in my photography, and many of the newer images on my Website were with these cameras.
I cherish my career with the USGS, working in Eugene, Oregon, Phoenix, Arizona, and Tacoma, Washington with travels around the western states. The USGS is a great organization to work for, having had some experiences few in the world get opportunities to do, such as Mount St. Helens, and work with staff people who are terrific, very dedicated to their role doing, as they say, "Science in the Public Interest." I took an early retirement to focus on some personal interests which I had delayed, and because as folks saw in the government under the Bush administration, things are changing.
Having said that I chose an earlier retirement, I must add it wasn't totally without a push from above. As with all things, events or situations there are always push and pull factors. The pull factors are the positive ones we see to do more or better, or change our life. The push factors, however, are often the negative ones we experience which makes the job, work or environment less than acceptable to stay.
During the latter years of the Bush administration, the USGS, as with other agencies, came under pressure to reduce costs while holding budgets fairly even, especially in the programs in the USGS which are specifically governed in appropriations bills. This included the water resources program and management had little choice but to walk down the list of retirement eligible people to "invite" them to retire. New employees are cheaper.
In the larger section where I worked, I eventually became the number one person. My boss, whom I didn't really get along with decided to force the issue, first with a probabtion with my annual personnel evaluation, having never had anything below excellent or better evalutations, which was overturned on appeal, and then there threat to reassign my duties, which he had been doing for the previous 3+ years along with a reassignment with the reality of a demotion, unheard of in the USGS without cause, or forced retirement.
Well, I was at the point of facing that or retiring. After taking the mandatory retirement workshop the year before and determining my could retire 2-3 years earlier than planned, I, as they say, pulled the plug and walked out the door with a smile on my face and a prospect of a good new life and work. And while I missed the field office people and I miss the work, I don't miss management and my boss. Every year since it's been the right decision.
New life and Work
Since I've retired my interests have expanded into life in general, finding the time to just enjoy time, something most people often don't realize how valueable it is to each of us, and finding time to explore the diversity of the world and personal expression. Some of this relates to my diagnosis with Dysthymia in 1991 after my brother's death, where photography and other activities and interests have put this into perspective and eliminated the need for drugs.
I have since, as noted above expanded my photography equipment, added a complete in-house photo production office and computer system to produce my own photo cards and prints from film or digital, work on photography the work into a small personal business, and added the Mt. Rainier NP photo guide and history projects.
The photo guide and history projects have taken on a life of their own, eclipsing the photography work itself. I expect to produce the first version of the photo guide in book form in 1-2 years, if Murphy's law doesn't knock on the door which it has already in several areas, relating to health and money, with the on-line new and updated information on the Website.
Where this goes I don't know, and in many ways don't care. It's all about the journey going in a direction I chose and want, and hoping it's important, relavant and interesting to photographers and visitors to Mt. Rainier NP. But if not or not very much, I'll have at least enjoyed it, and as I said when I left the USGS, "What better life can one have working on, in and around Mt. Rainier NP?"
I would like to add a personal note of rememberance to a longtime friend, Jack Mrowka. I met him in Eugene, Oregon when he was teaching at the University of Oregon and I was a new hydrologic technician with the USGS. There are times in your life someone goes through it that leaves a lasting smile on your soul and spirit. That was Jack, despite all the pressures in life, he always smiled and planned trips to learn hydrology, sometimes if you read my entry in the rememberances, at my expense. And we proved a coastal temperate environment can have Yardangs.
In 2011 the business finally became a legally licensed one, not for the income, none to date, but to provide to provide organizations and professionals with products and services, to sell the photo cards and prints and cover any legal liabilities with any work for others. So far the photo cards and prints are donations to them, to family and friends, or provided to be or for gifts.
Beyond that, it's the same as almost everyone else, the economy has hit us all financially, especially since my annuity has been frozen for the last two years and just got a one-year cost of living increase this year. The Congressional and President's threat to freeze it again for another 2-3 years isn't a happy thought when everything else is increasing, some beyond our financial capacity, something our elected officials and politicians don't seem to understand.
But in the end, it's still about enjoying the time and the personal interests, and while my health the last few years hasn't been the greatest, I can't complain considering the alternatives since these days rich is relative to what you value. And I know I will never run out of work with my photography and the Mt. Rainier NP photo guide and history projects, only time. It's not a bad retirement after all.