Ron Rosenstock - I see in light reflectance values

First camera

The Brownie Target 620. It was roll film. You know, a little box you looked down into, and you could see straight ahead.

[My passion] grew over time. I kept on having fairly profound experiences

Profound experience

I didn’t know who Edward Weston was. I went to the museum. I just walked around a corner and saw Edward Weston’s photograph of a cabbage leaf on a wall. Without even thinking, I swear this leaf took a breath. It seemed to expand... like a lung.

I was frozen to the spot. It was one of those conscious moments. There was something that came from Edward Weston, to his image, to me.

It changed the course of my life.


It’s been over 50 years of being seriously involved in photography. I eat, sleep, everything. I mean, I have dreams about it.

Affect on life

I can see light reflectance values. I see contrast where people see subject matter. Honestly, I see subject matter second. First I see the density of the shadows cast by light.

I see differently.


If someone loves photography, they should know in their heart that they can do it. Never to question, “Can I do it?” Photography is not a competitive sport. There are a lot of organizations where they sort of compete. That is not my thing, at all.

It’s a path for personal growth. That’s what photography is. It’s discovering who you really are.

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Roy Toft - My approach is what got him out of the water!

As I approached the water hole, we have WET footprints coming out of the water hole. It’s 120-degrees, you know… blow dryer to your face. Wet footprints don’t last long! My approach is what got him out of the water… (see video for full story)


I was working at the Wild Animal Park here in San Diego. I spent seven years doing educational bird shows. Any chance I got a break, I’d be running around the zoo with my camera trying to make images that were compelling and interesting, even though they were captive animals.

A biologist who worked in the Wild Animal Park was going on expedition in Borneo. He asked for me to come along on the expedition. And that was the impetus for me to say, “I have to quit this 9-5 and give it a shot.”


You’ve really got to appreciate those people in your life who will let you do your passion. My parents weren’t into wildlife when I was a kid...

[More recently] My mom was getting sick… She’s been kind of housebound for the last couple of years. I wanted to give her something to get excited about.

I put up a barn owl box at her house. With a video camera. Three days after I put the box up, she had the first owl in there. She started journaling. It wasn’t just watching the owls. She would document EVERYTHING the owls did. Nine days after that first owl showed up, it got a mate. And two weeks after that, they’re laying eggs.

It just gives us something to bond us. We can talk about something. And it’s getting harder to talk to her.


It pretty quickly turned into an obsession. I stopped going everywhere else in Costa Rica, and I’d just go straight to the Osa. About 10 years ago, I was approached by some people in the Osa who said, “Man, you’ve been coming down here so long, and doing such good work, why don’t you do a book?”

Six years later, I came out with the Osa book. It’s something I’m really proud of. But more important than me being proud of it, the people who have lived in the Osa their whole life are proud of it.


It was the mid-90’s. 

I wrote Nick Nichols a letter two years after I had assisted him on a "New Zoos" story for National Geographic while I was working at the Wild Animal Park. 

It just happened that I was at the right place at the right time, because he had just proposed to Nat Geo to do a wild tigers story. (see video at the top for full story)

Nick’s drive is legendary. 4am everyday until it’s dark. Seven days a week. This is how it’s done. 


Find something in your backyard that you can really spend quality time with. Get in depth imagery. Anything where you can get volume, and all aspects of that animal or habitat... That’s a story!

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Watch the complete interview in the video at the top.

Ian Shive - ALIVE in America's National Parks

I’ve been very fortunate to work on America’s National Parks very closely for 8 or 9 years.

More recently, I love photographing in the Channel Islands [National Park], because it’s so close to home. I live in Los Angeles now. To have a National Park only 30 miles off the coastline is incredible. It provides the best of two worlds—both underwater as well as on land. It’s great, because it’s so rugged and remote.


I grew up as the son of a photographer. I worked as my father’s assistant many times, back in the film days. I learned the appreciation of the quality of light—waiting for the light of the building to match the brightness of the sky. There are a lot of little details like that, when I think back on it, that had to play some role in my future as a photographer and working in the photo industry.

The Spark

It wasn’t really until I left New Jersey, and I went to college in Montana—briefly I’ll add—that I got my first 35mm camera. It was a film camera. You know, that’s the stuff with the little squares and celluloid [laughs].

I remember being awestruck with how different the place was from where I grew up in New Jersey. I went to school 90 miles North of Yellowstone National Park. It was a very dynamic time. Wolves had just been reintroduced. I remember wanting to capture that and share it with my friends and family back home.

The photos did not initially do [the experience] the justice I wanted them to. I felt like they captured the scene in a very literal sense, but they didn’t really capture the feeling, or the experience that I was having as an individual.

In that moment, I think the correct path of photography was generated. Not just to go out and capture something because you think this is a pretty spot or other people have done it before. But rather, to share an experience.

I set out to try and get my photos to capture what it was that I wanted to convey. And that is the journey that I’m still on to this day.


It was around 1999 or 2000 that I registered my first domain name. I started to get feedback and comments from people I didn’t know. That was really the genesis, I think, of [my professional] photographic journey.

Affect on life

I’ve been to over three dozen countries, all 50 states, and I don’t just go to places people would think of going. When I go to Louisiana, I don’t go to New Orleans; I get to go to Northern Louisiana where nobody really goes and see what life is like.

Aside from the images, what I don’t think people realize is there’s an entire story behind the photographer and their experience. I often refer to my photographs as not being simply photographs but really journal entries, thoughts or feelings or places that struck me.


When you start out, don’t think so much about the sharing or the business, but develop the craft, give yourself time, and be brutally honest. Compare yourself to those you admire and those whom you look up to. Try to figure out who you are as a photographer.

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Clyde Butcher - I'm sinking in the mud. Three gators are yelling at me.

I was in Lake Istokpoga, and I’m up to my waste in water. When a storm is coming, it’s pulling in the air. Then, before it hits there’s about 10-30 seconds of no wind. So I’m standing, waiting for that 10-20 seconds through four or five storms that have come through. And I’m sinking in the mud.

There are three gators behind me, yelling at me. They sound kind of like a diesel truck down-shifting. I was becoming really one with nature there. In fact, I was so one with nature that I was stuck in the mud. Haha!


First camera

I seriously started when I was 8 years old. I got me a little Brownie Hawkeye. When I was 10, I got into 16mm movies. I did that mostly up until college.

I saw Ansel Adam’s work in 1961. “Moonrise over Hernandez” as a 16x20 was $75 bucks. Golly! Who would ever spend $75…

I started saying, “That’s kind of interesting. I think I’ll play with that.” So I started photographing nature. And I did really well. In fact I did more sales than I was doing in architecture. So I said, “I think I’ll do this.” I dropped out of architecture.


What I like to photograph is maybe different than a lot of other people. Basically, I like primeval stuff. For example, the redwoods forest is one of my favorite spots. I feel like I am back to eternity when I am there. I mean, it’s 15 million years old. The dinosaurs were there. Then, when I started photographing Florida, I got the same feeling.



I started photographing the Everglades in ’84. What’s that, 30 years? While photographing there, I’ve never met another person. That’s how primevil it is.

It’s probably the most unique place in the United States. Photographers come out here and they say, “This is confusing. It’s chaos.”

Chaos is what I look for, because in chaos you find biological order.

Affect on your life

When you’re shooting large format, there’s a lot of patience involved. Sometimes you’re in a spot for the whole day. Same spot. Waiting for the light, waiting for the wind to stop, and you become one with that spot. You get a feeling of where you are. You’re not just passing through.

Ansel Adams did kind of a “no-no” in some respects. He would try to manipulate his development for the light. And those pictures were never that successful. The ones he took that were good, the light was good.

Without the light, what do you have? You’ve got to have the right light.

Black & White

Nature is all one. If you use color, you’re defining different parts of it. Your mind’s going to see this color or that color. In black and white nature becomes a oneness. Everything is the same importance—the tree, the grass, the water, the sky. It’s all necessary; it’s all important.



I studied different photographers—Ansel Adams, Wynn Bullock, Edward Weston. Study other photographers, but you have to go out and shoot. You have to go out and have fun! But don’t bang around shooting. You’ve got to start thinking about what you do.

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