In 1980, I bought my first SLR camera – a used Fujica with a fixed focal length lens. There are two things that gave me a solid foundation for taking great photographs. First, the Fujica had no automatic controls, which forced me to get a good understanding of f-stops, shutter speed, depth of field, light metering, etc. Second, I took an evening photography course at the local technical college, which was taught by a man who had a great method for teaching photographic composition.
At this point, I began recording my camera settings on every shot so that I could learn what worked and what didn’t. I continued this practice for years, reviewing my photos, along with my camera settings, in order to hone my craft.
Over the next 25 years, I upgraded camera equipment, eventually using three identical Canon film cameras, loaded with color slide film, color print film, and black-and-white film. In 1999, I completed the New York Institute of Photography's Professional Photography course.
In 2006, I purchased my first digital camera, and then completed the Digital Photography program at the New York Institute of Photography. Shooting with a digital camera allows me to capture more quality photos than with film and to build our collection at a faster rate. As of the end of 2016, we have about 30,000 photographs on slides and prints, and 98,000 digital images.
Capturing images with a digital camera means that I now spend many hours processing photos on the computer, but it also means that I have complete control over the final results.
My sister, Ruth, and I hit the backroads as often as we can here in Wisconsin and once a year we take a serious photography trip to other states. Ruth completes the research necessary for these trips and also manages the trip when we’re on the road. I am so grateful to have her as my photographing partner (see About the Researcher).
I take all the photographs, hiking up and down the road with my camera and tripod in tow. On most trips, I put in an exhausting (but enjoyable) 12-16 hours a day, photographing for 10-12 hours and then loading my photos onto my laptop, backing them up, and getting my equipment ready for the next day.
When we get back home, I try to find time for all the “back-office” work – loading photos, digitally processing them, organizing them with keywording, storing them safely, loading select photos to our online galleries, and marketing them. It's a lot of work and, of course, I'd rather be photographing, but the back-office stuff is necessary in order for us to share all the magnificent things we see out on the road.
That's what this is all about. Photography has been my saving grace because it's become my meditation. But sharing my vision of the world is the most gratifying part of it all. I only hope that I can provide others with a small part of what I feel when I'm capturing either God's handiwork (in the form of nature) or man's (in the form of beautifully crafted rural architecture).
From 1992 through 2016, Ruth and I have traveled over 97,000 miles on the backroads of this great country to capture the rural heart of America. We hope you enjoy the photos as much as we do. Thanks for visiting our website, which allows us to share our passion with you. I’ll continue to add photos from our vast collection as I find the time to process and upload them.
I’ll end this with a quote from my favorite author and landscape painter of Americana, Eric Sloane: “Those who seek the spirit of America might do well to look first in the countryside, for it was there that the spirit was born.”