“Let me walk in Beauty,
And make my eyes ever behold
The red and purple sunset”
Traditional Native American Prayer
The sleeping bag was warm and cozy. Outside of the old poplin tent, it was not. With the temperature hovering in the teens, it was time to begin my rite of passage by accompanying my father into the dark woods to hunt deer. Although I had been well prepared, I was anxious about carrying my uncle Clyde’s 30.06 rifle. I was twelve years old.
Even before my earliest memory my parents taught me the joy of camping. Most of my birthdays were celebrated by driving in a 4 wheel drive vehicle deep into the Sierra Nevada’s. I remember it was so cold in the mornings, that my birthday cake, which my mother would so lovingly prepare and package for the bouncing trip, would be frozen solid. What an opportunity for me to enjoy the natural world with all its intricacies and grandeur.
These days, I’m still leaving the warm and cozy bed to trek into the cold predawn darkness, but now it’s to capture the amazing sunrises. Instead of the rifle, I now carry cameras and equipment. Sometimes I still use a 4 wheel drive truck (my ‘72 Land Cruiser) to reach areas that I wish to visit, but more often it is by foot with a backpack that I reach some of the more spectacular scenes. My favorite camping experiences are always the ones where it rains or snows. There is nothing like pausing after a rain storm or in the woods newly filled with snow to calm the soul and to meditate in the silence. Why? Because you know you are part of nature when you experience the new scene unfolding before you.
Often, I feel that the more challenging the experience, the better the photo. It seems that sometimes it is the price one pays to capture the beauty. So when I fell into the icy river and was sucked into a whirlpool by my backpack while hiking up a canyon in Zion; or when I lost my footing and slid down a cliff and bloodied my fingers trying to break my fall, just to capture a sunset; or when I ran out of water in the 116 degree Arizona desert, because I thought camera equipment was more important than water; or when the truck broke down at night, in a blizzard, 8 miles from the nearest road, and my son and I had to hike out in the snow, leaving behind the truck, tent and everything else… except of course, the camera equipment; are just a few examples of my experiences to capture that wow photograph.
My personal Creed: “Live in Harmony with Nature and Enjoy its Beauty”
My passion is to immerse myself in nature so as to fully experience its raw beauty. Sitting still on the rock on those cold, cold predawn hunting trips, taught me to enjoy those magnificent sunrises. Sitting quietly teaches one to listen to first your own heartbeat and then the sounds that accompany the cornucopia beauties of nature. Whether I was camping in the deserts or the lake shores, I used my powers of observation to notice the beauty of nature from my feet to the grand horizons beyond. This passion to experience nature propels me in many ways. I use photography to capture the essence of the beauty I experience. Then I try to produce and showcase my work in such a way that when you view it, you feel as if you too, are immersed in nature’s beauty.
My father taught me the fundamentals of light, focus and F-stop. From using a box camera given to me as a child, to my Dad’s 35 mm Kodak Retina II, to the full size sensor digital camera I use today, I have had a lifetime of practice with photography, that has allowed me to develop my own personal style and artistic concept. I wish to present to the viewer photography, as close as possible, to the vibrancy, clarity and emotion I experienced. And to instill in the viewer such awe as to cause them to exclaim or whisper, “wow”
I hope that the pictures and stories that follow will give you the feeling of being magically transported to the mountains, deserts, streams or canyons of our beautiful natural world, and that you will experience what I experienced, and feel as if you, too, stand there with me, to enjoy the awe, beauty and wonder of nature.
–William M. Netzley