Because we are all incredibly unique human beings, we gravitate toward interests that fit our distinctive abilities. It is for this reason that not everyone is a mathematician, or a writer or a mechanic.
And it is the reason Waitsburg resident Bill Rodgers is a photographer as opposed to a painter.
“For as long as I can remember, I have always loved landscapes,” Rodgers says.
“I originally wanted to be a landscape painter until I realized that I would probably starve for a very long time.
“My eyes and hands have never communicated well, and after a few college painting classes I realized that I was not going to be able to paint the kind of landscape I wanted to paint.”
But Rodgers is an imaginative, creative man, and he was not satisfied with not being able to do what he set his mind upon doing. When, 51 years ago, he received his first “real” camera, a 35mm Mamiya DTL 1000, Rodgers began a lifetime journey of fulfilling his goal with landscapes.
“I like being in landscapes, moving through them, looking at them,” he says. His images, he adds, are a playground for the eyes and mind of the viewer.
Many of his fine art photography pieces focus on the landscapes within a 30-mile radius of his Waitsburg studio, a region he has dubbed “The Wallouse,” to distinguish it from the rolling hills of the nearby Palouse. And while he loves the Palouse — he grew up in Spokane — he finds the landscapes of the Wallouse to be subtly distinctive.
Traveling along remote, gravel roads, he teases out emotional impact through the composition of his images, instead of heavily relying upon subject matter.
His goal as an artist, he says, is to take beautiful photographs.
This differs from just taking pictures of things, or worse, depending upon familiar landmarks to carry the day.
“I know the ‘great places to photograph,’ and religiously avoid them because they have been photographed to death.”
Rodgers’ photos reside in the homes of collectors throughout the country and a number have been used in brochures and periodicals published by the Blue Mountain Land Trust, a conservation group that focuses on the scenic, natural and working lands of 11 Washington and Oregon counties.
The Trust’s coffee table books of the Blue Mountain region include many of Rodgers’ works.
He is presently compiling and editing Volume 5, which will feature landscapes in the Trust’s eight-county John Day service area.
A retired geologist, Rodgers turned to full-time photography in 2012.
Part of this second career includes teaching at his Waitsburg School of Landscape Photography, where he leads regular workshops.
“The focus of the WSLP workshops is not technical. It is more about learning to find beauty in the mundane. I also teach my students to look for compositions — not things — to photograph. For me, it is the composition that makes a strong image — not the subject.”
He is always looking for what he calls a Magnificent Image. Rodgers defines this as a two-dimensional image in which all the elements of composition and content work perfectly to create a sublime whole that compels the eye to return and linger again and again.
If he makes any remarks about his art, this is it:
“My statement is, ‘Isn’t this a just a gorgeous landscape? I was privileged to be there at that time.