Ron DePayola Tells his story of becoming a great photographer!

Having done this blog now for several years now, you come across some photographers who are just real impressive, and also have a love for photography. I met Ron DePayola a little over a year ago, when I was doing my annual: “THE ART OF BLACK AND WHITE”, and just fell in love with one of his photos. I asked Ron if I could put his photo in the exhibit, and we have kept in touch since then. We communicate often and talk about the photos he takes. I have always been impressed by the photos he takes, as you will soon see. His specialty appears to be black and white, and when you see the photos he is putting in this biography, you can tell he has mastered that really well.

As time went on in our friendship, I found that he lives in the neighboring State of Nevada, and I live in Utah, so, we seem to watch out for each other. I am sure at some time we shall meet in person.

He often talks about his great love for the beauty of the New Hampshire area, and found out, of course, that most of his life was spent on the East Coast area of the United States. He has captured some beautiful photos from that area.

So, with this introduction, I am going to let Ron tell his story. I think you will enjoy this and can learn more of what it takes to be a great photographer, like Ron.


Arethusa Falls, Crawford Notch, New Hampshire

” A photograph is made, not taken,” Ansel Adams says, speaking lightly as was his habit. A photograph is made, not taken. In that single statement are subsumed my forty years in pursuit of excellence in photography.

            It was four months into my first year at Keene State College that I first learned of Ansel Adams, it was through an advertisement I saw while browsing the pages of a magazine for my graphic art class. The ad offered a free 16×20 inch reproduction of Ansel’s image, Moonrise  Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941 printed by their newest printing technique. You only had to pay the shipping and handling fee which was around six dollars if I remember correctly. Not a lot by today’s standard but for a college kid working his way through college in the early 1970’s, it seemed like it was a small fortune. The next day I dropped a check in the mail for the reproduction on my way to the college library to research this photographer Ansel Adams.

Mt. Whitney, Infrared, processed

My second introduction to Adams was through the two books I checked out that day, basic photo two, “The Negative” and basic photo three, “The Print.” Contained in the pages of those two volumes, I learned about Ansel’s pursuit of excellence in photography; his exploration of its expressive possibilities; his mastery of its techniques, processes, practical chemistry, and physics; his development of the zone system which he has taught to thousands of students to see like a camera and to pre-visualize the finished print before ever pressing the shutter. I learned through his workshops in Carmel and Yosemite Valley and his consistent effort to deal with photography as a fine art. The arrival of that 16×20 inch reproduction was my awakening for the remainder of that first semester. Many hours were spent in the darkroom of my graphic art class trying to perfect what I had been studying in the pages of those two books with a second hand 35mm camera purchased from my late brother-in-law Terry Andrews.

Approaching storm, high desert, Sparks, Nevada

I remember that summer break, anxiously waiting to get back into the darkroom and see the results of my summer. That year started on a good note with a meeting with the College publicity office. Over the summer, I wrote a letter proposing a work study position as the campus photographer, a position which was created as a result of my letter. The position only afforded ten paid hours a week but it was my first paid photography job. Working thirty hours a week at the local IGA store and weekends for one of my instructors, I soon had enough saved to purchase a new Olympus OM-1 and a used Crown Graphic 4×5. It was that year that I set a goal to be accepted into a workshop taught by Ansel Adam, a goal that would take another eight years to achieve.

            Over that eight year period I experienced failure to be accepted into Ansel’s workshops. I learned not to give up on your goals and to focus your work to create a portfolio not with a broad subject matter but one containing a focus of subject matter. Making the transition from a 35mm camera to a 4×5 was also a learning experience. I remembered one of my first 4×5 prints. It was of fallen leaves on the forest floor with just a slight coating of fresh snow. The final print was made from an area of the 4×5 negative approximately the size of a 35mm negative. That print taught me to pay close attention to the edges of the frame and not to include anything that didn’t help the image, a lesson I still put into practice when composing an image today. With some  digital camera / lens combinations today boasting five to seven stops of image stabilization, some photographers over look the lowly tripod but it is the tripod that will determine the final quality of your image. The importance increases in a low-light scenario. The tripod will not only allow you to set your camera to the lowest native ISO with the right f-stop, but also will slow down the process making you more aware and cautious in shaping your composition. The latter is something you can barely deal with in post-production. With software smarter than ever, we can fix virtually any flaw of our photograph but composition and idea behind the frame is something that cannot be saved in post. I don’t know why the tripod is such an underrated piece of equipment. This three-legged stand stabilizes your expensive gear so it is not worth to underspend. Yet, commonly this investment is prioritized behind camera or lens.

Fern Forest

The creative approach embraces virtually all of reality: a rock, a face, a board fence, an event or a mountain as subject for expression in terms of their inherent qualities and the inherent values of the medium of photography. After discovering the subject, the visualization of the image will follow and is finally realized in the expressive print. As Ansel stated many times in his teaching, “The negative is comparable to the composer’s score: the print to its performance. The artist may hope, but not demand, that the viewer responds to his work”. In today’s digital world the print’s performance seems more important then ever. I remember talking with photographer Ron Rosenstock, student of Minor White, asking if he missed working in a darkroom and his reply was, “today it’s all about the print”.

            My first formal instruction in the art came in the fall of 1982 at “The Cambridge Center of Adult Education” in Cambridge, MA. and spent a day with photographer Linda Connor. Since that time, I have attended classes in advanced Black and White photography at Harvard University and Studio/Commercial classes at the “Art Institute of Boston”, Boston, MA. During the summer of 1982, I attended a Master’s Class at the “Maine Photographic Workshops” in Rockport, Maine. with instructor John Sexton who was technical advisor to Ansel Adams. The summer of 1983 was spent in studies at the “Ansel Adams Workshop”, in Carmel, California with instructors: Ruth Bernhard, Brett Weston, Judy Dater, Richard Misrach, Jerry Uelsmann and John Sexton.

Ladder and staircase railing, Belfast, Maine

During my 15 years in the Boston area, I taught classes in Math, Drafting, Graphics Arts and Photography at a public school just north of Boston as well as graduate classes in Photography at UNH. In 1990, I accepted a teaching position at a Vocational Center in northern Vermont where I developed and taught classes in 3D Animation, Computer Aided Design, Cisco CCNA, and PhotoShop. I also taught Computer Aided Design nights at the Northern State Correctional State Prison in northern Vermont from 1996-2007.

Lone Pine, Sentrial Dome, California

I have been a long time active environmental advocate for more than four decades, both independently and through organizations such as the Appalachian Mountain Club. In 1986 a traveling exhibit ran throughout the New England states raising awareness to the issues of acid rain. The show was sponsored by the Appalachian Mountain Club.

            My large format Black & White and Color images try to reflect my attachment to the landscape and my interest in unusual man-made environments. I am interested in the organization that exists in nature and man-made objects. I don’t feel I compose my images, but rather isolate them out of the world in front of my eyes. My  landscapes have been in group shows in New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, California, and New Hampshire. In 2014 I left the classroom to pursue my photography full time making the switch to digital photography and the high resolution D800 camera, in which I am able to capture the subtle details of the natural world and transfer them to large prints with  clarity and color. I use the word image in my digital work and not photograph as I did when shooting with film. In digital processing I do utilize more techniques beyond the capabilities of a camera and the darkroom could give me. My vision of the images I create is more to evoke the emotion and feeling of the place and time I’ve made the image of.

Maple Tree in Morning Light Derby, Vermont D90 150mm lens 1/20sec @ f/14 iso 200
Mt. Washington Hotel, And Presidential Mountains

To quote Alfred Stieglitz: “I recognize something of significant and emotional importance to me in the world about me; I photograph it with appropriate respect: I give you the print. I am naturally pleased if you respond to my concept. I am not bothered if you do not. But if my image opens new worlds for you, new visions and new confidences, then I feel I have truly consummated a personal communication.”

   My work is in the permanent collections of many private collectors, the Maine Photographic Workshops, City of Melrose, Massachusetts, Town of Bethlehem, NH, State of New Hampshire’s Department of Natural Resources, The Appalachian Mountain Club, The U.S. Department of Interior and the U.S. Archives. My work has appeared on covers and in numerous publications including: The National Geographic Traveler, Bed and Breakfast USA, Appalachian Magazine, Snow Country, Peterson’s Photographic, Magnetic North, and Best of Photography Annual.

Screw Auger Falls and Bear River, North Newry Maine                  4 x 5 Linhof
Snow and Pine Branch
Fallen Leaves and Fresh Snow Franconia Notch, New Hampshire      –    4 x 5 Crown Graflex

And, as I mentioned, Paul was one of our exhibitors on my annual “THE ART OF BLACK AND WHITE”, and this is the photo that has been displayed now for almost a year on the main website:

Thank you Ron for your contribution to Photography. Your photos are amazing.

All photos are courtesy of Ron DePayola. Photos are protected by Copyright.

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