Juneau has not one photographer, but two, with a photograph hanging in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.
Juneau photographer Richard Hebhardt estimates he’s been taking pictures for close to 40 years. He worked in education for 30 years, retiring early as superintendent of Bristol Bay Borough School District six years ago in order to “devote all of my energies to photography.” It was then he moved to Juneau.
“It’s not my life’s only passion, but it’s certainly one of them,” he said.
He submitted photographs as part of magazine Nature’s Best Photography’s “Wilderness Forever Photo Competition,” earning three honorable mentions in the top 100 photos out of almost 5,500 images.
This year is the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, which protected 9.1 million acres of federal land and gave wilderness a legal definition in the United States.
Of the “Top 100” photographs in the competition, 64 are displayed in the Smithsonian as prints or signage, including one, “Solitary Hiker,” that Hebhardt took in Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes Wilderness. That photo is in the exhibition as signage.
“Although my primary purpose was to photograph the interplay of light, shadow and form that the Great Sand Dunes offers in the early morning and late in the day, I couldn’t resist shooting this solitary hiker struggling to ascend a large dune. The stark contrast between the hiker’s apparent diminutiveness and the size of the dune was a scene I had to shoot. Within a minute or two of noticing him, I set up my tripod, made my necessary camera adjustments, and captured the moment, despite a gusting wind and blowing sand,” he wrote in the photo’s caption. The photo is in the “people and nature” category.
The two photographs that got honorable mention in the “wildlife” category were of Steller sea lions in Glacier Bay National Park and of a seal in Tracy Arm.
“That was quite a hoot, actually,” he said of the sea lions. He and a friend saw the gathering and turned off their engine, but “they sensed our presence and the entire group of them — probably several hundred — just rushed toward the water,” he said.
He took the photo of the harbor seal “on a very cold, windy day last summer, in the ice-choked upper reaches of the arm,” he said.
The exhibition will be up at the museum until next summer; Hebhardt plans to travel sometime soon to Washington, D.C. to see it for himself.
Hebhardt will also have an exhibit at the Juneau Arts & Culture Center in February of black and white photographs taken in Southeast Alaska.
“It’s been a life’s passion, and I’ve managed to be able to do it full time since my early retirement six years ago,” Hebhardt said. “I am primarily a nature photographer. ... I love landscape and wildlife and, to use the phrase again, the interplay of light and form and movement.”