SEQUIM — “I’m not the creator; I’m the copier. I went to the art gallery and copied it.”
Gracing the cover of Ross Hamilton’s newest annual glossy calendar, “The Olympic Peninsula,” is an iconic scene of Mount Anderson.
Though it may be a familiar image for some fans of the now-retired photographer’s work — a signed 8-by-10 copy was included in limited editions of his 2001 book, “A Wilderness Trilogy” — it graces his calendar’s cover for the first time.
“It really is the epitome of the Olympics,” Hamilton said of the Mount Anderson image. “It’s the epitome of the high country. The sub-alpine world is so beautiful.”
Hamilton, whose vision is fading, spent the better part of four decades traversing Olympic National Park and other idyllic North Olympic Peninsula spots, often lugging his camera equipment into the backcountry for days on end to capture on film the region’s beauty.
Along with his wife Kathy and collaborator Sandy Frankfurth, Hamilton has again compiled a set of photos that detail the Peninsula in vivid color. The three work together to select pictures from Hamilton’s archives that not only reflect the seasons but also the Peninsula’s dynamic landscapes.
While not all of the photos come from Olympic National Park, Hamilton said he relies a great deal on his forays into the 922,000-plus-acre venue.
“We try to pick a variety … that reflects the diversity of the Peninsula,” he said, from shoreline to mountain peaks.
“Sandy is always rooting for the lavender.”
“Unsuccessfully,” Frankfurth added.
“He does wiggle a little (on picking the photos),” she said. “I think it’s gotten better (over the years).”
“Usually the boss wins,” Kathy added.
An aspect of the Olympic Peninsula that Hamilton adores is the same thing that famed photographer Ansel Adams disliked: an ever-changing climate that can shift a dreary day into one of sun-drenched joy.
Case in point is the Mount Anderson photo, a scene Hamilton said he completely missed the first time on that trail.
“That particular day, it worked out perfectly,” Hamilton said. “Most of the pictures I take are surprises.”
Hamilton said he never hesitates to tell people where he got a picture because, chances are, it will wind up a completely different image anyway, considering the Peninsula’s changing weather and light.
‘The story behind the pictures’
As a youth growing up in Burbank, Calif., Hamilton enjoyed collecting photo postcards. He’d save up money, buy postcards and paste them in a book.
One thing that bothered him to no end is when those cards wouldn’t have any information about the picture.
Years later, he made sure to include some of the back-story on his subjects on his own postcards and eventually on his “The Olympic Peninsula” calendars.
“I like to tell the story behind the pictures,” he said.
At age 9, Hamilton’s parents bought him a camera and in 1966 he spent what he’s described the “happiest summer of his life” working at Adams’ studio at Yosemite National Park.
“He was my mentor,” said Hamilton, noting the seven original Adams works in his near-downtown Sequim home.
He eventually followed his parents to the Sequim area, moving to the Peninsula in 1969 after graduating from UCLA with a master’s degree in marketing. He began building a name for himself in photography in the 1970s.
Hamilton’s annual “Olympic Peninsula” calendar has become a top regional seller and, now with help from Kathy — who he married just last year, ending 70-plus years of bachelorhood — Frankfurth and designer Ruth Marcus, he continues to create the product despite beginning to lose his vision in 2000.
Though most of his vision gone, Hamilton says he values the time he had as a photographer.
“I do miss it — it was, you might say, my calling,” he said. “I was very grateful for the experiences I’ve had.”
For 40 years, it was my focus. Now, Kathy’s my focus.”
Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].