SEQUIM — “We think of the Olympics as jewels because they’re priceless,” said renowned Olympic Peninsula photographer Ross Hamilton.
“I thoroughly enjoy sharing the beauty with people so that they might better appreciate where they live.”
Hamilton, whose iconic images of the Olympic Peninsula are found everywhere from the visitor’s center at Hurricane Ridge to motels and inns to bookstores and gift shops, will bring the stories behind his art to life at a special presentation, “Olympic Jewels,” set for 1:30 to 3 p.m. Wednesday, April 26, in the media room at The Lodge at Sherwood Village, 660 W. Evergreen Farm Way.
The lodge requires reservations, as the room holds 60 people. RSVP by this coming Wednesday, April 19, by calling 360-681-3100.
Hamilton’s book, “The Olympics, a Wilderness Trilogy,” sold out after three printings, though the collector’s edition is still for sale on his website (rosshamilton photography.com), and he and wife Kathy produce a popular calendar, “The Olympic Peninsula,” each year.He said the presentation, a slideshow with stories, will be about 45 minutes with a question-and-answer period after. Kathy said there will be music as well.
“The pictures I have used in shows have a story behind them,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton has lost the majority of his eyesight now, but that he has “a pretty good memory of the pictures and the experiences,” he said.
Hamilton said he will probably bring the 4-by-5 (large format) camera he used for many of his pictures. He said he bought it in 1971 from a dealer in Seattle.
“‘Olympic Jewels’ will be in three parts, like a symphony,” he said. “The first part will be the incredible variety of beauty, the second part the incredible beauty of the seasons, and the third part — my favorite — the beauty of the mountains.”
On the trails
Guided by an eye for illuminated beauty, Hamilton is a master of the old school of landscape photography, in which one lugs their equipment out into nature and works deliberately with a limited amount of film, creating compositions carefully and waiting for just the right moment to push the shutter button.
“It’s all about timing, and being there,” Hamilton said.
“With digital you can make something better than what it is, but not with film,” he said. “You take what’s there.”
To do this, a photographer needs an intimate knowledge of light and how a camera interprets it on film, which has a narrow margin for error.
Hamilton said that he’s made about 55,000 pictures in his lifetime, and of those, he uses about a tenth.
“The difference between a photographer and a good photographer,” he joked, “is he only shares the good ones.”
Married to old friend Kathy in 2018 after a lifetime of being a bachelor, he said she takes good care of him, which is clear from the way they interact and converse.
The LodgeHamilton’s work and the Lodge at Sherwood Village were intertwined since it was built.
“We have 35 of Ross’s photographs throughout the building. They’re so beautiful,” said Michelle Headrick, the lodge’s executive director, who has overseen the lodge since it opened in 2005.
“[Former owners] Bill and Esther Littlejohn were big fans of Ross.”
The Hamiltons said that it was Bill Littlejohn who encouraged Hamilton to publish the book.
“He said, ‘You oughta do a book,’” said Hamilton. “And he paid up front” for the first edition, which Hamilton reimbursed him for from the sales.
And then, Hamilton recalled, “Bill said, ‘You oughta do a calendar.” Nineteen years later the calendar is still going strong, with the 2024 calendar soon going to press, Kathy said.
Hamilton’s father’s family was from Sequim, but Hamilton grew up in California. By the time he moved here in 1969, he already held bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business.
He said that early on he realized a business degree would be more helpful to his work than an artistic one.
However, he and Kathy said that he is actually not a good businessman, because, as he said, “profit is not my goal.
“My goal is to share. If we can break even I’m happy. If I can produce a little revenue, that is great.”
The camera and darkroom knowledge came from experience, such as running a camera shop single-handed when he was 18.
“It wasn’t a very prosperous place, so I spent a lot of time in the darkroom,” Hamiton said.
Later, between earning his degrees, Hamilton spent a summer working at Ansel’s Adam’s studio in Yosemite.
“Ansel Adams was a man after my own heart,” he said. “He’d study his subjects very carefully, find a spot and come back the next day.
“His black and whites were superb.”
Hamilton said that Adams didn’t like this part of the country because “no two days were alike.” But Hamilton said he loves it, and spent nearly five decades hiking, exploring and finding the perfect spots and times for his masterpieces.
He’s visited other beautiful places in the world, like the Pyrenees, Norway and the Dolomites of Italy, but that “I have no desire to leave the Peninsula. It’s my world.”
Life as a photographer “has been such a rewarding adventure,” he said.
“It’s a beautiful world, and it was such a privilege to record it in a way that showed what it really is.”
Learn more about Hamilton’s photography at rosshamiltonphotography.com.
Emily Matthiessen is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach her at email@example.com.