Gerdes captures nature through a lens


photo courtesy of Mr. Gerdes

Mr. Gerdes shows off the cameras he uses to capture the beauty in the world around him.

Many of us have our own way of expressing ourselves and enjoying our free time. For Mr. Rodney Gerdes, a social studies and economics teacher at OHS, expression is found in photographing the great outdoors. 

Gerdes is inspired by the family vacations he would take as a child with his parents, who shared his love for photography at the time. Over the years of his childhood, trips were taken to various national parks. His parents made sure he always had a camera on him to capture the beauty of it all.  

“My parents had a camera for me at least as early as age 9,” he said. 

Gerdes has some peers that inspire him as well. Although he primarily sticks to landscape photography, especially the desert southwest, a couple friends have helped broaden his interests: Mr. Brian Crawford at OHS and Mr. Corey Arbini at MHS. 

 “They (Mr. Crawford and Mr. Arbini) got me interested in bird photography and I like to do that with them,” Gerdes said.

Gerdes is also motivated by the ease of photography nowadays. He says that for most of his life taking photos meant that the use of film was needed. This put a limit on how many photos he could take and also meant delayed results. Now, due to modern technology and digital photography, Gerdes can make photography even more enjoyable. He can now process his landscape photos himself and edit until he achieves the look he wants. 

However, Gerdes doesn’t look at his photography as just a hobby. He has entered his work into the Share the Experience photo contest several times, a large national contest for pictures of federal public lands. He has also entered a local contest in the Powder Valley Conservation Area. His photo of a turtle at Claire Gempp Davidson Conservation Area in St. Louis County took second place.

Although COVID causes a lot of restrictions, this pandemic has opened up new opportunities for Gerdes. Due to a cancelled vacation, Gerdes has been able to spend money on new equipment. 

“I have used this gear, combined with watching photography tutorials on Youtube, to really improve the quality of my photographs and processing,” Gerdes said. 

Nature is a place that Gerdes connects with. He not only loves the opportunity to photograph what he sees, but he also enjoys the adventure of it all. 

“I enjoy day hikes in state and national parks,” he explained. 

The most intense day hike that Gerdes has taken was a hike from the canyon floor in Zion National Park to Observation Point. He aspires to complete the hike to Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back to enjoy the great view along with the interesting exploit. 

“I enjoy the outdoors and attempting to capture in photograph form the feeling and subject of the place I am at,” Gerdes said. “I am not skilled at other art forms, so this allows me a creative outlet that I can have some success with.”