I am Richard M. Denney, and this website presents the visual
fruit of two of my life-long passions, photography and
wilderness backpacking. My photographic interest developed in
the 1950's, when, while growing up in Portland, Oregon, I delivered papers to support my youthful efforts
at black white darkroom work. With help from my understanding
and handy-man father, I
assembled a modest darkroom, complete with enlarger, in our unheated
developing solution temperatures at a constant 68° was a
challenge throughout the long, cool winters.
devotion to my second passion, backpacking, developed somewhat
later. Our home was near the Columbia River Gorge, in sight of Mount Hood, and only 60 miles
from the Pacific Coast. Typical of most youth, I probably took
for granted the exquisite scenic beauty of these areas. After
graduating from Reed College in Portland, Oregon, I began
graduate work in Biology at Stanford University in September of
1969. There I was first introduced to the idea of carrying
everything one needed into wilderness areas for multi-night
backpacking trips. In late August, 1970, I was initiated into the
backpacking culture by taking a modest overnighter with equally inexperienced friends.
After hiking a short distance into the Tioga Pass
area of Yosemite National Park, I spent a
cold, windy, rainy night trying to stay dry in an
open, plastic tube tent. Fortunately, the morning dawned crystal clear.
I was literally overwhelmed by the unbelievable magnificence of
the sheer, gleaming, white granite domes, the impossibly blue
sky and lake water, and the
intense greens, reds, purples and yellows of the alpine meadows.
The experience jolted me alive with an impact akin to a
High above Snow Lake in
Yosemite National Park, near Twin Lakes, California.
From that day on, throughout over twenty-seven years of a career in
research and teaching Genetics and Molecular Biology at the
University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas, my family and
I have taken every available opportunity to backpack, camera in
hand, into wild
areas of the American West. My children, now in their twenties and
early thirties, have been avid backpackers ever since we took
them on their first trip at
the ages of two and four and one-half years. At ages six and
three and one-half, we backpacked with my son and daughter for six nights
into the Grand Canyon.
When her little legs tired, my thirty-three pound daughter
hitched a ride in a "Snuggli," a highly
versatile, corduroy sling I hung from my pack frame onto my chest,
partially counter balancing the sixty pounds or so I
carried on my back. On the 3500 foot climb out of the canyon on the last day,
my daughter (in her Snuggli) and I passed a few exhausted hikers,
as we slowly, but steadily, climbed the trail. I distinctly heard one,
passed hiker whisper to a another, "Wow!
Did you see that?," presumably commenting on my rather
large pack plus child on the front. I wish I could say that
my physical condition today is as it was thirty years ago. It is
not. Yet, when spring and summer come, we cannot wait to head out on
multiple 8-12 day trips.
Even after nearly thirty-five years and hundreds of nights of wilderness backcountry
travel, I am still constantly overwhelmed by the awesome magnificence of the
wilderness in the American West. In these isolated locations,
splendid views are everywhere and cry out to be recorded
digitally or on film. I try in my images to convey my own
intense emotional response to Nature's beauty. So, this is my advice to anyone
enough and fortunate enough to be able to do so: put on those boots
get hiking! Take a camera. There is unbelievable beauty out there. Getting
there can be a challenge. But, the remaining American wilderness is ours! And
it is free!