At first glance, it might seem that my vocation as a psychiatrist
and my avocation of photography have little in common. However, the way
I see it, they both have the same ultimate goal, the expansion of consciousness
and the elevation of the human spirit. In fact, manyof my patients have
told me the inspiration they feel when viewing my photographs feels like
a very beneficial part of their therapy. When I hear that, I feel tremendous
gratification, more than I could ever obtain by winning a photography
contest . Being able
to touch someones heart in that very special way with my photography
is the ultimate achievement for me, something I aspire to attain whenever
I am behind the lens trying
to capture the magic of the moment. Consequently, my professional work
and my hobby
of photography do indeed seem to be working in synchronicity to enhance
their mutual success.
My involvement with photography began as a child. My parents were constantly
snapping Kodak Brownie camera moments and collecting large family albums.
In medical school, while working as an extern at a residential treatment
center for adolescent boys, some of them took me into the darkroom and
showed me how to develop photos. Watching the creative process of developing
photographic images immediately intrigued me and generated my interest
in pursuing it as a hobby. Seeing my interest, my father-in-law, an artist
in his own right, gave me a camera as a gift and helped launch my interest
After graduating from Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago,
I moved to Northern California to the San Francisco Bay Area, primarily
for the many options it offered to explore the outdoors and its natural
wonders, from the Pacific Coast, the redwood forests, the Sierra Nevada,
and the local beauty of the San Francisco Bay. My friends and partners
in life shared my love of nature, and in the 1970s and 1980s
, I went on many backpacking trips Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada and
Trinity Alps, then to Glacier National Park, Yellowstone and the Canadian
Rockies. I took hundreds of slides of these trips, and my skill at capturing
the natural beauty around me got better and better. For a time, I had
a darkroom in my home which I shared with a girlfriend who was also into
photography, and many hours were spent experimenting with darkroom techniques.
I was coached by a male friend of mine, an excellent photographer. During
a darkroom session with him one night, as a black and white shot I took
of the Tuolumne River in Yosemite was slowly appearing in the developing
fluid, when he gasped an Oh, my God! as he saw my photograph
appear, adding for good measure, That looks like an Ansel Adams.
What a compliment! It was enough to get me to take my photography even
more seriously, and continue to pursue it for the last 30 years.
I have had many wonderful adventures over the last 30 years, and my camera
has always been my faithful companion, with or without human companionship.
There were many adventures, including a full year of traveling through
all through Europe, from the Land of the Midnight Sun above the Arctic
Circle in Norway, through every country all the way down to Spain, Greece,
Turkey and Morocco. What an adventure! But my ultimate adventure occurred
in 1976. I cofounded Sunrise Center in San Francico, a human potential
growth center aimed at integrating the inner and outer journeys in life.
My partner and I co-led a group of Americans to Kashmir, India and Ladakh
(Little Tibet) on the border of Tibet.
After the group expedition ended, I went on my own expediton to Nepal,
aiming to trek through the Kumbu Himal of Nepal to hopefully view Mt.
Everest. After a 3 week trek, assisted by local Sherpa guides, I achieved
my goal, a view a Mt. Everest from Kala Pattar, a mountain directly across
from Mt. Everest, perfectly situated for viewing the worlds
highest mountain. The trip was an arduous and difficult one, made even
more challenging by the usual medical problems afflicting trekkers in
this region, mild dysentery, upper respiratory tract virus and 24 hours
of altitude sickness at 16,000 foot elevation that I thought was going
to stop me from my goal. Luckily, it only slowed me down by an extra day
need to acclimate to the altitude. I eventually made it to 18,200 Kala
Pattar at the exact right moment to catch a breathtaking alignment of
setting sun and rising moon, creating a moon rising behind an incandescent
red Mt. Everest. How ironic it was that if I hadnt gotten altitude
sickness 72 hours earlier, I would have been there a day too early to
get that shot. Are there really accidents?
In any event, the synchronicity of events led me to that place of conjoint
sunset and moonrise, an event that occurs with that perfect alignment
only two days a year, and those two days are more than likely to be clouded
in at dusk, preventing any viewing. Was I lucky? You bet! The photos I
took of that moment became memorialized as a book cover (Everest, The
Testing Place, Dr. John West)., a calendar cover (The Himalayan Calendar),
and a poster (Everest Sunset/Moonrise). If the thrill of that adventure
wasnt enough, my trip was capped by another fortuitous event, meeting
Sir Edmund Hillary (the first man to ascend Mt. Everest with his sherpa
in 1953) . As luck would have it, he was on a private trek in the region,
and stayed at the same very small hostelry as
I did on a magical evening, graciously sharing his impressions of the
changes occurring in that beautiful country. At the conclusion of our
evening together, I passed on my sherpa to Sir Edmund to help him on his
own trek, sort of like the batboy loaning Babe Ruth his bat. What an honor!
I continue to shoot hundreds of photographs each month, recently focusing
on the Mt. Diablo area in the San Francisco Bay area. I live directly
across from Mt. Diablo State Park, and am constantly going for photo runs
through the miles of trails in the park. What a joy! In 2001, I started
Mount Diablo Photography (and Robert Picker Photography) to share my photography
with the world. I have worked very hard this last year to edit, scan and
post hundreds of my best photos on my website.
I am very happy to be able to share so many incredible adventures I have
had in my life with so many people through my photography. It brings me
a special joy, not just because I want to share the beauty of these places,
but because the magic of these places has touched me in special ways,
allowing me to recognize that we are constantly surrounded by magic and
beauty, if we will only open our hearts and souls, and yes, our eyes,
to let it in. I take my camera with me practically everywhere, and its
amazing how many unexpected things have found me at strange moments, shouting
at me Look at what God has Created! Celebrate it! Show the world!
If I am even slightly able to do that, my life is richer
and more fulfilled. Through my photography, I aim to continue to try to
capture the eternal dance between light and dark, creation and destruction,
and the flow nature in the process of evolution. When those viewing my
photography feel moved by the magnificent creations on Mother Earth, and
a sense of connection with Spirit which I feel when I am shooting my photos,
then I have truly succeeded.