Light & Shadow

#MyRRSstory: Paul Raymaker

Really Right Stuff loves its community! We are constantly inspired and moved to action by the people who use our gear. So tell us your story. When you take a photo using RRS gear, and want to tell us more about the photo’s story—or your story—just tag it #myRRSstory and we might feature you here on the blog! Now get out there and get snappin’!

My name is Paul Raymaker and I’m an amateur photographer and environmental geologist. I live just outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota, with my wife, Jackie, and two-year-old son, Wesley. Growing up in a small town in Wisconsin, I traveled to the western US on family vacations, gaining a deep appreciation of the outdoors. While at school studying for a degree in geology, I discovered nature photography after spending a summer in the mountains of Colorado working at a summer camp. Since then, I’ve pretty much been obsessed. I probably spend way too much time thinking about photography, but if you are reading this blog, odds are, you’re in the same position.

Berge Farm

Berge Farm – Cattel on the Berge Farm, a Minnesota Land Trust conservation easement, Minnesota

My wife and I moved to Seattle after graduating from college, where we lived for 5 years.  The Pacific Northwest has some of the greatest photographic opportunities in the country.  Constant views right outside my door of the Puget Sound, Mt. Rainier, and the Olympic Mountains were inspiring, to say the least.  I tried to take advantage of my surroundings as much as possible, but as a Weekend Warrior with a day job, I barely scratched the surface.

My time in the Pacific Norwest taught me how much hard work and time nature photography requires. I put in a lot of effort hiking, camping, staying up late and waking up early, yet I rarely came away with images that I was really happy with.  This was partly because I was a budding new photographer who just wasn’t very good… But it was also because it’s really tough to get all the right things (light, composition, weather, seasons, etc.) to line up to make a successful image.  Sometimes you just have to get lucky!  That challenge is what makes photography fun for me.

Fort Myers Sunset

Fort Myers Sunset – Fort Myers Beach, Florida

Mt Baker

Mt. Baker – Stitched image, Mt. Baker from artist point, Washington

While living in Seattle, I began donating my images and written work to a trail maintenance and public lands advocacy organization called Washington Trails. I had many images published, wrote articles and gear reviews, and eventually had a regular column featuring easy to use photo tips in their bimonthly magazine. Having my images used to further causes that I cared about both inspired me and motivated me to get out and shoot more.

After we had our fun in Seattle, we moved back to Minnesota where we would be closer to family and started our own family. While the Midwest’s landscapes aren’t quite as flashy as the Pacific Northwest’s, I think there are just as many photo opportunities here.  I like that the Midwest hasn’t been photographed as much as other iconic locations in the country.  I’m not sure if that’s really a fact, but it feels like that to me.  It’s nice to show up at a great spot and not be standing shoulder to shoulder with other photographers.

Great Grey

Great Grey – Great Grey Owl in Sax Zim Bog, Minnesota

Little Sand Lake

Little Sand Lake – Stitched image, Little Sand Lake, Minnesota

Now, with a 2 year old running around, I have to be more intentional about when I go out to shoot, which actually makes me more focused on what I want to capture. In reality, I think I take just as many photos as I ever did.  Sure, maybe a big chunk of those are family photos, but it doesn’t matter to me. I enjoy hitting the shutter button, no matter what the subject is.

I continue to work with conservation organizations in Minnesota. Recently, I did a project with the Minnesota Land Trust covering a new conservation easement that helps restore prairie habitat and provide sustainable income for a first generation cattle farmer. Its been extremely fulfilling to me to work with organizations like MN Land Trust who don’t have a budget to hire a professional photographer and they are always super appreciative of my images.

Raymaker Portrait

Raymaker Portrait – Me in an aspen grove in the Uncompahgre National Forest

Sneffels Range

Sneffels Range – Mt. Sneffels and the Sneffels range, Colorado

I work in various social media outlets just like the rest of the world to seek out creative ideas but my biggest inspiration and motivation comes from my two good friends, Ian Phelps and Nate Zeman. They have always pushed me to get out and create better images. I don’t get to shoot with them as much anymore, but every time I see one of their outstanding photos, I get excited and a little jealous. I’m also inspired by some of the greats (in my opinion): Paul Nicklen, Thomas Mangelsen, Frans Lanting, Ian McAllister, and Chris Burkard are all insanely good and have positive causes behind them.

Just a final word about the gear I use.  I invested in my RRS BH-50 ballhead in 2010.  Since then, I’ve taken it everywhere; over mountains, wading through oceans, through the snow and pouring rain.  As much as I abuse it, the dang thing still works perfectly like it did on day 1. I also use RRS L-brackets, lens plates, and panning clamps, all of which make an unbeatable combination.

San Juan Foxes

San Juan foxes – Fox kit and mother on San Juan Island, Washington

Many thanks to RRS for giving me the opportunity to share my story.  I hope it encourages others to keep shooting and find a cause!  You can see more of my images at my website,, or follow me on instagram @paulraymaker.

Image info:

All images take with RRS BH55 Ballhead and RRS support accessories.