July 12, 2024

The Pizen Switch Times

Established 2021

Robin Travis & her vintage Rolleiflex camera. Photo by Richard Massey.

Robin Travis Visits Mason Valley Wildlife Management Area

by Richard Massey

As residents of this area, we are familiar with what an exceptional location the Mason Valley Wildlife Management Area is. What you may not know is that it is also a magnet that attracts numerous big-name photographers from around the state. One such photographer is Carson City photographer, Robin Travis. I had the good fortune to meet her during a recent visit to our area. She generously offered to take time out for an interview and to share some of her exceptional images with us. 

In her own words…

“After high school I joined the Army and served a tour in Germany as a heavy equipment mechanic. After that I moved to Florida and was surprised by the amazing variety of brightly colored birds. I wasn’t yet into photography but always had an interest in the arts. On a whim, in 1996 I enrolled at the St. Petersburg Community College where I took classes in pottery and photography.

A friend gave me a Mamiya 35mm film camera. It was a great little camera for general photography. As my interest and skills grew, I purchased a Pentax K1000 single lens reflex film camera with a 300mm lens. I didn’t have a separate light meter and always used the meter in the camera. The 300mm lens was ideal for capturing images of birds and other wildlife. In those days, I was using mostly black and white film and was developing it myself and making prints in the school darkroom.”

“Although I enjoyed photographing wildlife, I was always inspired by the beautiful images I would see in magazines and books about the southwest. I had started studying the works of famous photographers such as Ansel Adams and Edward Weston as well as some outstanding female artists. Two of my favorites were painter, Georgia O’Keeffe and documentary photographer, Dorothea Lange. I drew inspiration from Lange’s powerful black and white images showing the struggles of the homeless and migrant workers during the depression era in America.”

Yosemite Falls by Robin Travis.

“Cold” Mustangs at Washoe Lake, Nevada by Robin Travis.

“I moved to Nevada in 2000. Getting established in this new area was a financial challenge. My first photo exhibit was at the Nevada Days Arts and Craft Show. I did my own matting and framing. Most prints were 12”x18” and were in beautiful barn-wood frames that I cut myself. The prints were selling well as were my line of generic greeting cards. My most popular picture is titled “Cold.” This picture was taken in Washoe Valley, Nevada and shows wild horses huddled together right after a freezing snow storm. One of my most popular greeting card images is of a Northern Flicker pecking away at a unique knothole in the shape of a heart…the perfect Valentine’s Day card!”

“I always say, ‘For serious photography you need serious equipment.’ In 2007 I made the transition from film to digital. Several years ago, when I first visited the Mason Valley Wildlife Area, I had a huge tripod and 150-500mm lens (see picture). This was a fantastic set up. It was very sturdy and the lens had great reach but it weighed a ton! As I grew older, I started to downsize. I now use a Canon 7D Mark-2 fitted with a Canon 100-400mm Mark 2 lens. I have replaced the large tripod with a much lighter one and hang my backpack from it for additional weight and stability.”

“I’m best known for my scenic and wildlife work. I ascribe to the notion that “art is for the heart.” Wildlife photography is probably the most challenging type of photography but I most enjoy producing images of scenic beauty that I can share with others.

My favorite locations for wildlife are the Mason Valley Wildlife Management Area in Nevada, the Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico (see “morning blast off” image), the Everglades National Park in Florida (see limpkin & spoonbill images), and the Point Reyes National Seashore in California.”

“Morning Blastoff at the Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico”:

“Mother & Baby Limpkin at the Everglades National Park in Florida”:

“Roseate Spoonbill in the Florida Everglades”:

“For scenic, my favorite places are Monterrey, California, (see image) and about anywhere in Nevada. We have great state parks in Nevada and I have visited each of them. All are unique and have so much to offer. I enjoy photographing the Milky Way. Two of the best (darkest) places for this type of work are Wild Horse Reservoir and Great Basin National Park (Nevada’s only national park).”

“Colorful Monterrey Peninsula”:

“My fifteen minutes of fame came during a trip to Point Reyes National Seashore. On the way, I stopped at nearby Tomales Bay to photograph the Point Reyes shipwreck. This wreck is a photogenic landmark and is easily accessible. As I was setting up my tripod, a film crew from Channel 10 News in San Francisco arrived. They were doing a series of travel shows about favorite travel destinations in California. Although they hadn’t set out to do an interview that morning, they thought it would be a great idea to interview me and find out who I was, why I was there, and how I planned to photograph the wreck. The episode turned out great and my friends, clients, and family loved it!

Monterrey is such a beautiful place and is said to be the ‘world’s greatest meeting of land and sea.’ I lived in Monterrey for a few years and enjoyed exploring the world-famous locations of Point Lobos, Big Sur, and the Monterrey Peninsula . During my time there, I joined a group that was documenting the old Spanish Missions in the area. The culmination of the project was a beautiful table-top book that now resides with a sister church in Italy (see images). Some of my images from the project are also part of a permanent collection at the Steinbeck Museum in Salinas, California.”

“During a recent trip to Galway, Ireland I had planned to photograph the full moon rising. Conditions were perfect and the plan was to catch it rising just above the horizon from across the bay. I was in position long before the moon rose. I found the perfect location down the side of the road among numerous large boulders. After laying almost motionless for about a half hour, from the top of the embankment, an elderly woman called out in an excited voice, “Oh my dear! Are you all right?” That is one of my favorite pictures. Through the thick air of early morning, the image of the moon is distorted and appears to be much larger than usual (see image).”

“I don’t currently have an exhibit up that displays my work (this changes regularly) but you can go to my website at Robin Travis Photography https://robintravis.com/ to see or purchase my work. If you are in Carson City, stop by the Ormsby House Bar on Carson Street to see one of my 4’ x 6’ Nevada prints.”

Stone Mother tufa formation at Pyramid Lake:

Rancher, Ernie Fanning:

White-faced Ibis:

Mustangs Fighting:

Richard Massey is an international award-winning photojournalist and freelance-writer. He has a passion for film and does much of his photography using vintage film cameras…as seen here. His interest in teaching has led him to start a photography YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChdW0Jjsca47EpKE5N_jtag