September 7, 2022 at 8:52 p.m.
Freeman’s photography a call from the wild
CLARISSA – Bob Freeman Jr. has been interested in photography since he was a little boy. At the age of 12, he picked up his first Instamatic, he moved on to a Polaroid and, by his early 20s, he had purchased his first quality camera, a Pentax Spotmatic.
“I’ve always been drawn to wild places and wild things,” Freeman said. “My dad would take me out to the island we owned on Sauk Lake. We would lie down and wait for things to come. It just really stimulated my young mind and I became hooked on nature.”
Freeman grew up in Sauk Centre and graduated in 1970. He and his wife, Clare, have traveled the country in search of picture-perfect vistas.
They’ve been to Utah, Arizona, Montana, Colorado, Nevada, Wyoming, Texas, North Dakota and Mexico, just to name a few. Though Bob sometimes ventures alone, most often he and Clare travel together. The couple has been married 36 years and Bob said he still likes to look at the world through Clare’s eyes.
They can be found hiking miles into the woods to find a piece of solace, a place where there are no other humans milling about, only the natural world surrounding them.
“We get in there and we find solitude in remote places,” he said. “If you believe in God, all the distractions are removed. I feel closer to God in wilderness places and He is someone infinitely greater. We enjoy our every breath by His grace.”
Freeman works to capture special moments in time with his photography.
“It has to be something special about the scene that doesn’t occur all the time,” he said. “A different time of year, autumn leaves, a mist, sun rays coming over a mountain scene or frost on the trees.”
Capturing those moments in time, he said, is key to creating fine art.
“A good photographer is seeking to capture God’s art,” he said.
Freeman does follow some basic rules as he’s creating images. Though he truly began devoting time and energy to photography more than 20 years ago, he spent more than a decade under the tutelage of his mentor, Robin Ingraham Jr., a photographer based in California. The two met over the internet and Ingraham began critiquing Freeman’s work. After 12 years, Ingraham gave Freeman a final blessing on his images.
As he creates, Freeman focuses on good lighting, a balance of composition, a balance of color that draws the human eye across the photograph, sharp tack focus, centering of the image and finally, geometric complexity. With that, he said, he searches for natural patterns in the landscape, arrangement of petals, flowers, similarly shaped leaves or rocks or patterns in the grasses. While he said at first the patterning was something he simply stumbled upon, now he searches for it.
Freeman describes himself as a purist when it comes to his images. He said most images need to be post-processed and he works to bring the image as close as possible to how his mind saw it.
“UV filters, technology, just don’t do what the human brain does with images,” he said.
Through the years, the Freemans have encountered a lot of wildlife on their adventures. Clare jokes that he always has to go around the next bend and can’t ever hike far enough; he always needs to go a little farther. He’s braved the elements to get his shots, 40 degrees, 30-mph winds, and has hiked a plateau in the Beartooth Mountains and came back to the car soaked and shivering. He has encountered grizzly bears in the wild, a Pine Marten with a squirrel in its mouth in Glacier National Park, the moment two cardinals exchanged a seed, a Green Heron in San Blas, Mexico.
Freeman works silently and hidden from nature, often creating blinds and waiting patiently for nature to come, just as his dad taught him as a little kid.
He’ll pop up a blind and send out a bird call – and simply wait.
“No one else in the world knows you’re doing that,” he said. “It’s a very private thing.”
While Freeman has always had a love of nature, he’s had to fit his photography in through the years. He farmed briefly early in life until a back surgery set him on a new path of sales. He then spent nearly two decades with the National Federation of Independent Business. He did political research for National Write Your Congressman. He officially retired in 2014, leaving more time for his passions.
His upbringing, he said, is what drives him to this day.
“My parents really made it easy for me,” he said. “I was raised in Sauk Centre in a four-acre resort on a lake.”
To this day, he said, he never knows when one of those special photography moments will show up. When he sets out with intent for the day to take photos, Freeman dons comfortable hiking clothes and a trusty hat to protect his head. He always wears something with an array of pockets large enough to fit his lenses and lens caps. He often carries a tripod on his ventures to help in low-light conditions.
“I rejoice in the search for beauty,” he said. “It is the natural revelation of God’s beauty that causes one to worship. Beauty is elusive; it can be bold or subtle, but it’s all around us and a photographer has to have vision in order to find that.”
Freeman’s photography can be seen at http://www.mynorthwoodsvista.com/.