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BetterPhoto Interview with Kerry Drager - Part I

We were delighted to interview Kerry Drager, next in our series of BetterPhoto Interviews with Professional Photographers. Kerry originally came to BetterPhoto in search of a way to further promote his beautiful landscape photography by getting a BetterPhoto Basic BetterPholio™. Now he is a BetterPhoto Instructor, editor and contributor, and integral part of the BP Staff. Kerry has often joked with us that we should get him a t-shirt that says, "all I wanted was a Member Gallery..." Ah, the poor dear has no idea: we're never going to let him go!

I know you've worked for quite a while as an editor at the Sacramento Bee newspaper in California. How did you get your start in photography? Did the two careers correlate, or conflict?


Old Ranch Equipment
Old Ranch Equipment
© Kerry Drager
All Rights Reserved
Kerry Drager:
My photography developed out of a love of the outdoors and a desire to capture the excitement I found while hiking, camping, and backcountry skiing. At first, photography was a casual hobby, but as my appreciation for the outdoors grew, so too did my passion for recording the beauty of the mountains, coast, and desert with my camera. I became as enthusiastic about photography as I was about the outdoors.

Much of my career at the Bee paralleled my separate interests of writing, photography, and outdoors. Upon graduation in 1978 with a journalism degree, I joined the Bee as an editor and occasional writer. But my position was part time. As a result, I began freelance writing to supplement my income. As my photo skills improved, eventually my images began to accompany my writings. By the time I was offered a full-time position at the Bee, I chose instead to continue with my "divided" life of newspaper staffer and freelance writer/photographer.

Along the way, I had two photo-essay books published - California Desert and The Golden Dream: California from Gold Rush to Statehood - and one photo how-to book, Scenic Photography 101: A Crash Course in Shooting Better Pictures Outdoors. I also began teaching photo workshops, and in 2002, online courses for BetterPhoto. My interests in photography, teaching, writing, and editing came together when I joined BP full time in 2004 as both staff member and instructor.

Did you go to a school to learn photography?

Kerry Drager:
No, although I consider myself "self-motivated" - rather than "self-taught". Photography remained a casual hobby until one day in 1980, when the last straw occurred: Yet another roll of film failed to meet my great photographic expectations. That's the day my "visual quest" began - by reading how-to books and camera magazines, taking workshops and seminars (alas, no online instruction back then!), analyzing the work of professional photographers, and doing a lot of shooting, experimenting, and reviewing my images.

Did your early photographic goals include earning a living from photography, or did it start as a way to express yourself creatively?

Kerry Drager:
My early goals were simple ones: To improve my photography and develop my creative eye.

beautiful landscape photography - Carmel Mission
Carmel Mission
© Kerry Drager
All Rights Reserved

As time went on and my work started becoming published, I became more interested about turning this personal hobby into a serious professional pursuit.

One thing that spurred this newfound fervor was seeing other writer-photographers getting their work published in outdoor specialty magazines. I wanted to do that, too!

< -- Instructor Interviews   Part II -- >

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