Dr. Peter Van Rhijn lives two lives – one in the world of science, and the other in the world of art. As a family doctor, he understands how important scientific knowledge is in the twenty-first century. As a nature photographer, he knows that knowledge must be used wisely with a respect for the delicate beauty of our world.
Peter the photographer is a treasure hunter. When he hikes on nature trails, climbs mountains or paddles his kayak, that's precisely how he feels. Somewhere out there is THE elusive "masterpiece" – the best picture he'll ever take. All he needs to do is see it. And to see it, he needs an open heart. Says Peter, quoting an old saying, "What good is an open eye if the heart is blind?"
Peter considers Mother Nature the ultimate teacher of art and all things beautiful. Environmental issues like global warming, pollution, and overpopulation concern him deeply. Through his photography, he can show his fellow travellers on spaceship Earth how special this planet is. One day, as Dostoevsky pronounced, he hopes that "beauty will save the world."
Growing up in a large city in Holland, Peter had limited contact with the wilderness as a child. There were some dunes near his home where he would go pretend hunting, and he thinks that may have been the start of the hunting he does today with his camera.
His father was an avid photographer and was one of the first to have a good quality camera. Peter remembers being awed by his father's slides projected large on a screen. He got his first camera when he was a Boy Scout and took black-and-white photographs of whatever was around.
It wasn't until Peter was an adult and immigrated to Canada that he became passionate about photography. One of the reasons he chose Canada was because of its beauty and its wilderness areas. As a photographer, he has ample opportunity to enjoy that natural beauty and capture it with a camera. He joined a local camera club and started to compete in their club competitions. "That's when I really got bitten by the photography bug!"
He spent all of his spare time shooting and making slideshows. He has travelled extensively across North America with his slideshows, which have been very
To find the perfect images, he has to be a bit of an adventurer. When he needed some volcano images for a slideshow, he and his wife Susan Gibbs took a hike onto a lava field in Hawaii. "We tried to get as close as possible to the steam plume generated by the lava flowing from a lava tube into the ocean. The scary part was that as we got closer, the lava under our feet got pretty hot and we were worried that we might accidentally fall through the lava crust into an underground river of flowing lava."
Then there was a close call in the interior of British Columbia. He and his then six-year-old son had been dropped in the bush by plane. "I was walking around with my camera on a slightly elevated plateau and was keeping an eye on my son, who was maybe 300 feet away. Suddenly I saw a huge black bear running towards the tent... and my son. All I could do was yell at the top of my lungs. Fortunately the bear was startled. It stopped, looked at me, and turned around. I wonder to this day if the bear was just curious or if he had spotted a tasty lunch."
When he's out hunting with his camera, Peter uses his instincts and his technical knowledge to find the best images. "A lot of subjects or scenes look great in real life, but don't work as a picture. And close-ups are even more complicated because once you start to look through the lens you see things you couldn't see without the camera."
Peter's stunning images have appeared in numerous publications, including Endangered Spaces (World Wildlife Fund), The Last Wilderness (edited by Freeman Patterson), Islands of Hope (edited by Lori Labatt and Bruce Littlejohn), and The Best of Nature Photography (edited by Jenni Bidner and Meleda Wegner).
Peter and his wife Sue enjoy travelling, cross-country skiing, sea kayaking, and hiking. He is an avid competitor in
in-line speed skating marathons. He has two grown children, Robert and Vanessa. And he is still looking for his masterpiece.
To see more of Peter Van Rhijn's photographs from around the world, visit his website at www.naturephotos.com.