Biologist by training, naturalist by heart, and photographer by passion, Robb Hirsch has an intimate relationship with the natural world. This connection was established early during annual childhood visits to Yosemite, which forged his bond with this magical place. After receiving his undergraduate degree from the University of California–Irvine, Robb began a career as a field biologist, working on a variety of projects for California State Parks, the US Geological Survey, and several private firms. His love for traveling and exploration has taken him through Africa, Central America, Tasmania and the western United States. Initially photography was a means to document his work and travels, but it soon became the focus. Robb’s photography has been featured in international competitions, calendars, magazines, and gallery showings, and he leads customized, small group and private photography workshops in Yosemite and surrounding Sierra Nevada. Robb’s first book, The Nature of Yosemite- A Visual Journey was published in 2019.
Robb and his wife, Regina, moved to Groveland, California, in 2002, where they still live with their son, Noah, and two dogs. They own coffeehouse and gallery Mountain Sage, also a music venue, plant nursery, and garden.
My education as a biologist and naturalist enhanced a deep appreciation of and fascination for the natural world and all its inhabitants. I’m most content outdoors—exploring, learning, teaching and I would choose to be there even if I weren’t taking photos: I’m not in nature because I’m a photographer, I’m a photographer because I love being in nature. Whether my subjects are wildlife or scenic, grand landscapes or intimate, photography gives me opportunities to connect to the world at a sensory level. Photography is a wilderness experience for me, and to feel the most present in my work, I usually go out alone. Without distractions, I observe more wildlife and become more creative with compositions. Most of the pictures I’ve taken were taken on solitary outings with no other photographers in sight.
I often use places that I’ve previously scouted; the physical and intellectual challenge of finding interesting viewpoints, predicting when and under what circumstances the scene will be most photogenic, and getting there when those conditions are present is extremely rewarding. Other times, I head into the field without preconceived notions— encountering the unknown and the unexpected fuels the excitement. In either situation, adjusting and adapting as light and conditions change is a thrilling part of the experience and I relish the entire journey. I often hike out to locations during a storm to be on location for the dynamic light that can occur during the clearings.
Photography is often humbling; a large investment of time and energy in scouting and waiting for interesting light (or scrambling around chasing it) doesn’t always pay off. More often than not, I fail photographically. But whether or not I’m able to capture a stellar image, being there (wherever there may be) is always a stellar moment. The ultimate goal with my imagery is to give people a greater understanding and appreciation of the natural world, culminating in becoming better stewards of our lands.