My artistic interest began as early as age of nine, playing cello in the school orchestra. After four years with that instrument, my interest grew; along with my size! At age thirteen my music instructor decided I was ready to try the double bass, or upright bass. My musical tastes grew beyond the orchestra, and I fell in love with jazz, blues, folk, rock, and world music. My older brother, music instructor, and various other people, had a huge impact on me as a teen. That inspiration has stayed with me throughout my life.

In 1967 I was in middle school—as my music playing continued to grow, I found great joy in art classes; painting, sketching, and sculpture. 1967 was also the year I found photography. My neighbor gave me an old kodak roll film camera, which was given to him by his grandfather. That moment changed my way of viewing forever! The camera had a fixed lens with a manual shutter and aperture, and no light meter. So I learned the f16 rule and approximated exposure. It was that same year one of my science teachers began teaching photography and darkroom 101. With my continued music, art, and photography classes, everything seemed to combine into one creative package that lasted throughout my middle school years.

Vietnam was raging in 1969, and with renewed fears of world events, I was entering high school. Photography continued to cast its spell on me. I was fortunate to have a brilliant art instructor, Mr. Lehocky, who also taught all levels of photography classes, including darkroom procedures. Later in high school I procured my first true 35mm camera—with a light meter! I became involved with my high school yearbook and continued to hone and practice my photographic and darkroom skills. I soon lost interest in playing music. My love of music has never left me, in that I continue to be an avid listener. My appreciation of fine arts also was in a state of change, and soon it too slipped away. Photography became my focus, my medium of choice, and my passion.

Eighteen years old and nearing the end of high school, Vietnam was ongoing and I had to sign up for the draft board. The fear among myself and my classmates continued as we wondered if we would be shipped over to fight in a pointless conflict. We all eventually breathed a collective sigh of relief as the war was winding down and the possibility of being drafted slipped away. After high school, I attended two years of community college, almost going into electrical engineering, but was still intrigued with the idea of making a living from photography. I grew up in Albert Lea, MN and in 1975 I moved to the big city of Minneapolis and enrolled at a technical school that taught commercial photography. One of my first instructors made a very poignant and sobering statement to the class, we are not there to teach you composition and to see light, either you have it or you don’t!

Unfettered and determined, I excelled in all areas of instruction—from advanced darkroom techniques to complex studio lighting. I utilized all film formats, from 35mm and medium format to larger view cameras. We shot on location and in studio, our shooting assignments covered a wide range of subjects and situations. After that experience it was time to face reality, and go out into the real world! In the mid to late seventies I was employed at a variety of custom photo labs on the industrial side of things. My desire was for shooting assignments for ad agencies or studios, but my portfolio was not enough! By the early eighties I had found freelance assignments with corporations around the Twin Cities and continued to be self employed with commercial photography—never weddings—into the nineties. My favorite cameras were Hasselblads and Sinar 4×5 view cameras.

In the early nineties, I did a major project photographing the Lake Superior shoreline that covered all surrounding states in all four seasons! It was intended to be a travel experience and escape from reality; to enjoy the outdoors, and hone my fine art skills.

The entire project was done in black and white, and I processed, printed, and mounted all images. I had a few gallery showings around the Twin Cities and had plans to publish the work. I put it off and it has been on the back burner since.

In 1996, I was offered an exciting opportunity, that entailed photographing a twelve thousand year old Woolly Mammoth skeleton found in Wisconsin for the Potomac Museum Group! Since that first opportunity the company has offered other choice assignments, including museum set-ups and lighting for traveling exhibits. The work with Potomac Museum was part time, and I still had my other photo assignments, but in 2001 commercial photography was starting to lose its appeal. By 2005 I sold off all my industrial film gear and studio lighting and began to do some soul searching. The most important thing I need to remember is that I am still a student, I can still learn and grow, and I have many more years to create.

Today I shoot with digital cameras and embrace the technology. I have control over the camera never before offered with film. With over forty years of experience, a thorough understanding of light and composition, a keen eye for color temperature and color correction—my images are all made in camera. I have no need for Photoshop or other post production tools. I create in the camera with precise control over cropping and exposure. Most recently I have been involved in a project photographing out west, creating images for a series of travel guide books. Each book contains detailed information on wilderness trekking, so the visitor can see, hike, and camp in each state for its geology, paleontology and archeology. This country is vast, I am up for the challenge, and it is time for my next adventure!

—Ray Colby, October 2008

To Christopher

This site is dedicated to my brother, Christopher. An incredible artist, mentor, friend, father, uncle, son, nephew, who died of cancer on March 27, 2008. His spirit lives in me. He encouraged my artistic and musical passions. He taught me to live for the moment and to express a full creative life.

Journey Guides

A driving and hiking guide to ruins, rock art, fossils and formations. You know you love adventure, so what are you waiting for? Just do it! Here we show you all you need to know to access the best natural history sites of each state. Although not hard to access, many of these sites are not on any map. You get exact directions and descriptions of the sites, plus tons of color photos to show you what it’s like.

Please feel free to send me any questions or comments. I’d love to hear from you. I can also be contacted at 612.554.6780.