Richards Outdoor Photography LLC is built on family, faith and a deep, abiding appreciation for the majesty of the natural world.
“Our work exists to give God the glory for his magnificent creation and to share the hope that comes from a relationship with our Creator,” said Dave Richards, a hunting and outdoor industry manufacturers’ rep with H&G Marketing, who along with his wife, Beth, and their two sons, James, 23, and Joseph, 20, also operates the family’s Boerne-based business.
While Dave’s photography has graced numerous covers for magazines such as Sports Afield, Petersen’s Hunting, Southern Outdoors and Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine and illustrated the now-classic white-tailed deer management text, Observing and Evaluating Whitetails, the driving force behind Richards Outdoor Photography LLC is the family’s shared passion and gratitude, not a paycheck.
“Our faith is strong—and we raised our boys to respect, conserve and appreciate the natural world,” said Beth, who uses her family’s photographs as the inspiration for her wildlife pencil drawings and paintings. “Capturing the beauty of the outdoors reminds us all to be good stewards of our rich blessings.”
Focusing on Photography
Dave, the son of a petroleum engineer, spent his formative years moving from oil field to oil field in East Texas, West Texas and South Louisiana. His parents, avid outdoorsmen, took their children hunting and fishing in every locale. At home, the coffee tables were littered with dog-eared copies of Sports Afield, Field and Stream and Outdoor Life.
“Although no one in my family was a photographer, I grew up surrounded by wildlife images,” Dave, a Texas Wildlife Association member, said.
He obtained his first camera about the time he entered middle school and began carrying it with him wherever he went. He gravitated to wildlife as subjects for his photos.
“We’d go to visit my grandmother near the Wichitas in Oklahoma,” Dave said. “When the prints would come back, I’d have two pictures of my grandmother and 22 photos of prairie dogs, lizards and the coyote den up the road.”
About the same time, his immediate family settled in a semi-rural area just north of Mandeville, Lousianna, and they stayed there through his high school years. On the weekends, he and friends would grab “shotguns, fishing poles and ice chests” and load their skiffs and explore the marshes as they made their way to Lake Pontchartrain.
“For me, it’s never been hunting or fishing or photography,” Dave said. “It’s been hunting and fishing and photography—they’ve always gone together.”
As he started his freshman year at Southeastern Louisiana University, Dave upgraded to a Canon SLR camera and began selling images through a local frame shop.
“It was the first time I ever connected photography with the potential to earn money,” Dave said. “I set my sights on the outdoor magazines.”
Dave taught himself photography by doing it and by seeking the advice of mentors such as Wyman Meinzer, David K. Langford and Jerry Smith, who in the 1980s and 1990s was considered the “King of the Whitetail Photography.” Smith gave Dave two pieces of advice that provided the framework for his photography career.
It was the era of slide photography. Smith told Dave if he was worried about spending too much money on film to quit because the only way to progress as a photographer was taking a lot of photos and throwing out all of the bad images.
I could build a house with all of the slides I threw away, but I learned to keep only the best.Dave Richards
“I could build a house with all of the slides I threw away, but I learned to keep only the best,” Dave said.
Smith also advised the then-college student to finish earning his marketing degree and get a steady job.
“He told me to make photography my ‘professional hobby’ unless I wanted to live hand to mouth for the rest of my life,” Richards said. “While I worked hard at photography, it’s always been my avocation, not my full-time job.”
Upon graduation in 1984, an outdoor sporting goods sales job took him back to Texas, where opportunities for hunting, fishing and photography abounded.
Focusing on Family
Dave and Beth met at First United Methodist Church in downtown Corpus Christi.
“She sat behind me on the last Sunday I lived in Corpus,” Dave said. “I was moving to San Antonio with my job the following week.”
As they walked to the parking lot, Dave asked her to attend an outdoor trade show with him that afternoon.
“She said no to the event, but she didn’t say no to dating me,” Dave said laughing.
In 1988, after two years of navigating the distance between Corpus and San Antonio, they were married. Beth put her business administration degree from Bowling Green State University to work as a computer programmer, while Dave worked as a sales rep for Outdoor Sports Headquarters before becoming a manufacturer’s rep in 1992 for several outdoor companies including Leupold optics. In their off hours, Beth cultivated her creativity with arts and crafts, while Dave often took to the field to hunt, fish and photograph.
“I always loved the outdoors, but initially it wasn’t Beth’s great love,” Dave said.
Beth wasn’t a hunter, but she was an angler and always ready to vacation in places such as Alaska or Yellowstone.
“Even though Beth didn’t always go hunting with me, she never denied me an adventure,” Dave said. “One of the great gifts of our relationship is the trust we share.”
In 1996, the family grew to three with the arrival of James. In 1999, Joseph was born. Beth left her career to focus on raising the boys. The family staked a claim to a two-acre homestead near Boerne, which provided a big outdoor playground for the youngsters.
“Our boys were never video kids,” said Beth, who had grown up fishing and camping with her family in Ohio, New York and Massachusetts and wanted her children to have those same types of experiences.
As small boys, they brought piles of “natural treasures” such as rocks, leaves and dirt onto the back porch and used them to build habitat for their plastic animals in the lid of a huge Rubbermaid container that held their toys.
“They spent their days outside roaming around our property just being boys,” Beth said.
James and Joseph began accompanying Dave to photo blinds on South Texas ranches such as the Hindes Ranch and the West Brothers Ranch before they were tall enough to see out of a ground blind.
“We used to stack things in our chairs, just trying to see,” Joseph said.
They learned to be quiet and be patient. On each excursion, they were rewarded with outdoor fun like plinking cans or fishing in a stock tank.
“Dad always made it fun, so we were always ready to go,” James recalled.
Then, after enough growth spurts, the boys got the ultimate reward—the opportunity to see everything Dave could and photograph the ranches’ superlative whitetails and other wildlife with their own cameras.
“When I was finally tall enough to see out, I was like ‘Wow! This is worth being quiet for all of those hours,” Joseph said laughing.
After each outing, the boys would show their photos to Dave.
“Dad would always point out the good things in our photos, but he’d also suggest technical things that we could try next time,” James said. “Thanks to him, we could see progress in our images, which just kept us coming back for more.”
Their outdoor experiences weren’t limited to photography, hunting and fishing. Scouting was also part of the mix, so they hiked and camped. James and Joseph earned the rank of Eagle Scout, as had Dave and his four brothers.
“Regardless of what we did, though, we always had cameras with us,” Dave said. “It is just part of who we are and what we do as a family.”
Because Beth homeschooled the boys until they were in high school, the family had the opportunity to travel year-round.
“When the boys were little, we went to Disney a couple of times, but they made it clear they would rather be out in nature,” Beth said. “Our family vacations turned to family photography shoots.”
Together, they traveled throughout United States and Canada focusing on wildlife amidst stunning landscapes. In August, they spent a week in Montana and Canada. It was summer’s last hurrah before James, a recent graduate of Abilene Christian University returned to his job as student ministries coordinator at Christ Church in Plano and Joseph returned to Texas A&M, where he is double-majoring in entomology and wildlife and fisheries sciences.
“As for me, I love the mountains,” James said. “There is something about mountains and the beauty there that make me feel especially close to God.”
In 2017, they made their first trip to Africa where James had completed a seven-week internship with Kingdom DNA. Afterwards they photographed the Zula Nyala, Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve, St. Lucia River, and the Phinda Game Reserve together.
“While each trip has its own special memories, going to the west coast of South Africa, photographing all of the animals—cheetahs, giraffes, rhinos, lions, elephants and everything else—in the wild, and experiencing that for the first time together as a family was an incredible gift,” Joseph said.
The Focal Point
Over the years, the family has traveled thousands of miles and shot thousands of images—and yet their passion for the outdoors and the artful skill of photography hasn’t waned.
“In outdoor photography, nothing is constant—light changes, animals move, weather breaks—it’s a challenge to capture a moment in time as you’re seeing it,” Dave said. “Mother Nature doesn’t have a rewind.”
Each of the Richards’ men brings a different perspective to their work. Dave, influenced by the magazine covers of his youth, prefers natural portraiture that captures big game in the context of its habitat or behavior shots that catch a buck curling its lip or rubbing its marking limb with its forehead gland. James is drawn to action and he strives to capture a moment in time that most people have never seen such as a bighorn sheep running with all four feet in the air. Joseph seeks out the intricacies of nature at the macro-level concentrating on things like insects, amphibians or the feather patterns of a game bird to help people consider the world from a different level.
“All three of us can be in the same place on the same day for the same amount of time and we will all come back with a completely different set of images,” Dave said.
Seeing the world through one another’s eyes is a crucial part of the experience.
“The best part of the day is when we all come back in from the field and start comparing shots,” Joseph said. “It’s exciting to see who got that really great, unexpected shot that makes you stop and reconsider the world because it shows you something new.”
Beth, who on these trips observes wildlife through binoculars to enhance the realism of her drawings, now travels with a video camera in tow and captures the scene from a fourth perspective.
“The sound of their cameras clicking is the soundtrack to my videos,” Beth said. “The video allows them to see the big picture as it unfolded.”
While memorable, one-of-a-kind images are definitely trophies, the ultimate rewards of their shared passion can’t be contained within a picture frame.
“Joe and I are incredibly close now—and we’re very close to our parents,” James said. “Outdoor photography provided the opportunity for us to spend a lot of time together, so the really important things like our relationships and our faith had a medium on which to grow.”
While photography provided common ground for the family, the photos plant seeds of awareness in others that can blossom into a conservation ethic that changes the world.
“Not everyone has an opportunity to experience the majesty of nature for themselves, so our images can help promote an appreciation for what exists in God’s great creation,” Joe said. “Appreciating nature is the first step in conserving it for future generations. We’re humbled if our images can play a part.”
Images and artwork are available on RichardsOutdoorPhotography.com as are copies of Observing and Evaluating Whitetails, the classic wildlife management text co-authored by Dave Richards and noted wildlife biologist Al Brothers and illustrated with photographs by Dave Richards. The Richards family also travels to select outdoor shows to sell their work.
In addition to general wildlife photography, Richards Outdoor Photography is also available for ranch-specific photography. Contact Dave Richards to discuss potential projects.
DaveRichardsPhotography@outlook.com | 210 218-4375