Longtime BLM photographer Bob Wick retires, amazing work lives on

Photos by Bob Wick

For over three decades, BLM photographer Bob Wick captured the beauty and diversity of America’s public lands through thousands of images, depicting remote places on BLM lands that few people are lucky enough to experience. From the red rock canyonland lands of Utah, to the tundra of Alaska, and the intimate rainforests of Northern California and Oregon, his photos are more than beautiful — they inspire action and adventure. Bob retired from the BLM on July 31, 2021, after a little over 33 years with the agency.  

Bob Wick along the Molalla Wild and Scenic River in Oregon.
Bob Wick along the Molalla Wild and Scenic River in Oregon.

With a love for photography that began in childhood in western Pennsylvania, Bob’s first trip west was when he was hired by the BLM as a recreation planner in Canon City, Colorado. There was always a need for photos in brochures, kiosks and other outreach materials and he gladly worked to obtain good images. Over the years he built a reputation as a good photographer and received support for photographing public lands across the bureau during the last third of his career when he worked as a California State Office then Headquarters wilderness specialist. Over the years, he has taken about 200,000 digital photos that have been used by BLM, the Department of the Interior, and non-profit organizations.  

The Burning Man event at the Black Rock-High Rock-Emigrant Trails NCA in NV.  This image highlights the broad array of recreation uses the bureau accommodates on public lands. (Photo by Bob Wick)
The Burning Man event at the Black Rock-High Rock-Emigrant Trails NCA in NV. This image highlights the broad array of recreation uses the bureau accommodates on public lands. (Photo by Bob Wick)

In a recent interview, Bob reflected on his career. “It has been extremely fulfilling to see my photos used in BLM, across the Department, and non-profits and getting to showcase the beauty of public lands and the resources we see,” he said. “When you see things on paper in words, it’s one thing, but when you see the image of the lands that you’re affecting with that resource decision, it’s a more powerful way to communicate the message.” 

During wet springs, the normally dry Carrizo Plain comes alive with a profusion of indescribable wildflower displays. The National Monument conserves the largest array of T&E wildlife in CA and is a great example of a BLM-State and NGO (Nature Conservancy) partnership. (Photo by Bob Wick)
During wet springs, the normally dry Carrizo Plain comes alive with a profusion of indescribable wildflower displays. The National Monument conserves the largest array of T&E wildlife in CA and is a great example of a BLM-State and NGO (Nature Conservancy) partnership. (Photo by Bob Wick)

Bob added, “I like bringing joy to people with photos. A lot of people are armchair travelers and can’t go to remote places, but they get the satisfaction of seeing the beauty through my photos. I’m always happy to be able to share that beauty. I also think that images help build pride among employees as reminders of the vast and irreplaceable places that BLM manages.”

Colorado River Valley FO employees monitor well-pad restoration success. Bob says: "Although I'm best known for photographing conservation and recreation uses on BLM lands, I have also been able to capture a cross section of employees and multiple-uses. In all cases, when spending time with field employees, I was always impressed at how dedicated they were to caring for protection and sustainability of lands and resources while providing for permitted uses." (Photo by Bob Wick)
Colorado River Valley FO employees monitor well-pad restoration success. Bob says: "Although I'm best known for photographing conservation and recreation uses on BLM lands, I have also been able to capture a cross section of employees and multiple-uses. In all cases, when spending time with field employees, I was always impressed at how dedicated they were to caring for protection and sustainability of lands and resources while providing for permitted uses." (Photo by Bob Wick)

One of Bob’s favorite photo experiences on public lands took place along the Denali Highway in Alaska. There he camped out solo and watched the sunset at around midnight. “In the lower 48, a twilight glow after sunset lasts about 15 or 20 minutes. Here along the Denali Highway, I sat up all "night" and watched the twilight glow bounce off the clouds and continue for several hours before the sun rose. That was a cool time as a photographer,” Bob said.

Bob says: "This photo taken in Alaska was one of my favorite photo experiences. In the lower 48 a twilight glow after sunset lasts about 15 or 20 minutes.  Here along the Denali Highway, I sat up all "night" and watched the twilight continue for several hours before the sun rose.  View is of Mount Hayes: At 13,800 feet it is one of the highest mountains on BLM-managed lands." (Photo by Bob Wick)
Bob says: "This photo taken in Alaska was one of my favorite photo experiences. In the lower 48 a twilight glow after sunset lasts about 15 or 20 minutes. Here along the Denali Highway, I sat up all "night" and watched the twilight continue for several hours before the sun rose. View is of Mount Hayes: At 13,800 feet it is one of the highest mountains on BLM-managed lands." (Photo by Bob Wick)

Bob has also photographed sunrises over beautiful places from Utah to Colorado to California. “To see these places I’ve never been to before for the first time, it was all so amazing,” he said.   

Bob says: "One of my favorite photo assignments was setting up in a blind (tent) at a Lek in the Bodie Hills, CA.  I was awakened at about 4 am when the birds first started coming in -- the males sound like coffee percolators as they strut.  This particular photo has been published internationally in articles regarding sage grouse conservation." (Photo by Bob Wick)
Bob says: "One of my favorite photo assignments was setting up in a blind (tent) at a Lek in the Bodie Hills, CA. I was awakened at about 4 am when the birds first started coming in -- the males sound like coffee percolators as they strut. This particular photo has been published internationally in articles regarding sage grouse conservation." (Photo by Bob Wick)

He was often taking photos on his own time. “I would always have my camera if I went into the field. A lot of the photos I’ve taken on my own time on vacation or on the weekend. I’m so passionate about the beauty of public lands,” Bob said.  ​​​​​​​

A father and daughter looking over Indian Creek and one of the Six Shooters in Monticello UT FO. Bob says:  "I always like including kids in photos where I can, as they add a message of the future and the importance of considering the future." (Photo by Bob Wick)
A father and daughter looking over Indian Creek and one of the Six Shooters in Monticello UT FO. Bob says: "I always like including kids in photos where I can, as they add a message of the future and the importance of considering the future." (Photo by Bob Wick)

As the BLM moves into the future, Bob is happy to see the new face of diversity at the agency. Being a gay man, it was really hard for him earlier in his career not knowing any other LGBTQ employees in the BLM and having to keep that part of himself hidden for a number of years, he said. However, as he leaves federal service, Bob now sees many other LGBTQ people in the BLM being proud of who they are. “I think there are some amazing employees across a spectrum of diversity at BLM, and we offer so much to public lands management when we reflect that cross-section,” he said.  

Bob and his husband Noah in a selfie at the CA Coastal National Monument in Trinidad, CA.  Bob says: "This spot was 10 minutes from our house and it is a unique example of BLM retaining "leftover lands" that are highly significant -- not just scenic but refugia for seabirds and marine mammals." (Photo by Bob Wick)
Bob and his husband Noah in a selfie at the CA Coastal National Monument in Trinidad, CA. Bob says: "This spot was 10 minutes from our house and it is a unique example of BLM retaining "leftover lands" that are highly significant -- not just scenic but refugia for seabirds and marine mammals." (Photo by Bob Wick)

As for his plans for retirement, Bob says that right now he is taking a break to just relax, but in the future he plans to focus on conservation photography on BLM lands and non-BLM lands.  

Pony Express Trail west of Casper WY.  Bob says: "The vast sagebrush steppe of WY was a perfect place to capture an image of the young men who rode for the Pony Express. In this image, a young woman, a member of the Pony Express Re-Ride group, helped us re-enact the Pony Express Ride." (Photo by Bob Wick)
Pony Express Trail west of Casper WY. Bob says: "The vast sagebrush steppe of WY was a perfect place to capture an image of the young men who rode for the Pony Express. In this image, a young woman, a member of the Pony Express Re-Ride group, helped us re-enact the Pony Express Ride." (Photo by Bob Wick)

Although Bob is now officially retired, he will always be a legacy to us, sharing his stunning photographs of some of the most remote places in the U.S. so that we can all partake in the beauty.  

To view more of Bob Wick's photos, check out this article: "American Landscapes, Seen Through the Lens of Bob Wick."