Nederland Community Library photo exhibit

Barbara Lawlor, Nederland.  Steve Ruddock stood next to his photograph of the Inca Trail that now hangs in the Nederland Community Library and explained that the trail was found in a cloud forest, in an ecosystem that is unique unto itself at 11,000 feet.

” When I saw this stream at the side of the Inca Trail, I dropped my backpack and set up the tripod. I came away with a photograph that shows every single little detail and when I look at it, I feel at peace,” says Steve who lives in Ward.

Gazing at the photographs set up at the library is like taking a tour of some of the most dramatic, mysterious, beautiful and serene places in the world; breathtaking landscapes that can transport one out of the library, out of Nederland, out of Colorado and into the vast vistas this planet has to offer.

Steve says his appreciation of nature combined with a childhood based on Boy Scout lore and integrity have inspired his work, which he is eager to share with the community.

He grew up in the San Fernando Valley and graduated from Reseda High School. When he was 12 years old, he joined the local Boy Scout troop. “Being a scout changed my life. Before that I hadn’t excelled at anything, but after becoming adept at various patrols, I became a scout leader. I was the first Eagle Scout in the troop and the First Order of the Arrow.”

During his teen years, he camped at least two weekends a month in the mountains of California. He decided that he wanted to live his life in the mountains, that mountains made him feel right.”

As an Eagle Scout, he attended a national conference in Lincoln, Nebraska. The BSA chartered a plane to bring the scouts to the conference. It was an older plane and it flew low and slow over the Rocky Mountains and Steve looked down on the peaks and knew he wanted to live in these mountains.

After high school he attended Pierce College in Woodland Hills where he studied business, thinking he’d become a bookkeeper. But life has a way of messing up the best of plans. While in school he pumped gas to support himself. At the time, Steve was driving his mom’s VW as long as kept it running. Then a buddy of his totaled a Porsche and sold what was left to Steve for $250.

“I took the engine out and found a VW without an engine and put it together. A guy I met with an old porsche saw what I did and offered me a job. So I scrubbed engine parts, and gained on the job training experience.”

During this time, Steve’s fascination with formula cars grew. He borrowed his mom’s camera and attended a Formula I race in Long Beach where he shot photos of the cars, his camera stopping them at high speeds. It became a hobby that gave him satisfaction and he attended as many races as he could.

In 1971 he and his wife packed tipi poles into an old VW bus and drove to Boulder. Steve got a job with Meyer’s Motor, a Porsche shop, and the couple lived in a cabin on Magnolia Road, pitched a tipi at the KOA campground on Valmont and then lived in a rustic cabin in Summerville at the end of Wall Street, up Fourmile Canyon. No electricity, no water and then no car when he blew out first gear.

The couple headed back to California. Steve worked and saved enough money to buy a piece of land in the greater metro Ward area, the property he lives on to this day, four acres on a mining claim.
He worked at an auto repair shop in Boulder and began traveling to races. In 1986, he went to the Mexican Grand Pre, in Mexico City, with a tour group. One of the people on the tour was a pro motor sports photographer and Steve watched him take pictures of the race cars speeding by the camera.

“Gee, I can do this,” he told himself. “And I had the evidence to prove it on the film that I shot.”

It wasn’t long before Steve got his credentials to shoot races and was published in Motor Sports Magazine. He said he sent in his slides, he was persistent and he wasn’t afraid of being rejected.

He covered the Pike’s Peak Hill Climb and was published in the Boulder Daily Camera. He didn’t get paid, but he didn’t care, he was making a name for himself.

In 1991, he was hired as a staff photographer by Auto Week. There Steve learned that taking pictures of racing cars was transitory, that what was valuable now would not be valuable six months from now.

He began his quest to return to his roots, the mountains. He sold the Porsche he was driving and bought a Nikon 610 and shot Fugi film, using a print shot in Loveland to mount and frame his work. During this time, he traveled to Peru, to Patagonia, to San Paolo and Buenos Aires, setting up his tripod and finding spectacular landscapes to bring back to the Rocky Mountains.

When Steve isn’t being a photographer, his other talent is working as a disc jockey on Ward’s radios show, Way High Radio at 93.1. He plays rock and roll, then and now on Saturday, 2-6 p.m. and Wednesday, 6-9 p.m.

Steve recently had his work on display at the Centennial Bank in Nederland. After six weeks, someone suggested he show his work at the library, and after showing them an example of work and being accepted, he hung his show in mid-February.

Steve would be pleased to talk about his photography and there will be refreshments for all. Although the photographs aren’t priced, the library has a price list for each one. Take a journey with Steve to all the places you would love to visit. His pictures are so defining you will feel the cold mist of a waterfall, the sun-baked rocks and the delicate cloud blanket that falls over the world’s tallest peaks.

Barbara Lawlor

Barbara is a reporter for The Mountain-Ear.