#WhyCV Photographer Spotlight: Dwayne Hicks

“When you’re finished photographing something in front of you, always turn around and see what’s behind you, or you’ll miss it”.

Each month, in 2020, we’ve highlighted a local photographer whose views of Carson Valley, and beyond, expand the way we look at everyday things around us. Their patience to capture the perfect shot, or their unique view of the everyday transports us for just a moment, into another time and place. 

This is true of Dwayne Hicks in many ways. His astro-photography is out of this world, his wildlife photography has won accolades, and his landscapes can take your breath away. Scroll through this small selection of his photos to learn more about the man behind the lens. His career in the Army instilled his passion for travel, but he truly considers Carson Valley his home. To follow along on his adventures check out Carson Valley Tours, and be sure to check out his photography Facebook and Instagram pages. 

Reach out to Dwayne for photography classes or tours at [email protected]

Carson valley reflection
While working for the Marine Corp Mountain Warfare Training Center in 2013, Dwayne would return to the valley in the evenings and make his way around the valley on the east/west roads, until the light would kill any hope of snapping off a shot. For this classic Carson Valley image, he’d already been by this location on Genoa Lane an hour before. When he saw the lenticular clouds off to the left he sped back across the valley and caught this shot just as the light was fading. As luck would have it, there’s a hawk perched in the tree admiring the sunset as well.
mama bear and cub
Part 1: This mama bear at Taylor Creek is looking for the cubs behind her. They got spooked and took off up a tree, before she could see which way they went. Dwayne was perched behind a big boulder with his 600 mm lens, so he wouldn’t disturb them. The mama was a long way off, but in a panic she covered 300 ft. in the time it took him to check his camera settings.
eagle pair in winter
This eagle shot was taken Dec. 14, 2017.
Dwayne got the eagle-shooting bug a year before when he first went on a wildlife tour with John T. Humphrey, well known photographer and local wild animal expert. Were it not for John’s patience and skill that day, Dwayne would have given up long before this shot became a reality. That first outing, the two sat in snow up to their chests, freezing, and gradually moving closer to an elusive pair of eagles. John loaned Dwayne his 600mm lens, and after that Dwayne was hooked on perfecting his bird photography.
As Dwayne jokes about this photo “You can tell its a male bird sitting on the branch ‘cause of the stupid look on its face”.
Pro tips: “We’re all students, all the time. Everyone has something to teach, even someone with a cell phone can teach me.”
“When you’re finished photographing something in front of you, always turn around and see what’s behind you, or you’ll miss it”.
mama bear close up
Part 2: In a matter of seconds she was across water, and they surprised each other. She was right up in his face, so he backed up real slow from behind the boulder so she could see him and he started photographing. At about 8ft. away, she heard the clicking of the camera, took two big sniffs and then turned around and kept looking for her babies on the other side of the creek. This is a winning, featured image in Tahoe Quarterly Magazine.
oceanside pier sunset
At 6-years-old, young Dwayne was gifted a Kodak 110 pocket camera. From then on he never went anywhere without a camera. As he would get older and newer models came out, he would upgrade as he was able. This photo is proof that the equipment of a young photographer who can’t afford professional equipment, can still get great shots. The image of the Oceanside Pier in California was taken in 2002 with a quick shot pocket camera.
fairbanks ak ice sculpture
It was winter 2005 in Fairbanks, AK and Dwayne had his first hired job: photographing the annual ice carving championship. It was this job, using a regular non-professional camera, where he began to realize he not only had a lifelong passion for photography, but also the talent. Getting behind-the-scenes access to the event was just as good as the notoriety of being the official photographer.
fairbank ak tourism shot
Back to Fairbanks, AK, still shooting with the same camera used for the ice carving festival. Dwayne was hired by the city of Fairbanks to do some promo shots. The chapel is a historic, classic tourist spot watched over by this pioneer statue.
harley reflection
Captain Keith Preston was the fire chief at the Marine Corp Mountain Warfare Training Center. They met on Dwayne’s first day of his civilian job there, and they recognized a passion for Harley’s in each other and were fast friends. Captain Preston jumped on his bike and came to visit Dwayne after his stroke in 2016, knowing that Dwayne would be missing the wind in his hair and the roar of the engine. In this moment, after starting the bike, Captain Preston leaned over to wipe something from the bike, and Dwayne captured this candid shot.
tanaya lake yosemite
This digital painting is of Yosemite’s Tanaya Lake, in 2013. The bane of Dwayne’s life is that he can’t paint with a brush on canvas, so he paints photographs on the computer. He’s able to fix errors digitally, that he’d never be able to do on canvas.
old ford tractor
Another digital painting is his well known Herbig Tractor. This tractor’s home is on the Herbig ranch, in an old building that was relocated from Virginia City. Usually it’s nose in and covered, but when it was being prepared for use, Dwayne was able to catch the initial shot. It’s a reminder that there are many amazing things hidden away in the barns of Carson Valley, you never know what you may stumble upon when the time is right.
carson valley sun rays
This photo was shot at the south end of the valley, pointing towards Markeleeville. Those sun rays! With the naked eye they were very faint, but with the camera Dwayne was able to capture the depth of them.
Pro tip: Listen to that inner voice and shoot all the pictures you want. Something may come out on the other end that’s fabulous and unexpected.
mission san juan capistrano
This shot from 10 years ago, was a half-century in the making. Dwayne and his sister went to school at the Mission San Juan Capistrano as children. It was in this prayer garden that Dwayne was able to find solitude to study the Latin mass. Since that time, he’d been envisioning this image with the fountain quietly gurgling through moss, the arch, and the famous bells. The bells were ferreted away and buried when conquistadors would ransack missions for bronze. Years later they were unearthed to once again ring at the Mission.
dangberg farm equipment
Look closely and you’ll see the D in this shot from the Dangberg Home Ranch. Not unlike his painted tractor image, Dwayne used abstract tools to digitally highlight this image of old farm equipment.
canyonlands ut sunset
This image was from Dwayne’s maiden voyage into drone photography. This big, open area near Moab, UT seemed as good a place as any, and there was no one around so if the drone crashed he wouldn’t hurt anyone. This is the photo that every drone guy wants: the sun setting over Klondike Bluffs, in Canyonlands.
crate lake sunset
Crater Lake outside of Klamath Falls. Out of all his travels, this is the first place he goes back to. In 2019 Dwayne went for one sunrise, and left five sunrises later, because each one got better and better.
eagle talon close ups
Eagles are overall very impressive raptors, but one of the reasons Dwayne loves to photograph them is because of their talons. He worked hard to find a bird perched and get this power shot!
wild nevada mustang band
This amazing image is of the notorious stallion Blue and his band of Nevada mustangs in the winter of 2014.

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