Giving it all up for photography

Andrew Reinders of Grafton quit his job to pursue his passion for making pictures in places near and far

Photographer Andrew Reinders thinks nothing of driving hundreds of miles for a great photograph but is also drawn to the Port Washington lakefront, where he was last week in Rotary Park. Photo by Sam Arendt PHOTOGRAPHER Andrew Reinders is fascinated by the Port Washington lighthouse and captured it dwarfed by a towering cumulus cloud defined by a blue sky. He is also drawn to Wisconsin wildlife, of which he captured images of a pair of bald eagles, a red fox and an elk. (photos below)


Ozaukee Press staff

Andrew Reinders loved being outside while growing up in Grafton, and his interest in the outdoors continues as an adult.

Now he’s found a profession that partners with his passion and captures the splendor of Mother Nature.

Reinders is a photographer who makes a living through online sales of his images.

“I’ve always been out in the woods. I’d see random little scenes and take a quick snap with a cell phone, and I was pretty happy with that,” Reinders said.

Until a few years ago, a love of photography, “hadn’t clicked, per se,” he said.

He picked up the hobby and a newly purchased camera at a low point in life after a relationship ended.

“It originally started as a release for myself,” he said. “This is my happy place. Nothing else matters.”

He posted his photos to Facebook, and people began to ask to purchase them.

After he contracted Covid-19 at his workplace, which caused him to miss spending Christmas with his family a few years ago, he quit his job, “and it’s been going gung-ho on photography ever since.”

In late 2021, people suggested Reinders take one photo each day of 2022.

For Reinders, this wasn’t one of those new year’s resolutions to get healthy before losing commitment a few weeks or months into it.

“I’ve got a thing of going above and beyond for setting goals for myself,” he said.

The daily photo challenge was accepted, and the Grafton resident got to work.

Reinders clicks his shutter button by instinct.

“I just go with what the feel is. I’m a firm believer in if you can’t feel the emotion when taking a photo, it’s going to be garbage,” he said.

He has a few favorite areas to capture, some closer to home than others.

“There’s always Port Washington. I can’t forget that lighthouse,” he said.

“There’s something different about this one. It’s the same breakwater, the same rusty lighthouse, but every day there’s a different emotion coming from it.”

Reinders has captured the lighthouse at sunrise, sunset and just about every other time of the day, in fog, summer and frigid conditions and everything in between.

Reinders also has a love of freighters. He once left at night for Duluth, Minn., to take photos of the James R. Barker, then drove home in a 14-hour round trip.

The ship, he said, is known for its “ridiculous horn.” During the captain’s salute as the 1,000-foot-long ship with a five-story structure at its stern enters port, “You hold your ears for 30 seconds at a time,” Reinders said.

Then, the bridge answers back with its train horns.

Another of Reinders’ preferred places to shoot is Ashland County, where his family has a place to stay. Living and moving targets are the goal there — elk.

“They’re different,” Reinders said of the animals.

While hundreds of elk exist out West, the ones in Wisconsin were reintroduced in 1995.

Reinders followed a group of four in fall. One was acting goofy, bouncing around more than the others.

“They each have their own personality,” he said.

Topographical maps have helped Reinders figure out the animals’ movement around Clam Lake in the Chequamegon National Forest. They mostly stay on flat areas.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has a few of Reinders’ elk photos, and the 2023-24 Great Waters calendar includes one of his photos of Port Washington.

Reinders used to live in Belgium and would walk to Harrington Beach State Park, another popular place for photos. He always wore a pink hoodie that he said birds began to recognize. He took photos while feeding them out of his hand.

Reinders tries to take photos on public land as often as possible.

“I make it a point to say exactly where I am,” he said.

“I try and share what I see. There’s so much negativity in the world. I want to catch beauty.”

Reinders’ skill with several Nikon cameras has been developed through trial and error with help from a few YouTube videos when he gets stuck.

He hasn’t made the switch to the latest technology — mirrorless cameras — but he may this fall. His 150 to 600-millimeter Sigma lens in a mirrorless version costs around $18,000.

“That’s a car,” Reinders said.

He grew up interested in architecture and design, then took a liking to being a mechanic and earned certifications from Ford.

But he gave it all up for photography.

“It’s not worth being stressed out working 80 hours per week and not having any personal happiness,” he said.

“I positioned myself in an absolutely great spot to do what I want. If you work hard for a couple of years, it pays off.”

He has worked on cars for his friends, but he isn’t accepting appointments.

The days in his new career venture can be long. While catching a sunrise in Port, he got a notification that the Northern Lights would be visible up north. Reinders made the trip.

Lying on the beach with nobody around while gazing at the natural phenomenon is an “awesome experience,” he said.

When the weather turns bad, Reinders focuses on street photography.

“The rain works really well to exaggerate textures on things,” he said.

Reinders has taken some senior photos and shot a wedding, but he said he tries to stay away from people as his subjects.

“It’s not my forte,” he said.

Reinders has plans for his business to take off this year. He will run workshops on taking photos of elk and waterfalls, letting small groups of people join him during his photo shoots.

He also hopes to launch a website and become more active on social media. Photos and postcards with his work will be available for purchase at hotels and gas station in Clam Lake, he said.

“This whole year is going to be a year of birth for Andrew Reinders Photography,” he said.

He has another goal when it comes to elk.

“I really want to touch a bull and not end up in the hospital,” he said.

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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
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