Looking through the lens at the picture, he makes sure all aspects and details are where they need to be. It is a gift to have a great eye, perfect focus, steady hand and a unique professional stance. Having the dedication, passion and opportunity for that once-in-a-lifetime picture is the way of life for Wyman Meinzer. Thunderstorms, snow or sunshine, the weather is never an issue for Meinzer. His great eye and love for nature is what led him to become a self-taught photographer and earn the title of State Photographer of Texas.
Photography is not Meinzer’s only talent. He also has written numerous books and published magazine articles. These distinguished talents were not something that he ever expected to aquire, but in time it grew and became his way of life and passion.
“I had no ambition really to be a professional photographer or writer. All of it just came on gradually, sort of in stages,” Meinzer said.
Meinzer’s interest in photography started when he was around 12 years old and his mother gave him his first camera. Meinzer attended Texas Tech University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in wildlife management. During college, he became involved in wildlife research, and his professor loaned him one of his cameras to capture data and document research. He enjoyed the experience so much that he purchased a camera to continue pursuing his journey as a photographer.
One of Meinzer’s first experiences using a telephoto lens was with a group of graduate students by the Texas Tech library. Meinzer and the group would photograph other students coming from the dorms going to class.
“That’s kind of where I realized that I had a knack for focusing long lenses because most of the pictures were pretty sharp,” Meinzer said.
To take his photography more seriously, Meinzer said he wanted to get a telephoto lens and work on wildlife research. In 1974, Meinzer graduated from Texas Tech and became a professional predator hunter. He lived in a hole in the ground covered in camoflauge on the Pitchfork Ranch taking photos, and he started buying better photography equipment.
“Although I still hadn’t planned on it being a part of my life, just sort of a sideline, it really started becoming a serious pastime,” Meinzer said. “In fact, I shot some publishable images out there and had no idea what I was doing. It just happened. Later one of them was selected as one of the best pictures in 25 years in Texas Monthly and I was just documenting the life out there.”
While spending two months working in Santa Fe, N.M., Meinzer was in the mountains looking around at the beautiful colors of the landscape. He looked at pictures in magazines and realized that he could shoot similar shots once he mastered the technical aspects of his camera.
“I started having aspirations at that time to get to a professional level,” Meinzer said. “Once I became published in the late 1970s, I believed ‘I’m going to go at it big.’”
In 1997, after nearly two decades in the profession, Meinzer was named the State Photographer of Texas. He still has many ideas for potential pictures. Nature plays an important role in Meinzer’s photography; therefore, he has great patience and always expects the unexpected. Whenever the opportunity comes along, Meinzer never hesitates to take the shot.
“I’ve got several pictures that I love. Probably one of the more iconic pictures is of the burrowing owl peering over the snow drift,” Meizner said. “That is truly an iconic photograph that defines my style of work.”
For 11 years, Meinzer shared his knowledge of photography while teaching at Texas Tech. At the Lubbock campus, Meinzer taught editorial photography with an emphasis on magazine publishing. He taught communication students how to be photographers and writers, because Meinzer believes that it makes students the “package deal.”
He also taught the wildly popular and exclusive May intersession photography course in Junction for 12 years. Many people believe Meinzer has planted the seed for aspiring photographers in the field of agriculture and the skills he taught them are irreplaceable.
David Halloran, a former student of Meinzer’s who took the Junction course in 2008, became his teaching assistant in 2009. Halloran said he continued his job as Meinzer’s teaching assistant until May 2011. Although the students and weather varied each year, assisting with the class was always an amazing experience.
“When I first met Wyman, it was intimidating. I imagined him being a gunslinger with a camera,” Halloran said. “Students from the previous year had instilled this image of him in my head and when I first walked into the classroom, this was all could imagine.”
After Halloran met Meinzer, his passion grew wild for photography. Learning from Meinzer was the inspiration that led him down his own photography path.
“Wyman has taught me a great deal about photography, but all the knowledge I have gained from him does not stop there,” Halloran said. “He has taught me a great deal about Texas history and wildlife. Every time I talk with him I learn something new. Working with Wyman is always an incredible experience. His stories are always fascinating and there is nothing like driving down a dusty road listening to old hippy music.”
Regardless of his famous photography career, Meinzer is still a down-to-earth man. He has many adventures during a day including: flying planes, taking pictures, writing, traveling, shooting his guns, and enjoying the company of his family and friends. It is simply his adventurous way of life.