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Leaving books and beakers behind: Bill Bare earns photography honor


Bill Bare

It was a fall morning, and Bill Bare had just trekked into the mountains to take photos of fog rolling through the Blue Ridge at sunrise.

As he was driving down U.S. 501 past Georgia-Pacific’s paper mill in Big Island, inspiration struck. The mill’s smokestacks were surrounded by fog in the early morning light, and Bare stopped to capture it on film.

“It was really fortuitous,” said Bare, a chemistry professor at Randolph. “It was a cold morning, so most of it was just river fog. But it added a nice atmosphere to it.”

The resulting image, Smokestacks, was recently accepted into the Academy Center of the Arts’ National Juried Photography Exhibition, which was held in September in downtown Lynchburg.

Bare’s work has previously been accepted into other shows around the state, but for him, this one is particularly special.

“To have a photo in a juried show in my own town is a big thrill,” he said.

Bare first became interested in photography about seven years ago, after taking the scenic route home from a conference in upstate New York.

“I drove through all these little towns with old, wooden churches and town squares,” he remembered. “I started taking pictures, and it was so relaxing.”

At the time, he was armed only with his cellphone. But Bare upgraded in 2020 and bought his first camera.

“I barely knew which end to look into,” he joked. “So I started watching videos online. It was amazing how much I could learn by watching YouTube and going out to practice.”

He’s since joined the Blue Ridge Photographic Arts Society. As far as his interests, he’s dabbled in nightscapes—landscape photos taken at night—and lately has been focusing on architecture.

Bare shares his photographs on a website, Barely Competent Photography, where he talks about leaving “my books and beakers behind” to hit the road in search of something to photograph.

For him, photography is a meditative experience that allows him to clear his mind.

“It takes all of my concentration, and everything else disappears,” Bare said. “It’s therapeutic.”

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