An eye for the parks

CAPTURING NATURE: Tom Reynolds, a volunteer for Sonoma County Regional Parks, donates his photographs of nature and wildlife for use on park websites and promotional materials. County Parks Director Caryl Hart calls Reynolds “our unofficial official photographer.” (Kent Porter / PD)

After retiring, Santa Rosa resident Tom Reynolds began photographing county’s natural wonders as way to encourage conservation, support

By BRETT WILKISON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Tom Reynolds has made his camera into a megaphone, capturing images of Sonoma County wildlife and parks and turning them into a call for community support and conservation.

He visits local parks almost daily and donates his finely composed photographs to adorn maps, mailers and websites that promote the destinations.

The volunteer work has made him a go-to shooter for park agencies, especially the county’s Regional Parks Department, where Director Caryl Hart calls him “our unofficial official photographer.”

His photographs have been a key part of the county’s bid to boost local support for parks and increase their draw for tourists.

“He posts pictures almost every day. People see that and they want to visit those places,” Hart said.

“He’s our one-man marketing team,” she said.

Reynolds’ shots range from the expansive to the intimate. He’s drawn as much to weather rolling in on the horizon and ancient oaks standing guard to the ruffled feathers of an owl banking in flight.

Many of his favorite shots involve avian action.

“I’m crazy for birds,” he admitted.

Other creatures that have passed into his frame include bobcats, beavers, muskrats, river otters and foxes.

A San Diego native and longtime Los Angeles resident, he moved to the area more than a decade ago and remains enthralled by the county’s natural splendor.

“For me, the most important part is making people aware of what a beautiful place we live in,” he said.

The volunteer role combines his belief in public service and his lifelong hobby. He was born with the “Kodak gene,” he says.

It evolved over the past eight years, but ramped up when he retired from his job as a county mechanic four years ago.

Since then, Reynolds, 68 and a Santa Rosa resident, has donated hundreds of hours and images to a number of park causes and groups.

He is a regular figure at events, documenting the fall festival at Tolay Lake, the Healdsburg Water Carnival and the Kites and Castles Festival at Doran Beach.

When he’s not shooting pictures, he will drop his camera and help out in any way he’s needed, said John Ryan, Regional Parks’ volunteer coordinator.

“He’s just one of those gems,” Ryan said.

The county Board of Supervisors recognized Reynolds last year as one of 18 “outstanding volunteers” among the county’s overall corps of 3,000 helpers.

The Army and Air Force veteran brushes off the adulation while encouraging fellow retirees and county residents to get more involved.

“You have a choice when you retire: Sit on a rocking chair and complain about the world or show what the world is made of,” he said.

His camera enables him to do exactly that, he said. “I can capture it.”

(You can reach Staff Writer Brett Wilkison at 521-5295 or brett.wilkison@pressdemocrat.com.)