HIGH DESERT An early-morning shot from Joshua Tree National Park is among the images of 63 national parks in Andy Katz's book 'A Walk in the Park.' (Photo by Andy Katz)

When COVID hit in early 2020, the pandemic’s shelter-in-place rules shut down commuting, travel and, in many cases, work itself. That meant, inevitably, a lot of plans were put on hold. For photographer Andy Katz, it meant his usual gig of picture-book-photographer for hire—which had produced 14 books on wineries, vineyard regions and countries from New Zealand to Tuscany—came to a standstill.

PHOTOGRAPHER Andy Katz with an antique Eastman Kodak No. 3 bellows camera, at Aperture Cellars on Old Redwood Highway.

It seemed like a good time for the lifelong photographer, now in his 70s, to do a retrospective book of his images. It sounded like a good idea—for a few days, at least. “On day one, that sounded great. Day two is fine,” he said, counting off the days he spent trying to organize his body of work. “Day four, I was like, I gotta get out and shoot.”

What better time to hit the road with a camera?

The result, published this fall, was A Walk in the Park, a handsome 120-page book of images from all of the country’s 63 national parks. It was designed by an old friend of Katz’s, John Kosh, whose career in art direction started with the late-1960s album cover for Abbey Road.

A Career in Photography

“I’ve been a photographer all my life,” Katz said, during a visit to the tasting room of the winery he founded. “When I was eight years old, my father brought home a book of Yousuf Karsh, a famous Canadian portrait photographer. I saw the pictures, how gorgeous they were and the amazing detail that he got. Something clicked in my brain, and that was it.” Elsewhere, he said it was like a flash bulb going off.

That career choice eventually led to commercial commissions for appliance manufacturers, shooting album covers for Sony and CBS recording artists, product and event photography for Head Skis, and a constellation of other assignments.

A major theme of his work has been wine-related books, including The Heart of Burgundy (1999), Tuscany and its Wines (2000), Private Reserve: Beaulieu Vineyard and the Rise of Napa Valley (2000) and others.

But during the pandemic, the future of many businesses was in question, international travel was difficult and commissions were hard to come by.

He had always wanted to do a book on the nation’s national parks, and it seemed as good a time as any. He hopped a plane to Denver, procured a Nissan Sportsmobile and set to work, with Rocky Mountain National Park his first stop. Over time he upgraded that first camper, which didn’t have a toilet or shower, to a Winnebago Fuse and most recently an Airstream Interstate.

Over time he found it efficient to work for two or three weeks in the field, then return home to the North Bay to process his work and organize the next jaunt. He splits his time between San Francisco and Healdsburg, where he owns Aperture Winery with his son (and its current winemaker), Jesse Katz.

The three-year project ranges throughout the continent, from the Dry Tortugas off the Florida coast to the Gates of the Arctic in far northern Alaska.

The result is not the usual postcard images of photo-ops and signature landmarks, but striking images of natural phenomena dominated by light, shadow and detail, devoid of the crowds one usually associates with national parks.

MOONRISE The full moon appears to rise between towering cactus at Saguaro National Park in Arizona. (Photo by Andy Katz)

Aperture Wines

Light is a major player in the works of Andy Katz, but wine is a major passion. Katz co-founded the Aperture winery with his son, Jesse Katz. For a long time it slowly built up a following and client list, but its production was always small, 100 cases a year or so, with cabernet sauvignon a perennial favorite (or focus, if you will).

Then Jesse Katz went to Fresno to study viticulture and soon took over as winemaker. Production increased, and the emphasis on Bordeaux grapes and techniques now predominates. For instance, the sauvignon blanc is barrel-fermented, giving more structure and weight to a grape that locally is often fermented in stainless steel.  

Aperture has a sleek new tasting room on Old Redwood Highway, at the historic Ponzo vineyards between Foppiano and Rodney Strong wineries. Large glass walls allow natural light to bounce through the high-ceilinged rooms, illuminating large prints of Katz’s work on display at the winery.

While the commissions and connections often led to books, an important part of the photographer’s income has always been the sale of prints. Many of the images from Katz’s career are available, starting at $1,200 for an eye-catching 16-by-20-inch print and rising to $5,000 for a room-dominating 40-by-50-inch image—a statement for the buyer as well as the photographer.

“I do winemaker dinners and I do all the labels for Aperture and this and that, but I’m definitely out of the everyday business part of it,” Katz said, describing his current role at the winery he started years ago. “You know, I’m not a winemaker, I’m not a wine marketer. I’m a photographer.”

PLUME Clouds tell their own story in the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. (Photo by Andy Katz)

‘A Walk in the Park’ is available locally at Copperfield’s and Levin & Co. ($65, autographed, $75), or directly from the photographer at andykatzphotography.com.

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Christian Kallen has called Healdsburg home for over 30 years. A former travel writer and web producer, he has worked with Microsoft, Yahoo, MSNBC and other media companies, usually in an editorial capacity. He started reporting locally in 2008, moving from Patch to the Sonoma Index-Tribune to the Kenwood Press before joining the Healdsburg Tribune in 2022.


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