In the sometimes bleak world of our Corvallis Facebook groups, one local photographer has found a medium to share something truly beautiful with his neighbors. In the midst of the gossip and bickering, Steve Kratka shows us stunning images of the world (and beyond) as he sees it through his lens. In his spare time, Kratka ventures into our community’s vast array of natural areas and returns with striking wildlife photography to share with us. His most popular subject with his online viewership, however, is the Moon, and he brings us close enough to feel like we’re in orbit.
Kratka developed an interest in photography as a teenager:
“I was shooting strictly black and white, and had my own dark room in my parent’s garage,” he said. “I would spend eight, 10, 12 hours in the darkroom developing prints!”
His fascination with the moon started even earlier in life, having witnessed the television coverage of the Apollo 11 Moon landing. He also happened to have grown up in close proximity to Cape Canaveral, Florida, where at that time and place the proper answer to “what do you want to be when you grow up” was “an astronaut.” In those days, the Apollo program was considered to be the pinnacle of human accomplishment, and this was a source of intense American pride. When Neil Armstrong uttered that simple phrase and planted that flag, the Moon was imprinted onto American culture – and Steve Kratka’s lunar photography is a window into that era, bringing us close enough to the celestial body to differentiate the Sea of Tranquility from the Ocean of Storms.
During the daylight hours, Kratka is still hard at work taking photos, documenting our more earthly friends. He visits local wildlands like Finley Wildlife Refuge and Baskett Slough, and also takes trips to faraway places like Alaska’s Katmai National Park, where he photographed a large group of grizzly bears gorging on salmon.
“I get excited taking pictures of my backyard, or being in the middle of the wilderness,” explained Kratka. His interest doesn’t depend on species, either. “They’re all just gorgeous, from as simple as these little songbirds, to these big, meat-eating mammals.”
Kratka’s somewhat unorthodox work schedule allows him the freedom to dedicate significant time to his beloved hobby. He is employed as a Mental Health Therapy Technician for the state of Oregon, working with very aggressive and mentally ill adults. For three days out of the week, Kratka works extremely long shifts, having little time to do anything but work and sleep. Four the other four days, he is free to capture the enchantment that he sees all around himself.
Notably, The Advocate is far from the first publication to take interest in Kratka’s work. His photos have graced the cover of Oregon Public Broadcasting’s magazine: Oregon Focus, as well as KGW television.
Steve Kratka’s photography reminds us that we are all sharing a beautiful piece of this world, and we are all connected by our relation to the cosmos. It can be easy to dismiss everyday sights like the Moon or a songbird as mundane, but by taking us just a little bit closer, Kratka reinforces just how wondrous our reality is to behold.
By Jay Sharpe