KODIAK, Alaska — Rev. Joe Classen, priest at St. Mary's Catholic Church, has turned his passion for photography into a business to raise money for charities and conservation groups.
In the fall, Classen launched Wild Revelation Photography, a business that sells wildlife and landscape photography from Alaska.
Classen has loved the outdoors since he grew up fishing and hiking in Missouri, and has continued that love in his adult life.
"I've always loved the natural world," he said. "Photography began as an offshoot of that."
As a hunter in Missouri, Classen did most of his hunting from tree stands. He spent days from sunup to sundown high above the ground, a vantage that gave him an opportunity to observe nature.
"It was amazing all the stuff you see in the woods, sitting up in a tree," he said. "I went and bought a decent camera and started taking pictures. As time went on, I started focusing more on going to the wilderness to photograph things. In fact, now I probably spend more time doing wildlife and nature photography than I do hunting."
In 2011, Classen moved to Kodiak from St. Louis, and has been taking pictures since he arrived. He is a self-taught photographer who learned from being in nature. He enjoys shooting both wildlife and landscape photography.
"It depends what time of the year it is," he said. "Up here in Alaska for the last year or so, I've enjoyed going out and photographing bears when the opportunity presents itself."
Photographing wildlife in Alaska is more challenging than in Missouri mainly because there are many more potential dangers.
"It's so far off the beaten path," Classen said. "You have to be careful in Alaska, very safety conscious, and have the highest respect for the subject matter and the land."
Classen has been taking pictures for years, but it wasn't until his family and friends started requesting photographs of Alaska that he decided to start Wild Revelation Photography.
"I've always had friends, family and parishioners wanting to see the latest photographs," he said. "I put together the website, and one thing led to the next. I started a small business out of it."
Wild Revelation Photography is named for its attempt to reveal God's creation, Classen said.
"Revealing God through the wild is the underlying mission," he said.
The business isn't full-time for Classen, who spends his time working as the priest at St. Mary's Catholic Church, but he is hoping to grow and expand it, since a portion of each sale is donated to a different charity.
Classen just wrapped up sales for a 2013 calendar featuring Kodiak photos, and he donated the proceeds to St. Mary's School and Parish.
"I enjoy doing it for me," he said. "It's not about the money. It's just a way to share the beauty of creation with people. I'd like to do something for a greater cause than myself. I figured anything I could do to help those in need or protect our wild lands would be a good way to benefit those things."
Classen hopes to eventually have some of his photography, which can be seen on www.wildrevelation.com , displayed in galleries and local stores.
Information from: Kodiak (Alaska) Daily Mirror, http://www.kodiakdailymirror.com