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HUNTING WITH A CAMERA

Retired federal judge and longtime Oklahoma City resident Ralph Thompson has traveled throughout the world, visiting every continent, taking photos of wildlife, landscapes and the people of the places he visits. A room in the basement of his home has been turned into a gallery, where Thompson displays his favorite images. [PHOTO BY JIM BECKEL, THE OKLAHOMAN] 

Retired federal judge and longtime Oklahoma City resident Ralph Thompson has traveled throughout the world, visiting every continent, taking photos of wildlife, landscapes and the people of the places he visits. A room in the basement of his home has been turned into a gallery, where Thompson displays his favorite images. [PHOTO BY JIM BECKEL, THE OKLAHOMAN] 

Walking into Ralph Thompson's home in Oklahoma City is like walking into an art gallery.

His walls are covered with beautiful photographs from around the world that Thompson has taken in the 60-plus years he has carried a camera.

For his professional job, Thompson held a gavel. He is a federal judge, retired from the U.S. Western District Court of Oklahoma. For his serious hobby, he held a Nikon.

“It makes me more observant of people, places and things,” Thompson said of his passion for photography.

Thompson, 83, has photographed people, places and things on every continent. Wildlife photography has been a major pursuit. He's snapped pictures of polar bears near the Arctic Circle. Penguins in Antarctica. Grizzly bears in Alaska.

“It's my way of enjoying hunting,” Thompson said. “I love the adventures and challenges of hunting. I love the creatures and being in the wild. I accept the disappointments for the wonderful rewards I occasionally get.”

His photography adventures have produced some harrowing experiences. Nearly stepping on a 7-foot cobra in Africa. Encountering a pride of 14 lions after a fresh kill in Africa. Experiencing 70-knot winds and 40-foot waves aboard a Russian ice breaker to Antarctica that kept the boat pitching and rolling for two days.

Thompson has never sold any of his photos, although he has donated several to charitable auctions over the years.

My friend and colleague at The Oklahoman, photographer Jim Beckel, was impressed with Thompson's collection after viewing it for the first time on Thursday. Thompson definitely has a “photographer's eye,” he said.

“Taking good photos is so much more than just putting a camera to your eye and pushing the shutter button," Beckel said. “He is able to create art.”

Like hunters, Thompson learned that patience is a virtue. His favorite wildlife photograph, two African giraffes with their necks extended and crossed like a set of swords, is a perfect example.

The pair of longnecks kept coming together and floating apart, and Thompson recognized there might be an opportunity for a rare photo.

“I thought they might just cross their necks, so I just waited,” Thompson said. “It was sweltering hot. Bugs were eating me. I was stiff and sore and tired, but I just waited and waited. Finally, they hit that perfect symmetry, and 'click.' I only took one. I only had a chance at one.”

It's just one magnificent photo in a lifetime collection.

Related Photos
<p>Ralph Thompson's favorite wildlife photo of all that he has taken. This photo of giraffes was snapped in Kenya, East Africa in 1999. </p>

Ralph Thompson's favorite wildlife photo of all that he has taken. This photo of giraffes was snapped in Kenya, East Africa in 1999. 

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-d15baa82c4ce75a5ee896a7ed3b9976d.jpg" alt="Photo - Ralph Thompson's favorite wildlife photo of all that he has taken. This photo of giraffes was snapped in Kenya, East Africa in 1999.  " title=" Ralph Thompson's favorite wildlife photo of all that he has taken. This photo of giraffes was snapped in Kenya, East Africa in 1999.  "><figcaption> Ralph Thompson's favorite wildlife photo of all that he has taken. This photo of giraffes was snapped in Kenya, East Africa in 1999.  </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-4a93bde250857109d5ec4e99dcecd25a.jpg" alt="Photo - A sunrise photo of Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada taken by Ralph Thompson, who was disappointed that a cloud was obscuring the morning light when he first arrived at dawn. But then the clouds opened up and bathed the mountains in a warm glow, making a stunningly beautiful landscape. " title=" A sunrise photo of Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada taken by Ralph Thompson, who was disappointed that a cloud was obscuring the morning light when he first arrived at dawn. But then the clouds opened up and bathed the mountains in a warm glow, making a stunningly beautiful landscape. "><figcaption> A sunrise photo of Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada taken by Ralph Thompson, who was disappointed that a cloud was obscuring the morning light when he first arrived at dawn. But then the clouds opened up and bathed the mountains in a warm glow, making a stunningly beautiful landscape. </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-f2ea45f60c1808d66d5da330f0b41b2b.jpg" alt="Photo - Ralph Thompson shot this photo of Gentoo penguins on the Antarctica Peninsula in 2001. He captioned the photo, "A good bawling out." " title=" Ralph Thompson shot this photo of Gentoo penguins on the Antarctica Peninsula in 2001. He captioned the photo, "A good bawling out." "><figcaption> Ralph Thompson shot this photo of Gentoo penguins on the Antarctica Peninsula in 2001. He captioned the photo, "A good bawling out." </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-42141c7d95f4fac61b1ab8d5dd8039df.jpg" alt="Photo - Ralph Thompson snapped a picture of this sleeping polar bear in Manitoba, Canada on Hudson Bay near the Arctic Circle.   " title=" Ralph Thompson snapped a picture of this sleeping polar bear in Manitoba, Canada on Hudson Bay near the Arctic Circle.   "><figcaption> Ralph Thompson snapped a picture of this sleeping polar bear in Manitoba, Canada on Hudson Bay near the Arctic Circle.   </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-9685051737505bf343deef8743687010.jpg" alt="Photo - Retired federal judge and longtime Oklahoma City resident Ralph Thompson has traveled throughout the world, visiting every continent, taking photos of wildlife, landscapes and the people of the places he visits. A room in the basement of his home has been turned into a gallery, where Thompson displays his favorite images. [PHOTO BY JIM BECKEL, THE OKLAHOMAN]  " title=" Retired federal judge and longtime Oklahoma City resident Ralph Thompson has traveled throughout the world, visiting every continent, taking photos of wildlife, landscapes and the people of the places he visits. A room in the basement of his home has been turned into a gallery, where Thompson displays his favorite images. [PHOTO BY JIM BECKEL, THE OKLAHOMAN]  "><figcaption> Retired federal judge and longtime Oklahoma City resident Ralph Thompson has traveled throughout the world, visiting every continent, taking photos of wildlife, landscapes and the people of the places he visits. A room in the basement of his home has been turned into a gallery, where Thompson displays his favorite images. [PHOTO BY JIM BECKEL, THE OKLAHOMAN]  </figcaption></figure>
Ed Godfrey

Ed Godfrey was born in Muskogee and raised in Stigler. He has worked at The Oklahoman for 25 years. During that time, he has worked a myriad of beats for The Oklahoman including both the federal and county courthouse in Oklahoma City for more... Read more ›

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