With his landscape and waterfall photography, Williamson native Randall Sanger, has carved out his niche in the photography world. Sometimes called the “waterfall guy” Randall seems to have a magic touch when capturing the beauty of the falls through his lens.
How It All Started
“My interests have always been in outdoor pursuits like hiking and backpacking. I thought it would be nice to bring back some memories from those trips. My folks gave me a camera for high school graduation. Since then I’ve always had a camera in my hand,” says Sanger.
That’s how it began for the photographer. Sanger graduated from Williamson High School in 1982, then moved on to Concord University. For 20 years, Randall was gone from the Williamson area while working in the marketing and purchasing field, but he remained a “weekend warrior” photographer.
In 2009, Sanger decided to pursue photography full time. Shortly after the transition to full time photographer, his first book “West Virginia Waterfalls-New River Gorge” was published in 2010.
Randall remembers, “A series of events led me to make this my full-time job. I tried some small businesses, but I felt led to do photography full time. I couldn’t have done it without my wife’s support.”
Randall and wife, Melissa, have been married for 10 years. The pair went on many hiking and photography trips together. Since their daughter Hannah was born, Melissa doesn’t travel quite as much with Randall, but photography is still a family affair. At 4 years old, Hannah might be the next photographer in the Sanger family.
“It’s really neat. Hannah will say, Look at that pretty sky, daddy. You should take a picture,” says Sanger.
A Photographer’s Work is Never Finished
Randall is certainly busy with his photography work. During the year he hosts 6-7 group workshops and a couple dozen private workshops in West Virginia. Sanger also hosts workshops in southwest Virginia, Kentucky, and occasionally the Outer Banks area. Twenty-eight states have been represented in his workshops to date.
Randall released his second book called “Waterfalls of VA and WV: 2nd Edition” in 2018. This guidebook gives directions to 174 waterfalls across the two states. It also offers helpful hints about the local area. His work can be found in different locations across the state including The Tamarack, The Buxton & Landstreet Gallery, The Swiftwater Café, and Adventures on the Gorge. There’s also speaking engagements for camera clubs, photography conventions, and conferences. Randall has also been the keynote speaker for conventions in Kentucky and West Virginia.
A major influence on his photography is the late, Arnout Hyde Jr. Hyde was the chief photographer/editor for Wonderful West Virginia magazine for many years. Being a West Virginia guy, Hyde promoted the Mountain State during his career. Sanger also wants to promote West Virginia through his photos.
“I’ve always wanted to promote the natural beauty of West Virginia, even when I was just doing photography on the side. If I can’t convince someone about the beauty of West Virginia with my words, I can with my photos. If I never make a dime, I hope I can make someone want to come see and protect the beauty here.” says Sanger.
Supporting local businesses is also important to Randall. During workshops, he supports the areas by taking participants to local restaurants and shops. In return, many of the businesses have purchased his work.
Randall recalls, “In Williamson, the first business to purchase one of my pieces was local optometrist, Dr. Steven Wilson. Around 8 years ago, he purchased one of my large waterfall pieces for his office.”
About 2-3 years ago he captured a photo of sunset over the Norfolk and Southern Railyard in Williamson. The community loved seeing their own area in print. After this photo, Randall noticed an increase in local support. In 2018, Sanger participated in two local events hosted by #LoveWilliamson: The Art Brigade. After these events he noticed another rise in local support.
The first event was a downtown Williamson Pop-Up Art Gallery in April 2018. Randall was surprised to see more than 100 people come through the gallery. He, along with 7 other artists, displayed and sold their work that evening. The second event was a book signing at the historic Coal House in Williamson. Again, Randall was pleased to have locals come out to show their support for him.
“Since the book signing, Williamson Health and Wellness Center has become another local business sponsor. They have purchased several of my existing pieces and commissioned new pieces for their offices. Other recent purchases were made by Williamson Memorial Hospital and The Rectory on 5th. I have many individuals that have faithfully supported my work over the years. I am grateful for their support.” says the photographer.
What’s next for Randall Sanger?
Randall doesn’t plan to take a break from his photography anytime soon. He has a couple of books in the works, including a scenic photography of West Virginia guidebook. He is now taking registrations on-line for his upcoming group and private workshop sessions. As always, Randall will be out capturing beautiful #landscapes and chasing waterfalls.