For decades now, Miami Beach resident "Wild Bill" Keeting has been doing everything in his power to get as close as possible to some of nature's most dangerous beasts. Unlike some of the grizzly-loving eccentrics who have been eaten before him, however, Keeting's main aim isn't to "become one" with the bears. He just wants to take photographs of their majestic hairy hides.
The 65-year-old retiree says his love affair with nature photography has lasted not because of the excitement of hanging out with heavily clawed, horned, and fanged creatures, but rather because of the justified laziness the occupation affords him. "What happened was, picking up an interest in photography gave me an excuse to sit around and experience nature," Keeting said.
Keeting grew up in the suburbs of Maryland. He built his career mostly in sales, but he spent some time in the army and working for the government as well. His interest in photography began at the age of 13, when his father gave him his first camera. His first subjects were random; he and a friend, whose family owned a camera shop, would mess around, snapping and developing pictures in their spare time. "We developed black and white film in my basement," said Keeting. "But I wasn't any good as a teenager."
Between high school graduation and the army, life got busier, and Keeting put down the camera for a while. "I lost interest in photography, and I think I even sold the camera," Keeting said. "I had other things going on."
In 1990, when Keeting was well into his sales career, he departed his Miami Beach home to take a trip out west. He bought a Volkswagen camper and planned to live in it for a month's vacation before reselling the car.
But nine weeks later, he still hadn't gotten his fill of the great outdoors. He camped out in national parks, hiked, and observed the plants, animals, and shifting skies around him. His first excursion had to end eventually so he could replenish his finances, but he kept the camper so that he could return soon after. He soon found himself out west again, crouching patiently in the grass with his camera, and he's since made a habit of taking these extended adventures into some of America's wildest and most beautiful national parks. "That first trip was when I said to myself, 'I'm not going to wait until I get old and retire to start living life the way I want to,'" he recalled.