If you travel with Stephen Stair, you will quickly learn two things that his wife, Donna, and daughters Caroline and Sarah Beth know full well. First, he always packs a tripod, and second, he is prone to waking up at odd hours of the night to capture just the right moment on camera.
By day he’s an internal medicine doctor at UAB, but for the past decade any chance he gets he pulls out his Canon camera. Anywhere he and his family travel he has his eye out for just the right combination of light and color for a shot, and then he’ll come back at sunrise or sunset to capture it—the only two times he really likes to shoot. “I’m always looking for a unique perspective,” he says.
Stephen also enjoyed photographing his daughters in show choir and at track meets at Vestavia Hills High School, and you’ll find an image he took of fall color on Vestavia Parkway on display at Vestavia Hills City Hall.
Here he shares some of his favorite shots from travels near and far and the stories behind them. Next up on his list after travelling is safe again: Switzerland, Prague, Paris, New Zealand, Zion National Park, the Oregon coast and Iceland.
Find more of Stephen’s photography on Instagram @stephenstairphotography or stephenstairphotography.com.
Last year Stephen visited his older daughter Caroline when she was studying abroad in Florence, Italy. Stephen and Caroline took a side trip to Venice and then a ferry to an island called Burano where bright colored houses line canals. He likes how the line starting from the bottom right corner leads you into this photo.
Lake Bulera, Rwanda
On a mission trip to Rwanda in 2016, Stephen captured a boat with a volcano in the distance on a day trip to Lake Bulera. Today the image of the crystal clear water hangs in his family’s living room.
A guide led Stephen and a group of nine others on a several hour hike that he says felt like the TV show The Land of the Lost to find a nest of gorillas. Their group spent an hour sitting and watching them. “They don’t pay much attention to you, but the babies are very interested,” he says.
One of Stephen’s favorite shots to date was one he didn’t even know he took in the moment. On safari in Rwanda he shooting out the window at everything. He didn’t see the composition of the savannah landscape in this one until he pulled it up on his computer afterward.
Yosemite National Park
Twice a year you can catch a moonbow—a rainbow produced by moonlight rather than sunlight— at midnight at Yosemite Falls in Yosemite National Park, and Stephen’s family’s trip timed around his daughter’s school schedules just so happened to put them there for one in 2018. The full moon lit up the waterfall. ”It’s one of the coolest things I have done in my life,” he says.
Grand Teton National Park
Stephen captured the Tetons with a fence in the foreground in early June of 2013, so you see snow on their peaks.
Jurassic Park was filmed on Nepali coast in Kauai island in Hawaii. When he was there Stephen hiked up about a mile to this vantage point to shoot a flowered plant in the foreground with the coast in the background. He now has this print blown up in his office at UAB.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Stephen’s family enjoys renting a cabin in Rocky Mountain National Park near Knoxville, where he grew up. Last year he captured this view of Cumberland Gap with clouds settled down in the mountains.
Fort Morgan, Florida
Stephen happened to be in Fort Morgan a night with clear skies and no moon in May and was able to capture the Milky Way over the ocean where there is no light pollution around 4:30 a.m. “The Milky Way is moving the whole time, so you take 15-20 shots in a row and an editing program brings them together,” he explains. “You can’t see it with a naked eye.” You can see Stephen in the shot too.