Larry Joe West

Mason, Michigan

   Larry West passed away at home on December 15, 2015, with his loved ones at his side.  He was preceded in death by his parents Virginia Bates and Charles West.  Surviving to miss him are his wife of 38 years, Bonnie, his children, Jeff West and Jennifer Williams, and his beloved grandchildren, Kaitlynn and Zachary Sommer.
Larry was a kind and gentle man to everyone and everything.  He had a brilliant mind, loved nature and photography, loved to talk to anyone, sang every morning, gave errant insects in the house a gentle lift outdoors, and had an outstanding memory for great jokes.
Larry loved nature as a small child and was never happier than when he was outdoors.  By age fifteen, Larry purchased the first of many cameras in his lifelong quest to reproduce on film the beauty and wonder of nature that was to be his life’s passion.  By the time he was in his twenties, editors were calling him “…one of the most outstanding nature photographers in the country.”
Larry traveled and photographed in North America, Central America, and New Zealand during his lifetime, but was happiest photographing in his own 28 acre back yard.
During his lifetime, Larry wrote many articles and books on nature photography, taught thousands of budding nature photographers over 30+ years of workshops, programs, guest lecturing at Rochester Institute of Photography for many years, collaborated with scientists and natural history professors at U of M and MSU, and became an expert on endangered species.  He became a leading advocate for protecting the environment and urged nature photographers to protect the environment and “do no harm” to any insect, animal or plant being photographed.
Larry’s images have been published internationally in articles, textbooks, and magazines such as National Geographic, Nature Photography, Audubon, National and International Wildlife, Birder’s World, Ranger Rick, and many more.
In 1977, the Michigan Natural Resource Magazine devoted an entire issue to Larry’s photographs.
In 1995, an international panel of wildlife editors from Audubon, Nature Photographer, National Geographic, National and International Wildlife, Ranger Rick, and others collaborated together to come up with a list  of who they felt were the top 20 Wildlife Photographers in the world out of  many thousands. The international group of photographers that they picked came from England, New Zealand, Japan, South Africa, Canada, and the United States, among others.  The twenty they chose then were each allowed to pick 3 photographs that would then become part of the beautiful book “Magnificent Moments; The World’s Greatest Wildlife Photographs.” Larry was one of those twenty.
In 2009, noted nature photographer, writer, and teacher, Jeff March wrote an article about Larry for the Nature Photography Magazine titled “Larry West – Master of Macro.”  Helen Longest-Saccone, editor of Nature Photographer, wrote at the introduction of the article: “…Even though interviews are no longer featured in Nature Photographer, we have made an exception in this case.  It is with great pleasure that on our 20th Anniversary, we are honored to again feature the work of Larry West, a master of not only macro, but of all aspects of nature photography, and of life.”
Larry’s family sends thanks and love to all the wonderful friends, editors, and naturalist photographers that were a part of our beloved Larry’s life.  Thanks also to Heartland Hospice and our wonderful nurse, Melinda Brown.  We will miss our Larry always and are grateful for the time we had.
Larry West’s family sends their thanks to the wonderful friends and wildlife photographers that gathered in Gaylord, MI, on April 22nd and 23rd, 2016, to celebrate the life of Larry West. Arrangements are by the Estes-Leadley Holt/Delhi Chapel. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to any animal welfare, nature, or wildlife organization of your choice. Online condolences may be left for his family at

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9 Messages to “Larry Joe West

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Linda Kniss
December 16, 2015 at 10:29 pm

Bonnie, my heart breaks for your loss. I will be sending you a book in which you will find this quote: “There is no way around the pain that you naturally feel when someone you love dies. You can’t go over it, under it, or around it. Going through it is what will help you heal.” I pray that God strengthens and comforts you as you “go through” the pain you are now experiencing. You and Larry shared such a love for nature in all of its forms; I hope those memories bring you comfort and peace. All my love, Linda.

Kathy Johnson
December 18, 2015 at 11:56 am

Bonnie… You know how much I love you and how much I loved and admired this brilliant man, who changed my life through his teachings about both photography and nature…and life, in general. I will always be grateful for his friendship…one that led to the deep friendship between you and me, too. I will never, ever forget Larry’s smile, his honesty, his dedication, his sensitivity, his delightful sense of humor…and how honored I felt when I received compliments from him on my work…that was BIG! Blessings to you, Bonnie, for the love and comfort you showed him during his illness…such an example of pure, true love. The world has lost one of The Best. Larry will be missed by so many. Love you, sweetie… Kathy

Martha Trenkner
December 19, 2015 at 10:06 am

Bonnie, I was so saddened to hear of Larry’s passing. He had a wonderful life and lived it well. I am very greatful to have known him. Through his photography he made my life a little brighter. I and many others will miss him deeply. -Martha

Bruce Cornelius
December 20, 2015 at 12:22 pm

I spent many an hour in the woods with Larry, hours that I’ll treasure always!

December 20, 2015 at 3:47 pm

Bonnie and family,

I was so sad to hear of Larry’s passing. I know you cared for him so much in the final years of his illness. He made a great contribution to the world with his photography gift.

It was always a great honor to tell people he was my cousin.

Our thoughts are with you in this time of sorrow.

Jim, Connie, Glenn, Patrick and Tammy Stewart

Wilma Karker Groenleer
December 20, 2015 at 5:58 pm

Dear Family,
I was a long time classmate of Larry in Holt. I have lived in FL for 29 years so have lost contact with many of the events in the Holt area. My husband checks on line with the State Journal from time to time and am sorry to learn of Larry’s death. We were aware of his work through mutural friends and classmates, Janice Brice Goodman and her husband, Jerry. Jerry’s interest in photograpfy brought him in touch with Larry. Jerry was most interested in Larry’s work. You have many special memories to comfort and help you over the rough times ahead. Peace and Blessings to your family.

Dan Cogan, Saline, MI
December 20, 2015 at 6:22 pm

Larry touched many of us through his seminars and workshops and left us indelibly changed. Thank you, Larry, and thank you to his family for sharing him.

Bob Grzesiak
December 23, 2015 at 7:18 am

Larry West IS the father of modern nature photography.
As Larry’s Fuji Film rep, I was always amazed at his humility, technical ability and superb artistry as a photographer.
When I received a precious few test rolls of new films not yet on the market, at least half went to Larry for my 5 state territory.
I KNEW the tests would be beneficial with excellent exposure and incredible composition. As well as he knew composition & equipment, he knew exposure. This can be said of VERY FEW professional photographers.
There are hundreds of great Larry West stories in my 25 years of knowing Larry first as a business client I was in awe of and also as a friend, philosopher and teacher.
Warp Speed Larry!

Michael Rigsby
December 24, 2015 at 3:43 pm

Dear Bonnie,
I was so sorry to hear of Larry’s passing. I’m so glad to have known him and to know you and to have shared times with you both. I’m glad for the many wonderful years you had together. And I’m so very grateful that you were there in both health and illness to care for him. May we all be fortunate to have such blessings in our lives.

Like all those whose lives this wonderful man has touched, I shall miss him deeply. I came to him to learn about photography. But I learned so much more: about nature, about life, about poetry, about philosophy, about friendship.

After your call, I looked back at the “Magnificent Moments” book which featured him as one of the great wildlife photographers. I was proud that he asked me to help edit his biography for the book. And I know he was proud of the result; it was a summary of his view of life. It reads, in part:

‘Wallace Stevens wrote, “There are people of a valley who become the valley.” They exist as an organic personification of their native landscape. By coming to know one place well, you come closer to understanding, and to becoming a part of the essence of that place. This intimate knowledge of places allows you to go beyond the obvious, past the clichés, to see the subtleties of behavior and gestures that make each species—and each individual—unique.

Much of my work is like revisiting old friends to see how they’ve changed, how they’ve fared over the year.’

That seemed to be his essence, revisiting old friends until the relationship becomes a deeper and deeper shared essence.

That’s how I’ll remember him, “an organic personification of his native landscape,” returned now to it. Though he’s gone from us, he will always be with us and part of us. He’s there in a poem, a silly song, a goofy joke, an old Star Trek episode, a wildflower, a sunset, a frog or dragonfly or honeybee on a dandelion bloom.

Like the seasons, he will revisit us over the year, over the years, over and over again.


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