Ray Atkeson, Nature Photographer

As a young man, Ray Atkeson lucked out in making one of his earliest successful photographs:

He forgot about the box camera he set up in front of an old railroad station until an hour after he set the time exposure. The photo was so good it was published in a magazine.

But luck had little to do with Atkeson's national fame as a landscape and nature photographer.

Known for his persistence in seeking the best images, the Portland photographer won many awards for his popular books and magazine pictures that portray the beauty of the Northwest and West.

``I think his greatest joy was sharing the beauty of these places with people who couldn't go to there,'' his wife, Doris, said.

Atkeson died Friday of complications from colon cancer. He was 83.

Born on a farm near Grafton, Ill., Atkeson headed west right out of high school. He worked as a laborer in the wheat fields of Kansas and after three years, got an apple-picking job in Oregon. He took his camera everywhere.

Atkeson got his first photography job in a Portland commercial studio when he was 21. He started free-lancing on his own when he was 38 and built a career with his colorful images of nature.

His photography books include three named ``Oregon.'' Among his others are ``Pacific Coast,'' ``Western Impressions,'' ``Pacific Sea and Shore,'' ``Cascade Range'' and his most recent, ``Western Images''.

Magazines that published his pictures include National Geographic, Life, Sports Illustrated, Saturday Evening Post and Reader's Digest. He also published in many encyclopedias. Three years ago, he was named Oregon's Photographer Laureate by the governor. He also received an honorary doctorate from Linfield College, McMinnville, Ore.

``He was a perfectionist. Good was never good enough for him,'' said his longtime friend Hugh Ackroyd, a Portland photographer.

Ackroyd remembers when Atkeson camped out for three weeks to get what he felt was the best picture of autumn leaves with Mount Shuksan in the background.

Another time, Atkeson and his wife dragged a boat all the way into Sparks Lake, near Mount Bachelor, to get a now famous shot of the area.

And once at Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood, when Atkeson had been shooting pictures for several clear days, he told his friend, ``I sure hope the weather's bad today so I can go skiing.''

Another friend, Steve Terrill, also a Portland-based nature photographer, remembers how Atkeson would return to the same spot year after year, hoping to improve on a previous photograph.

``He just loved his work and he loved the outdoors,'' said Terrill. ``He evoked that through his photography.''

Besides his wife, Atkeson is survived by a daughter, Eleanor Dubois, of Portland; three stepchildren, Rick Schafer, Loralee Pryor and Susan Miller, all of Portland; and three grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. tomorrow at Hillsdale Community Church, Portland.