A 2003 photo of Torres del Paine, which photographer Clay Hall took while on assignment for National Geographic. The photo, along with several others, is part of a new exhibit of Hall’s work currently on display at Rico Coffee. (Courtesy photo)

For Rico photographer Clay Hall, it’s not necessarily all about what he captures through the lens, but more so the journey behind each shot. Whether it’s mountaineering in the Patagonian region or looking at the mountains from his home, Hall has created a lifetime of memories thanks to his camera.

Growing up in Missouri before moving out to the Rockies, Hall traces his love of photography back to his Midwestern roots and some quirky neighbors who developed film at their place and were always quick to share the tales of their many travels.

“I grew up on a small farm in Missouri, and there were some old hippie photographers that lived down the road with a dark room in their basement. They had traveled the world before settling down, and hearing all of their stories as a youngster really set me on this path,” he said. “In 1988, I moved to the Rockies from the Midwest and bought my first pair of hiking boots and an SLR (single-lens reflex) camera. In the intervening years, I’ve had the pleasure to share a meal, a rope, a beer or a freezing bivouac with many wonderful people from all over the planet.”

Hall’s work is currently on display at Rico Coffee, which he explained is his first official photography exhibit. The photos, which are for sale and can be resized if desired, feature everything from dramatic mountain peaks to cowboys.

“This is my first exhibit, and I’m really grateful to Anna Mills (Rico Coffee owner) for letting me put my work up in her shop here in Rico. It’s a variety pack of black-and-white, HDR (high dynamic range), film and digital images,” Hall explained. “It covers over 20 years of my photography and features some of my favorite places and images from Patagonia to Indian Creek to my own back yard here in Rico.”

He added that the images are printed and mounted by Candela Fine Art Printing in Oakland, California, on Epson exhibition satin canvas using archival pigment inks and Canon large-format printers.

“All prints are UV-laminated to protect them from fading over time and will look great in your home for many, many years. Any of these prints can be sized larger or smaller to fit your needs. Ask Anna at Rico Coffee how we can make that happen,” he said.

Like his hippie neighbors, Hall has had the opportunity to see and capture many places around the globe at this point in his photography journey, including some of the world’s most famous mountainous regions on assignment for National Geographic, but the more photos he takes the less he’s focused on the landscapes, he explained, but instead his pictures have become more like a personal collection of short stories.

“I spent many summers mountaineering and photographing the Patagonian region and was even fortunate enough to make a trip to South Georgia and the Antarctic, but in 2008, a trip to Mozambique to work on an environmental survey really blew me away. The people there were as amazing as the landscape and the experience really recalibrated my worldview,” he said. “I do really enjoy landscape photography, but as I’ve gotten older my greatest memories are always the people that I have encountered and photographed along the way, and I find myself drawn more and more to people and portraiture.”

Rico Coffee is open Monday through Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to noon. For more information, visit the shop’s Facebook page or call 218-349-5684.

“I love that a good coffee shop provides space for people to be welcomed and seen,” Mills said. “I hope to bring this sort of atmosphere to Rico — craft coffee in a soothing space. I also love providing a place for people to express the parts about them that light them up. Whether it be art, yoga, baking, composting, rock work or music, my passion is to hold space for what brings people to life,” owner Mills told the Daily Planet earlier this year just before the space’s grand opening.