Last August 2023, I was happy to connect with Shoutout Colorado for an interview. If you are interested in reading the article and knowing a little more about me, feel free to visit this link.
Here is a transcript of that interview in case the Shoutout Colorado link expires:
We had the good fortune of connecting with Nicolas Raymond and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nicolas, what makes you happy? Why?
Beyond the simple pleasures of life, I very much enjoy travel and photography. Travel came first as I was born into an international family. My father was from Quebec, Canada, and my mother, from Wales, United Kingdom. Growing up near Washington DC, that meant lots and back forth to visit relatives, plus other interesting places around the globe.
Enter 2005, I got my first digital camera, and had the chance to visit Peru. A camera that only offered 5 megapixels, but at the time it was considered amazingly high resolution! Something clicked in me on that trip as I took in so many breathtaking sights. All of a sudden, I had this magical device which could capture and forge my travels with longer lasting impressions.
Fast forward to May 2023, I went on a road trip to Colorado. Almost 2000 miles in a single direction from start to end, but well worth the drive. Especially coming out of the Covid era and its hangover effects, it was great to stretch my legs again, and soak in the sights. At times, I sank in knee-deep snow at dizzying high altitudes. Then I got sunburned and bitten by mosquitoes in warmer desert-like environments.
Experiences that might have been inconvenient in the moment, but fun to talk about in retrospect. Ultimately, I was thrilled to bits discovering new places on my road trip to Colorado. So much spectacular scenery once approaching the Rockies from the East; suddenly, long stretches of flat land and gently rolling hills morph into skyscraping mountains like a colossal wall splitting two worlds apart. Making my imagination go wild, as if I found myself immersed in a fantasy novel navigating through unknown, yet ruggedly beautiful territory.
Trips like these go a long way to explain what makes me happy. Whether it’s Colorado, Peru, or anywhere else on this planet, I am always compelled to discover new places with a child-like sense of wonder. They give me the perfect escape and excuse to break free from the monotony of everyday life. All the better when I can put my photography to good use, and share my creative vision with others.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My main interest is photography. Earlier on around 2010 I became interested in waterfalls, especially using long exposure effects. If you’re wondering what long exposure means, just think of those photos with smooth & silky white water. Typically requiring a tripod to keep the camera still for longer periods of time, and a neutral density filter acting like a dark-tinted window to force the camera shutter to remain open longer (in order to absorb the same amount of light it would have without the filter).
The end result being a waterfall with an almost divine or ghostly appearance. Would like to think that type of photography sets me apart from others. I kind of view waterfalls as living creatures with distinct moods & characters that change with passing seasons & cascading patterns. Flowing gracefully over hard rocks they helped to sculpt ever so slowly through the process of erosion. Something about that resonates with me on an elemental level. Contrasting water against earth, motion against stillness, yet all coming together to form a more harmonious impression of Mother Nature at work.
Beyond waterfalls and general landscape photography, I like to experiment with digital manipulations. Just as I enjoy traveling to discover new places, I embrace new technologies to push the creative envelope.
It hasn’t been an easy journey to be honest. I cannot rely on photography & visual arts alone to provide me with steady income, it is more like a side hustle at this point. I’ve had some success, but it’s been a lot more challenging than expected to make a name for myself. Some artists hit viral success overnight and are set for life, but I suspect most of us aren’t as fortunate.
I also happen to be introverted, so that puts me at a disadvantage with things like networking and self-promotion. Wish I was more outgoing, but have come to accept I am hard-wired this way. Very passionate about the work I do though, and the introversion helps me with the creative process. So I do my best to be patient, and keep putting in the effort as long as I can afford it.
For anyone who can relate, that would be my advice. Knowing how hard it can be to become a successful artist, but choosing to defy the odds anyways because it is what you are most passionate about. The best job is one you love doing, so might as well give it a chance if it leads you to a happier life.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I volunteer as a photographer for the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington DC, so it would be a no-brainer to show my friend around the area. Washington DC is the nation’s capital after all, and there is a particularly scenic stretch to walk along the National Mall between the U.S. Capitol and Lincoln Memorial. Spanning some two miles in a single direction, it is packed with historic monuments, fine examples of neoclassical architecture, and a bunch of museums like Natural History, Air & Space, and National Gallery of Art just to name a few.
That said, I’m not much of a city person. Happy to show my friends around town if only because I live near Washington DC, and they did travel a ways to get here. Touring the nation’s capital seems like something important to check off a bucket list. But if they were staying a week, I would also like to take my friends to less crowded places within say two hundred miles. This includes nearby states like Maryland (where I live), Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.
Obviously, the scenery here isn’t nearly as dramatic as in Colorado. The highest elevation point in Maryland for example is at 3,360 feet, which is barely higher than Colorado’s lowest elevation point at 3,317 feet. Our Appalachian Mountains are a lot older and more eroded than the Rockies, but there are some pretty landscapes and waterfalls if you know where to look, especially in autumn when the foliage glows with fiery colors. Some places I might think of taking my friends to are Great Falls (Maryland & Virginia), C&O Canal (Maryland), Shenandoah National Park (Virginia), Blackwater Falls (West Virginia), and Ohiopyle State Park (Pennsylvania).
In addition, there are many sites of historical importance all around here. Beyond Washington DC, I would consider taking my friends to places like Gettysburg (Pennsylvania), Antietam (Maryland), and Harpers Ferry (West Virginia) tied to the Civil War. Then there’s Valley Forge (Pennsylvania) with roots even further back to the Revolutionary War.
Not to mention Valley Forge is a stone’s throw away from the King of Prussia Mall, the largest mall in Pennsylvania and fifth largest in the United States. So if my friends prefer things like shopping and entertainment, at least I can dump them at King of Prussia for a few hours while I walk and drive around Valley Forge National Historical Park.
I do this quite often with Mom actually, in fact we drove together to Colorado last May. She doesn’t accompany me on nature / photo hikes, and I don’t follow her in shopping centers. But sometimes our interests do intersect, for example we both enjoyed touring the Meow Wolf in Denver as an immersive art experience, and the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park as the inspirational backdrop for Stephen King’s The Shining.
Whoever I am spending time with, I basically want them to have fun too. We don’t all share the same interests, and that’s fine. Glad to give the standard DC tour whenever a friend visits, but nothing is to stop them from going back on their own time if something in particular tickles their fancy like dancing at a nightclub.
If they like photography and hiking the great outdoors, all the better. That’s where I really shine as an unofficial tour guide. Some places I’ve been to so often that I’ve almost become indifferent to them, so it’s great to see that spark of intrigue light up in someone else’s eyes when they see the same place for the very first time. For a brief moment, I get to live that excitement vicariously through them, and we simply enjoy exchanging stories along the way.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
First and foremost, I would like to dedicate this shoutout to my late father Gerard Raymond. He passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2010, but want to think much of his spirit continues to live on through me with a love for travel and photography among other things.
You see, Dad used to work as an economist and had to go on mission sometimes to developing countries. A career very different from mine, yet Dad enjoyed taking photos along the way just as I do. He also accumulated personal frequent flier miles while on mission, and shared them with Mom and me so we could go on fun family vacations.
Very grateful to both my parents for being perfect role models to me. Mom’s alive and well, I have her to thank for continued support and unconditional love. Might sound cliché, but it’s true. I am who I am in large part because of how I was raised, even though I had a habit of taking my parents for granted earlier on in life. It’s only after my father died – and the devastating impact it had on me – that I realized how important it is to cherish family. I hope you do too before it’s too late.