HARRISBURG -- Randy Butler's path to the world of professional photography is not a traditional one.
He started his work career as a cycle mechanic at the former Jerry's Honda, and later became court security officer for Saline County.
In fact, it's not uncommon for visitors to the county courthouse to see Butler at the metal detector at the building's public entrance, ensuring prohibited items like firearms don't make it inside.
When he's not protecting the courthouse, though, he spends a good deal of time shooting -- a camera, that is.
"I've always been kind of interested in the photography business, so here a couple of years ago, I decided to get a professional-grade camera and lenses and take as many pictures as I could," Butler said.
He said using the camera lets him take advantage of travel locations, whether they be as close as the Shawnee National Forest or in the western United States.
"This year, I'm going to be taking a trip that will include Arizona, as well as time at Lake Tahoe," he said. "I should have a lot of opportunities for great photos."
He also plans to participate in Shutterfest, a photo seminar in St. Louis sponsored by the publisher of Shutter magazine.
Butler's body of work largely consists of landscapes or natural photographs, though he has a talent for taking a well-known and often-photographed landmark like Garden of the Gods' Camel Rock and making the viewer feel like he or she is witnessing it for the first time.
More recently, Butler said he has taken portrait sessions using models, and there are different challenges.
"With a landscape, if there's something that could be better about a picture, usually I can just move a little here or there and that makes the difference," he said. "When you are photographing a live model, you need to know how to be able to tell them to move things like their hands or their head. If the model is experienced with modeling, it makes it much easier for a photographer. You can concentrate on operating the camera."
Most challenging, he said, can be night photography, especially with a subject like the moon. Though a large, warm-toned harvest moon hangs in his living room, taking such a picture can be much more work that the end result shows, he said.
"It is difficult when it's dark all around a very bright object," he said. "Those are the kinds of photos you sometimes have to work at to get right."
Butler, a self-professed "tech geek," said instead of traditional photo training, he learned his craft online.
"There are a lot of videos on YouTube that show you how to shoot in certain lighting situations, what to do with the shutter," he said. "I watched every one I could find, and learned the best way to use my camera."
He said when he started, many of his first images were not the glossy magazine quality of his current portfolio.
"I destroyed a lot of photos," he said, laughing about his early experiements. "I turned every manual setting on my camera and learned to use it like that. I still shoot everything manually. It takes longer to learn how to do it, but it makes you a better photographer."
For more information, visit Butler's photography website at http://www.rgbphotography.us/.