For nearly three decades, Rudy and Lois Schuetzler have been going their separate ways when they head out to shoot the nature photos that have earned them national awards. It's what has kept them together all those years, they say.
"Our marriage has lasted because our lenses are compatible," said Mr. Schuetzler, 65, who helped his wife learn the trade in 1966.
"He's taught me everything I know, but not everything that he knows," added Mrs. Schuetzler, who also is 65.
He must have taught her a lot because the couple's pictures have been hung in camera clubs, galleries and shows for almost 30 years.
The Schuetzlers, who belong to the Bowie/Crofton camera club, have traveled the world to find the sights they have photographed. They have won 75 pounds of medals and awards for their photos in regional and national contests, and even tied each other for first place a time or two.
They concede that they work hard to beat each other. It's one of the reasons that they split up once they get to an area where they plan to take pictures.
Recently Mrs. Schuetzler's shot called "Amber Waves of Grain" won her an Honorable Mention in the Kodak International Newspaper Snapshot Awards Contest. The picture captures the rolling waves of a grain field against an ocean backdrop.
Mr. Schuetzler's "Captain Seaweed", a portrait of a homeless man dressed as a sea captain resting on a dock in New Bedford, Mass., won first place at his club and in several other contests.
They are recognized among camera buffs for their black and white photos of the Colorado mountains or the forests of Washington that are reminiscent of the work of the late Ansel Adams. Yet their styles are distinctly different.
Mr. Schuetzler shoots landscapes unretouched with a wide angle lens. But his wife likes to help nature along a little with dark room techniques that emphasize contrasts of light and shadow.
"I look for how the light hits the area as a whole and how it reflects off the mountains or how the shadows complement the waterfall," said Mr. Schuetzler. "It's not just the overall scene I'm looking for. I look for design, balance and pattern. And if a scene will look better with a red leaf dangling in front, I'll go get a red leaf and put it there."
More than fifty of their pictures adorn the walls of their home in Davidsonville.
They say they take their hobby seriously enough that they expect to profit from it, but that they never will make a job of it.
"Once it becomes something you have to do or something you have to do for others, it's no longer fun for you," said Mrs. Schuetzler.
In addition to winning photography contests, Mr. and Mrs. Schuetzler also judge them. They are asked as often as four times a year to judge contests in Maryland and Virginia.
Recently, they were asked to judge a competition in February at Leisure World Retirement Community in Silver Spring.
While she and her husband will choose winners and losers in that contest, Mrs Schuetzler warned, "There is no perfect picture."