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About Me

I'm Don Kates

I began photographing nature very early in life. I originally started out as a bird photographer, where, among other things, I honed my skill of hand-holding a 600mm f/4 lens as I photographed birds in flight (see pic bottom right.)  Normally, these lenses are mounted on big, expensive tripods and tripod heads that allow near effortless shooting with these heavy and awkward lenses.  Since I was just starting out, I could afford the lens but not the rest of the gear to go with it, so I learned to shoot hand-holding these massive lenses.  Little did I know that this would be a valuable skill later in my career as a motorcycle photographer.  My love of photography was eventually combined with my love of motorcycles and I became one of the leading photographers of custom motorcycles and the "biker" lifestyle in the country.  I eventually formed Shooters Images, a company and website dedicated to high end custom motorcycle and car photography, racing, motorsport events, and the biker lifestyle. I was often required to shoot fast moving motorcycles or cars with big lenses in situations that could not accommodate big tripods normally used to hold the lens.  Thus, enter my bird photography skills.

  Throughout the years, I became one of the most highly published motorcycle photographers in the country and was featured in every national motorcycle magazine, various car magazines, TV shows (as set decorations, biker documentaries), ads, catalogs etc.; oftentimes having features in 4-5 different magazines a month. After opening a large studio, I also became very involved in commercial photography for major motorcycle accessory companies and produced many photographs for catalogs and ad campaigns. One of my favorite assignments came when I was selected from a large group of well known photographers to document a 10-day motorcycle ride through the dangerous Baja region of Mexico. The photos and article appeared in Harley-Davidson's HOG magazine and United Airlines "Hemispheres" magazine. 

My company, Shooters Images, has been the official photographer for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally since 2008 and has provide all the promotional photography for the Sturgis Rally Department, including the Sturgis MC Rally, Camaro Rally, Off-Road Rally, and Mustang Rally. My work has appeared on several motorcycle documentaries on the Discovery Channel, History Channel, and HBO - most recently "The Time Traveler's Wife."  Along the way, I formed another company - Kates Nature Photography - where I collected a portfolio of landscape and wildlife images, as time permitted.  Most of those images were never seen or were posted on an obscure website for this company.  Due to time constraints, I never really promoted that business - until now.  I currently divide my time between both companies, but more and more time is being spent on the return to my other passion - landscape and wildlife photography. 

My art business has been designated as a "Trusted Art Seller" with The Art Storefronts Organization, which means you can shop with confidence, and know that I stand behind the quality and value of my products.


A few years back, my wife and I purchased a log home in the Black Hills of South Dakota; consequently, I am surrounded by inspiration.  Within 30 minutes to just a few hours, I can be in some of the most incredible surroundings this country has to offer - the Black Hills (of course), the Badlands, the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming, Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, the Rocky Mountains, Glacier National Park, Moab, the Grand Canyon, and on and on .  .  .  I spent most of my life in the Chicago area, so moving to this area gave me a perspective that I might not have had I been born here.  Beyond my surroundings, I constantly seek out inspiration from photography greats of all areas.  Particularly, Art Wolfe, Jim Brandenburg, Ansel Adams to name a few.  Some of my greatest inspiration comes from continuing my education in photography.  When I'm not shooting, I am always engaged in a photography courses and books from some of the greatest photographers of our time.  By seeking to improve my skills through education, I'm inspired by new techniques and philosophies.


My primary focus is landscape, but also wildlife when the occasion arises .  My work typically emphasizes light, detail and color, and I primarily shoot in the hours surrounding sunrise and sunset when the light is optimal.  I rarely shoot on bright, sunny days and instead seek out drastic skies and turbulent weather.  Most of my work is done using medium format Hasselblad cameras instead of the more commonly used 35mm DSLR cameras.  Medium format cameras produce higher resolution images with richer colors and a much higher dynamic range.  This allows the images to be printed in larger sizes without sacrificing the quality of the image.  While producing some beautiful images, these cameras are a little more difficult to use and are very slow, compared to "normal" cameras.  However, I've come to enjoy this as it forces me to be very deliberate in my shooting and precise in my compositions.  I shoot in many incredible locations with both dramatic and subtle light conditions that demand a camera that can fully capture the full range of the scene.  These cameras also produce black and white images with far more gradation and better blacks and whites.

Career Highlights

As a photographer, I've had the good fortune to be published in dozens of magazines in the U.S., Europe, and Japan, with hundreds of magazine covers and features over the past 20 years.  Some of the other highlights of my career as a photographer were outlined in the section above.  My nature and landscape work has been featured in many juried art exhibitions, won top honors such as "Best in class" and "Best in show" at several exhibitions, and been purchased by the South Dakota Art Museum for their permanent collection.

Please spend some time browsing through these images from various locations around the country.  Return often, as I am always adding more images.

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This Website Supports Augmented Reality to Live Preview Art

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