But after putting together a collection of 85 photographs of the parks and a few “places in between,” Hares now has his own exhibit at The Fort Worth Science and History Museum.
The exhibit, Exploring America: A Photographic Journey, came about for Hares after 27 years of working in the corporate world. He was ready for something different, and after his wife died in 2007, Hares and his children embarked on their nationwide adventure in 2012.
“It all started when I decided to take pictures in the park,” Hares said. “[Having these photos in] the museum was beyond my wildest dreams. It wasn’t even a goal on my list.”
Hares said when he was first approached to do an exhibition, he didn’t know the man who confronted him. The man turned out to be Van A. Romans, the president of The Fort Worth Science and History Museum.
Hares said Romans had only seen a pre-copy of his book Exploring America: A Photographic Journey at a publishing meeting.
“It’s amazing how many people have been willing to help in the process,” Hares said.
However, Hares’ success with the exhibition goes beyond the physical sense. He said the exhibition caters to an emotional theme by prompting people who have visited these places to revel in their memories of being there.
“That’s kind of the tagline for the exhibit–to remember the places you’ve been, the places you want to return to and the places you want to go,” he said.
Martha McAuliffe, a senior art history minor at TCU, said the exhibition reminded her of her own travels to Yosemite National Park in California and Yellowstone National Park.
“It was cool to look at some of the pictures, and remember how I had been there when I was little,” McAuliffe said. “After seeing the exhibition, it makes me want to visit more places.”
For his family, the venture served as a way he and his two children could cope after their loss, according to his bio on the museum website.
“A lot of people growing up visited these parks, so not only does it bring back the memory of that place, but also the memory of that time with their family,” said Hares.
Another goal of the exhibition, Hares said, is to get people excited about National Parks and inspire the next generation to explore them.
“There’ s a lot of interest in traveling abroad and one of the things I wanted to do was bring back what is beautiful here in America,” he said.
The way Hares does this is through his photography and his shooting technique, which he calls the “unseen perspective.”
“I try to not shoot view points,” he said. “I talk to people from that place and say ‘don’t tell me what you tell other people to do, tell me what you do in your spare time.'”
Adding to the excitement is the fact that 2016 marks the 100th year anniversary of the National Park Service and National Park Foundation.
“Part of this anniversary of the National Parks is to get kids interested in the parks and that’s what I’m trying to do, too,” Hares said.
The Fort Worth Science and History Museum is also premiering the National Parks Adventure in IMAX this year to mark the anniversary.
Apart from shooting, Hares also participates as a guest lecturer and photographer at several schools and community groups in Fort Worth.
For now, Fort Worth is the first stop to host his exhibition, but Hares is expecting to show Exploring America for the next three to five years throughout the country.
“The possibilities are really endless and the adventure continues,” Hares said.
Requests of copies of his work and other inquires can be made on either Rabbit Press or Hares Photography websites.