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Maximum exposure: Photographer focuses lens on endangered wildlife

While photographing endangered African wildlife at close range may seem dangerous, it’s just a day in the life of one Jonesborough resident who’s had his share of intense situations.
A native of San Francisco, Richie Hayward lived in many areas of the country before entering the U.S. Air Force in 1968. During his service, Hayward was chief of the Weapons Load Crew on F4 Phantoms in Southeast Asia.
Upon returning to the United States, he worked as a crane operator in Miami. Setting up for special events often had him interacting with off-duty police officers, and Hayward said he saw a different side of law enforcement.
“I went on a ride-along, then applied a year later and was accepted,” he said.
This began an almost 30-year tenure with the Miami-Dade County Sheriff’s Office. His last 20 years were spent as an investigator in the Criminal Intelligence Department, where dignitary protection was often one of his responsibilities.
“The Secret Service doubles up with local law enforcement because it gives them local jurisdiction and local intelligence,” Hayward said. “We were able to provide information on a motorcade route they may not know about.” Through this role, he was able to meet U.S. Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush and Bill Clinton.
He discovered his love of outdoor photography while taking pictures in the Everglades during the 1980s. “I’ve had a camera since I was a kid, but I never had as much time as I wanted,” he said.
After retiring from law enforcement, he began traveling across North America, Central America and Scotland.
“I like to share images of animals, especially the more endangered ones, such as the cheetah, the rhino and the elephant,” he said. “If I can educate anyone on the plight of these animals, all the better.”
Hayward said the animals in Africa are acclimated to safari vehicles. “As long as you stay in the vehicle, you’re okay.”
Among his favorite photographs are those he took of a cheetah. “He was one of two brothers who were orphaned and living on the reserve,” he said. “Cheetahs are very trusting animals, and you can hear them purr from 15 feet away.”
Unfortunately, he said, there are only 7,000-8,000 of these animals left. “Part of it is habitat loss, which brings them into farms.”
Hayward said dogs are now used to keep the animals at bay. “This way the farmers don’t lose livestock and the cheetahs aren’t killed.”
Cheetahs still have to hunt every day, he said. Hayward followed them once and was able to get some shots of an attack on an impala.
“National Geographic” featured one of Hayward’s cheetah photographs in its Weekly Wrapper, which highlights the most popular photos of the week. “That was a honor,” he said.
One may wonder how he could find his way to Jonesborough, but Hayward said he was familiar with the area because he used to have a cabin in Spivey. “I bought an RV and came up to help my sister move to Johnson City, and found this house under construction,” he remembers.
Hayward relocated to Katie Court in January 2006. “I feel like I died and went to heaven,” he said. “I love it up here.”
In addition to wildlife, Hayward enjoys photographing landscapes, buildings and items that represent Tennessee’s oldest town.
His work has been on exhibit at the Jonesborough General Store and the town Visitors Center, as well as Fine Art in the Park and the Rouge Salon and Gallery in Johnson City. He also is president of the Eastman Camera Club.
Hayward is going back to Africa in September for a 10-day photo safari, and said he may soon be breaking into aerial photography.
He also does plenty of traveling inside the borders. “I recently spent six or seven weeks out west in my RV,” he said. “I also go down to Florida, and I plan to visit New England next year to see family.”
The Millennium Centre in Johnson City is currently hosting an exhibit of Hayward’s images, which will be on display through Thursday, July 9.
To see more of his work, visit