Submitted photo / Leroy Brown ##
Leroy Brown of Lafayette, who served in the Marines, enjoys photographing everything from race cars to birds.
Submitted photo / Leroy Brown ## Leroy Brown of Lafayette, who served in the Marines, enjoys photographing everything from race cars to birds.
Submitted photo / Leroy Brown ##
Brown enjoys photographing scenes along the Oregon Coast, including this one featuring the Newport Belle, a bed and breakfast, at its permanent mooring in the South Beach Marina.
Submitted photo / Leroy Brown ## Brown enjoys photographing scenes along the Oregon Coast, including this one featuring the Newport Belle, a bed and breakfast, at its permanent mooring in the South Beach Marina.
Submitted photo / Leroy Brown ##
Leroy Brown captures a hummingbird in flight. He’s been focusing on bird photography recently.
Submitted photo / Leroy Brown ## Leroy Brown captures a hummingbird in flight. He’s been focusing on bird photography recently.
Submitted photo / Leroy Brown ## Shooting from the sky allows a different perspective on hot air balloons.
Submitted photo / Leroy Brown ## Shooting from the sky allows a different perspective on hot air balloons.
Submitted photo / Leroy Brown ##
A sunset view of the Yaquina Bay Bridge in Newport.
Submitted photo / Leroy Brown ## A sunset view of the Yaquina Bay Bridge in Newport.
Submitted photo / Leroy Brown ## The McCullough Memorial Bridge over the Coos River appears mysterious on a cloudy day.
Submitted photo / Leroy Brown ## The McCullough Memorial Bridge over the Coos River appears mysterious on a cloudy day.
By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Stopping by: Picturing the world

Leroy Brown uses his camera to capture the beauty, the movement and the action around him.

“I love Oregon,” said the former Marine, who’s been stationed in more than half a dozen countries and has lived on both U.S. coasts and in the Midwest. “I’ve seen other beautiful places, and I love Oregon.”

Brown grew up in Gary, Indiana, at the northern tip of the state, not far from Chicago. “It was kind of a nice place to be in the early 1970s,” he said, although he’s not interested in living there today.

He has a sister and four brothers, one of whom still lives in Gary.

Their father served in the Marines during the Korean War. When Brown told him that he was considering the military, his dad was dubious — it turned out he didn’t think his son was mature enough, at the time, to make that decision. 

“The second time I told him, he thought I had adequate reasons,” he said. “That time, he thought it was a good idea.”

Brown became a Marine in 1974, two years after his father died. He soon learned why his dad had wanted him to be prepared.

“The Marines are more of a mind game than anything else,” he said. “You have to be tough.”

He was one of about 180,000 Marines who serve at any one time, the smallest of all the branches of the military. “It’s a close-knit group,” he said.

Brown was trained in communications and electronics, as well as the basics of military life. His training taught him about persevering and finishing any job he started, he said.

He spent four years with the same group of Marines. They were sent overseas together, first to Okinawa, then Germany, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and the Arctic Circle. Next they spent time in Scotland, France and Spain.

He served the final leg of his 1978 tour at the Cherry Point, North Carolina, duty station.

Traveling and experiencing other cultures was great, Brown said. 

“I encountered less racism in other countries,” he said. “A different kind of racism, at least.

“And I met neat people, tasted different food, heard different music,” including flamenco in Spain and classical in Germany.

He’d had always enjoyed classical music, and being in Europe gave him a chance to hear it played by orchestras and smaller groups. Before joining the Marines, he said, he hadn’t had the resources to attend concerts back home. It was a thrill to have access to live music.

Music remains an important part of his life. 

“I don’t watch TV; I got bored with that by 1978,” he said. “It’s not funny, except for Carol Burnett.”

Instead, he gravitated toward nonfiction and historical novels, and listening to music on his stereo or the radio.

“With music, I can control what I listen to,” he said. 

He enjoys a variety of artists and styles, including classical, jazz and some rock; he never cared for heavy metal. He likes to hear and see people playing instruments, especially jazz guitar and trumpet.

He doesn’t play himself, but his two best friends from childhood, Dave and John, whom he met in grade school, play a variety of instruments. The three men still keep in touch.

While his friends were playing music, young Brown spent his boyhood focusing on mechanical endeavors.

“I took a car engine apart in junior high,” he recalled.

He’s not sure what sparked his interest. “No one else in my family did that.”

After finishing his stint in the Marines, Brown returned to Indiana and started college at Ball State.

Before graduating, though, he was hired as program director at WBST. The radio station was expanding its studio, and “they saw I was pretty adept” at mechanics and electronics.

Later, Brown moved to Chicago. He was employed in the aerospace industry for more than a decade, working on electric motors, flight control systems and other equipment used in military aircraft such as the B-1 and the C-17.

“Interesting work,” he observed.

He switched to the Midway Game, a company that builds large video games, like those in arcades. 

“I worked on the hardware and cable harnesses,” he said. “Solved all the little problems to make them work.”

While he was at Midway, the company purchased Atari game systems. He met an Atari worker who became his wife. They settled in San Jose, where she’d been living, in 2002.

In November 2008, they relocated to Oregon. They live in Lafayette, although they were in California for weeks during the pandemic stay-at-home orders.

Brown started Black Cat Photography in 2009. “I decided to take it more seriously,” he recalled.

He had been taking photos as a hobby for years. For fun, he focused on sports, particularly endurance speed races that lasted five, 12 or 24 hours.

He and his wife attended many races over several years in California, admiring the well-built cars able to run for so long at high speeds.

“I liked the cars; I appreciated them,” he said,

After moving to Yamhill County, he worked at Goodwill for a while, taking photos of items for the nonprofit’s online auction site.

Now officially retired, through Black Cat Photography, he shoots landscapes, buildings and wildlife. What draws him to a subject? “I know it when I see it,” he said.

He also likes to shoot events such as the Memorial Day programs at local cemeteries — though not this year, since they were canceled due to the pandemic-related ban on large gatherings.

He also takes photos for the American Legion’s McMinnville Post 21, where he is a member. He is the post historian, as well. He installed the electronic home theater in the Vets’ Club, donating some equipment himself.

During the pandemic, which limits travel, he’s been concentrating on subjects that come to him: birds. With a digital Nikon D750, he has captured hummingbirds, eagles, hawks, woodpeckers and numerous other species.

It’s a challenge to catch them in flight without blurring, he said. He’s improving.

When travel becomes possible, he hopes to look for more types of birds — wherever they may be.

Starla Pointer has been writing the weekly “Stopping By” column since 1996. Contact her at 503-687-1263 or spointer@newsregister.com.

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