Windsor Riley, “The Standard Man”

North Peak from Greenstone Lake, Yosemite. August '07

North Peak from Greenstone Lake, Yosemite. August ’07

Little known nature photographer, and “rolling countryman”, Windsor Riley, recently passed away (Oct 27, 2016).

With a sensitive, introspective, genius, Windsor found the human world a cruel and stupid place, often finding solace in alcohol. To his credit, though, he’d been fully sober for the last couple of years, working hard to put his earthly shoes in order.

Local "icon of happiness". Stu Deans. Delighted every time I see him. (Windsor's cat, Studeans)

Local “icon of happiness”. Stu Deans. Delighted every time I see him. (Windsor’s cat, Studeans)

I had the good fortune of knowing  Windsor, the “utter citizen”, just a little. For decades,Windsor would regularly leave San Francisco, in his white van, to wander alone through some of the remotest wilderness areas of the western Americas. Hiking, with camera in hand, he recorded some of these remarkable wonders of the world.

A dedicated recluse, Windsor only recently started openly showing his images to a wider audience. A few weeks ago I offered to help him showcase his collection, by building a simple website where they could all be displayed for everyone to enjoy. I was soon to start work on this, and may still but, for now, this post is written to honor Windsor’s life, and represent at least some of his photos.

Windsor’s images capture better than many other photographers’, the raw, natural, essence of  California’s high country. Windsor’s deep love for these places comes through each image. The more remote the place, the more it nurtured his deep intuition of the ‘life eternal’.

Windsor felt deeply connected with his spiritual teacher, Adi Da Samraj, in these great, sacred, ‘rooms’, of high valleys, peaks, rivers, and lakes, poised between earth and sky.

In Windsor’s own words of praise to friends, I’ll simply say, “He was a good boy, judge!”

(Windsor manifested a plethora of humorous, inspiring phrases, which he frequently applied to his human friends, cats, and other moving things… phrases like, “Load Heads”, “Piddly lid Diddlesson”, “Standard Man”, “Rolling Countryman”, “Utter Citizen”, and, “He’s a good boy, judge”. I think, in the end, Windsor very much came to fully epitomize them all!)


Photo taken 2008 near Sonora Pass in the Sierra.

Photo taken 2008 near Sonora Pass in the Sierra.

Eastern Sierra, Long Valley east of Mammoth Lakes

Eastern Sierra, Long Valley east of Mammoth Lakes

Mammoth Peak from a tarn, Tioga Pass Yosemite. June '10

Mammoth Peak from a tarn, Tioga Pass Yosemite. June ’10

Mono Lake Tufa Towers, Eastern Sierra. June '10

Mono Lake Tufa Towers, Eastern Sierra. June ’10

Fairview Dome from the west, Yosemite. July '10

Fairview Dome from the west, Yosemite. July ’10

Burt Canyon from Stockade Flat, Sonora Pass area. July '05

Burt Canyon from Stockade Flat, Sonora Pass area. July ’05

SanJoaquin Mtn. and Carson Peak from Grant Point, Eastern Sierra. May '05

SanJoaquin Mtn. and Carson Peak from Grant Point, Eastern Sierra. May ’05

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17 Responses to Windsor Riley, “The Standard Man”

  1. His poetry was powerful, and he spun it out like a mad man.
    That was one of his charms. Goodbye Windsor!. a mad woman


  2. Ciaran says:

    Thank you for sharing these gorgeous photos. I knew Windsor as a musician, but not as a wildlife photographer. Always relational, always out front with where he was at, always humorous. I miss him. Rest in peace, my friend


  3. Bruce Herzbach says:

    Windsor and I met in 1980, when we both lived at the Camelot Apartments in San Rafael. His humility and humor, and wit, always disarmed me and made me smile. (Unless I was already feeling really damn good,) I **always** felt better after hanging out with Windsor, even if only for a few minutes, than I did beforehand. True.
    Windsor was also a musician. IMHO, his musical sensibilities were sensitive, intelligent, feeling. And he played guitar. And played it well.
    Godspeed to you, my friend. In your quiet, unassuming way, you brought a unique, even rare, quality of heart, and happiness, to many. Thank you for your life.


  4. Elaine Lombard says:

    I didn’t know Riley and only recently met him at the Valley Fire 1 year anniversary picnic at Michelle’s. These photos are wonderful. And, I am pleased to know him through the remembrances here. It seems he was Graced with an easy death…


  5. Michele says:

    Thank you, Stuart for sharing these stunning photos and remembrance of Windsor.


  6. Antonina Randazzo says:

    I also remember doing music and recording in his studio with Tom, Michael Coyle and others. He had a great heart and spirit, very kind man. We also bought his plants over the years and he offered many as gifts too. His photos are exquisite.


  7. Tom Rollison says:

    Thanks Stuart. Windsor and I were pretty close back in the early days. After I came back from studying audio engineering in NYC and reconnected with the community I quickly became friends with, and astounded at, Windsor and his ability to employee himself selling prodigious amounts of plants by just grabbing big armfuls and waltzing into office buildings uninvited. But our friendship was always about Bhagavan and music. He had a lot of money in those days and put most of it into music. I helped him build a studio in the house he was renting just a couple of blocks from the Danda in Santa Venitia. Together we learned the craft of home studio recording that was beginning to boom in the early 80’s. Ray Lynch was doing the same. There was a circle of musicians back then and we would variously be playing devotional occasions at the Sanctuary and the Danda and secular bands and jam sessions. Then Windsor and I would retreat to the studio for long recording, mixing and talk sessions. When I think about those days I can only smile. Sooo many great occasions with Beloved an sooo much fun music. I could fill pages.
    A lot of the same people formed another circle devoted to hiking and back packing all over California by the way. Though Windsor definitely liked traveling light and fast, and often alone.
    But I lost touch with Windsor in the late 90’s, as I did with the community. All my fault there. When I finally caught up with Windsor again it was at the sanctuary, of course. It was just a couple years ago and I will say that I was surprised at how much he had aged. But then, look at the rest of us. But that indefatigable spirit did seem taken down bit. When he recounted his struggles with alcoholism I was just saddened to see and hear what my old friend had been through. Even in the midst of telling me his struggles he had no self pity. Only humor and optimism. He was living with some folks from rehab I think at that point. I was so happy to hear he had moved into a devotee household in remote Lake County even though I knew it would make it harder for me to see him. We had plans to get together so I could get him up to speed on the newest audio software and hopefully empower him to get back to making some music. He expressed frustration at not being able to do that.
    The last time I saw him was at Dapurnima. We ended up at Freshmilk again talking about getting together and making music. He was STILL! driving down to sell plants once in a while! So he was supposed to stop by my home studio so we could get him going. Then one thing led to another. Him not feeling well. Me being traveling for a month. Any way, I will miss him. He was a good friend and compatriot. A true good heart. There’s a link to one of his albums below. You can down load it. Enjoy.


  8. Swanzie says:

    Me too! Windsor supplied me with lots of beauty plants when i needed them for special events like weddings. Always a gentle mysterious person. Saw him just a few days before he died- he showed up in my living room of all places. Am grateful I got to say goodbye by means of simply being in the same room with him. He was definitely a treasure.


  9. quantiger says:

    I met Windsor again when I came back to California. He had bought himself a Trek carbon fiber bike and we were going to go riding together sometime. A week or so later, I saw him and he didn’t have it anymore. Said it was twitchy and he’d crashed it. I thought it had been wrecked, but he said no, he’d been so mad he’d decided to sell it to the first person he met who gave him $100 for it. (It was several thousand dollars.) He saw a teenager who admired it, and sold it to him. I said, “Windsor! Why didn’t you call me?!” We laughed about it.

    Nice to see his photos. Glad he got out there in the wilderness which is so beautiful.


  10. Tally G says:

    Thank you for the beautiful photographs


  11. Angelo Druda says:

    I remember Windsor in the early days showing up at the center with his van full of plants….those plants were all over our offices and spaces….. Adios Amigo…


  12. Dennis Duff says:

    I always liked Windsor. He always had a kind word to say and an easy laugh. I shared a house with him for a brief time in San Rafael. And over years bought a lot of his plants. I never knew he was a nature photographer. These are Beautiful photos!


  13. badgerrust1 says:

    Beautiful. Thank you for introducing me to this special artist and heart moved one.


  14. Patricia E says:

    Windsor Riley , a true , gentle man . An amazing poet and genius photographer.
    May he rest in the Heart of God’s eternal peace


  15. Jan Patrick Myer says:

    I have also known Windsor since the early 1970’s, when we were both new, young devotees of Avatar Adi Da Samraj. I always enjoyed Windsor’s humor, and his refusal to buy into the ‘ordinary life’. He made his living for many years, selling gorgeous Plants, and we owe him our thanks for the gaggle of lovelies that enliven and adorn our offices in San Rafael; Windsor visited periodically over the years, to make sure we had as many of his beauties as we could find homes for. I took his visits for granted, never imagining his life would reach such a seemingly abrupt conclusion.

    I, too, wish I’d found the time to know you better, Windsor. Be Blessed, dear man.


  16. lynn houghton says:

    May you fly to the Light and Rest in God’s Hands, Windsor.
    love, Lynn


  17. Frank Marrero says:

    Windsor was the first person to befriend me in California, Jan 1977. Always friendly and a friend.


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