Remembering Rob Nykvist -- 1957-2016

These rainy days, stuck indoors, have been a time of reflection for me.  My brother has been on my mind and in my dreams quite a bit.  His home on a Dog River canal in Mobile sold yesterday, but prior to its sale, we had a lot of back 'n forth with my sister and the realtor, keeping him alive in a way.  Nannie just closed his facebook page, but I snagged a few of his last photos beforehand.

Rob was a marvelous photographer.  And he loved being on the water.  Jimmy and I shared this affection, and we three spent many happy hours paddling multiple waterways in both Florida and Alabama.  One of our favorites was enjoying the crystal-clear spring-fed Wakulla River several miles south of Tallahassee, with its manatees, alligators, turtles and first-rate birding.  We paddled in the Gulf and Mobile Bay waters as often as we could.  He showed us Whiskey Creek in the Mobile Delta, and he steered us to an island across the Tensaw River; we put in at Rice Creek Landing, Buzbee's and others.  A special moment for us was watching Fairhope's July 4th fireworks directly overhead while in the bay by the pier.  Such wonderful memories.   One October, Rob manned the camera while Jimmy and I "posed" in our kayaks with St Marks Lighthouse as the backdrop ... we used that as our Christmas card picture!  Outdoor and wildlife photos were his specialty and he could capture a magical moment like none other.

When he was diagnosed with incurable lung cancer in July 2016, aside from the fellowship of family, he found peace and clarity the few times he could get out in his kayak.   Below are several photos he took in the two months before he passed away on November 5th.  His words are in blue.

Image may contain: tree, plant, sky, outdoor, nature and water

Fall foliage at Dead Lakes near Wewahitchka, FL and the Chipola River.
(He loved taking nature photos, sunrises, sunsets, critters of any kind.  
This one he took a few years ago on a Florida kayaking trip.)

Image may contain: one or more people, plant, tree, hat, outdoor and nature

9/5/16 -- Shirt says, "Life is Good - Enjoy the Ride."  Hat says, "Paddle or Die." Here are a few photos taken while on a short kayak trip in Dog River today. Yes! Got enough strength to still paddle. :) Doing it while I can. Paddling along the shoreline pickerelweed and other wildflowers.


Rob loved kayaking Dog River and its tributaries. Seeing how others trashed it and the City of Mobile's indifference, made him an advocate ... he dedicated himself to seeing Dog River free and clear of trash and litter. His photos and text documented the ongoing deplorable condition of his beloved river, and his continuing efforts culminated in litter traps being installed. He won kudos for his commitment. Rightly so!

9/8/16 -- I launched the kayak in the dull dawn and paddled out into Dog River to share the sunrise with a couple of herons. A great blue heron stretches out high on the top of a tree (center). I believe herons look forward to seeing sunrises, too.


9/22/16 -- Black Creek has an example of what the destructive force of motorboat wakes has on shoreline trees in a relatively narrow creek.

9/23/16 -- Had to stop paddling and
 get a photo of this densely rotting tree trunk this morning.

9/25/16 -- Pre-Sunrise paddles like this one in Cotton Bayou when waters are calm and boats are absent can be mesmerizing and memorable.

9/28/16 -- Air Dancers. This morning's sunrise. If you use your imagination, look at the stumps in the center of the photo. It looks like a couple dancing in the air above the water.

10/3/16 -- Dog River

October 30th -- This morning's ever changing colorful sunrise over Mobile Bay,
taken from a car seat at Helen Wood Park, not a kayak...

He had no more strength to paddle.  He was running out of time.  Yet, seeing one more sunrise meant the world to him and he did what came naturally -- snapping the above photo to remember ... and share.  He never married and had no children, but he left a legacy as a clean water crusader, as well as a wealth of wonderful photos and memories.  He also left us too soon.

From a friend:  "I think of Rob often...he contributed so much, and that will be carried on. I am happy to have known him for 15 years, happy to have had great paddle trips with him over those years, and pleased to have had many good exchanges with him during his last months. Over the years, there were times we didn't paddle together or talk for several months, but he always surfaced at some point....I'm amazed he is gone and not resurfacing to talk any longer. I miss very much having him around. The headstone is perfect."

We all miss you, Rob.  Rest in Peace.


  1. What a beautiful tribute. Thank you so much for sharing.

  2. Ah, dear Nickie. Such a lovely way to share Rob with the rest of us. I know how you are missing him, didn't realize the house sale was finalized, and can see how that would keep him in your heart and mind even more than usual. I know for me that writing helps to get the thoughts out of my head a bit and ease things up. I hope it did that for you. This was just so beautiful.

  3. Aw. Now my eyes are leaking. thanks so much for doing this.

  4. Thanks for sharing Rob's photos and words, and your memories. He did important work for our earth, and was way too young to leave it. Nice design on the headstone; many folks will look at that and wonder about the man.

    1. Actually the idea of the kayak and bicycle came from my husband Scott. I was a bit overwhelmed at the time. It came out great.

  5. Anonymous7:02 PM

    Rob was an excellent photographer. I have known him quite some time. He used to ride bikes with my sister years ago with the Mobile Bike Club. I met him through her. I paddled with him over in Bayou LaBatre in the fall before his diagnosis. I am so sorry his life was cut short by this horrible disease. I will miss him and his perspective on life and of course his wonderful knowledge of nature and his photography. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Nickie, he was an amazing photographer. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Anonymous9:17 PM

    It is a very beautiful tribute; thank you, Love Betty Carson Adams

  8. Anonymous9:31 PM

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and these photos, Nickie. I think of Rob every time I keep a piece of trash from going down the drains around Murphy High School and into Dog River. Much love to you and Nannie. Rhoda

  9. Beautiful photos and such a beautiful tribute to your brother. Wondering if these photos are published or for sale. Would love to see these in print and buy them.

    1. I don't know, Stacy, but I'll see what I can find out for you. There are so many more, all of them great.

  10. I always admired his passion and enjoyed our mutual "windmill tilting" with the government establishment. I recently shared some of his debris chronicles with a friend that needed them for a presentation. I'd love to see a gallery event that features the contrasts that he photographed so beautifully. He is missed!

    1. George, my sister, Nannie, has a thumb drive file of Rob's, called "photos." As soon as she gets back in her (Louisiana flooded) home, she's going to look into what's on that drive. Maybe we can put something together.

      Thank you for your kind comment. Yes, he is missed.

    2. It's a big old Hard Drive, not a thumb drive, and I bet it's FULL, but have not yet investigated. Soon.


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