George C. Anderson is a professional photographer who likes to take pictures in his spare time, a sort of busman's holiday.

George C. Anderson is a professional photographer who likes to take pictures in his spare time, a sort of busman's holiday.

He also enjoys canoeing and fishing, so putting all three pastimes together is nothing short of Nirvana.

In pursuing this trifecta of pleasures, the Clintonville resident has developed another passion: the Olentangy River.

In the decade-plus since Anderson began taking to the waters of the Olentangy, in boats he builds himself thanks to a book he was given by his brother-in-law, he has seen deer and beavers and muskrats and red-tailed hawks; more Canada geese than he cares to think about, as well as plenty of what might be called their "byproducts;" all kinds of heron; a wide array of ducks; huge snapping turtles "that would scare you"; a groundhog inexplicably in the branches of a tree; osprey; and even, once years ago, a family of four otters. The distinctive wake from their paddle-shaped tails and a paw print on a muddy bank that was both webbed and clawed make Anderson certain of this rare sighting.

So far no mink or weasel, but Anderson's keeping his eye out.

"There is amazing wildlife along the river," the photographer said last week.

He's got photos of osprey, large fish-eating birds of prey, with big goldfish clutched in their talons. Anderson figures someone's koi pond had just been raided.

"Why should the animal work hard when it can go to the drive-thru?" he asked.

Anderson has caught plenty of fish, not out of koi ponds but from the Olentangy: large and smallmouth bass, crappy, bluegill.

Anderson has also seen the good, the bad and the ugly of what happens to a river as urban as the Olentangy in the stretch he cruises, from the vicinity of High Banks Metro Park in the north to downtown Columbus. He's observed the feast and famine of heavy rains and periods of drought, sudden appearances of thick algae as a result of who knows what getting into the water from who knows where, days of such crystal clarity he can see almost to the bottom of the occasional eight-foot hole in the shallow river and other days of such cloudiness his paddle disappears from view a few inches into the water.

And trash. George Anderson has seen lots and lots of trash.

"I could swamp my boat with the trash I see every time," he said.

He could definitely have swamped it with the pickup truck he spotted in one of the river's deeper holes one day a few months ago.

Entranced by this body of water he enters at Northmoor Park off Olentangy Boulevard a mere 450 yards from his home and wanting to share his many photographs, Anderson put together a presentation he called "10 Miles in 10 Years." He still puts on the slide presentation, but since it's more like 13 years since he began making his trips and taking his pictures, the name's a bit anachronistic.

Anderson, 57, was born in Champaign-Urbana, Ill. When he was 12 years old, Anderson recalled, he came across this device in the family's basement and asked his father what it was. An enlarger, was the answer. Speaking of anachronisms, in these days of digital photography that word might not mean anything to most people, but back when film was king it was the way images from negatives got transferred onto photographic paper. Within two years, Anderson said that he knew he wanted to be a professional photographer of some sort. He began stringing for the local paper at the age of 16.

Anderson attended the Rochester Institute of Technology. An offer of a job brought him to Columbus after he graduated. Friends, in particular a lady friend, kept him here. He started his own business in 1985, and incorporated George C. Anderson Photography Inc. a year later. Anderson has his own studio off Bethel Road. His LinkedIn page lists him as CEO and also janitor of the enterprise. He specializes in advertising and commercial work.

"I love photography," Anderson said. "I just love taking pictures."

So it's probably no surprise that when the commercial work is going well but providing him with some free time, he seeks to, as famed photographer Minor White (1908-1976) put it, capture images that are compelling to the viewer, evoke a response and are memorable. As he began his solo boat trips on the Olentangy in about 1989, six years or so after moving into his Clintonville home, Anderson naturally began to acquire more and more photographs, but pictures, no matter how compelling, evocative or memorable, don't do anyone any good left in a drawer or taking up space on a computer's hard drive.

So Anderson began casting about to find others who might be interested in his images of the Olentangy. That was how, in 1998 or 1999, he met Amanda Davies, who had just started the organization Friends of the Lower Olentangy a year or so previously. He joined FLOW and has contributed some of his shots to the organization's website.

"It gave me context for my content," Anderson said.

The Olentangy, which in most places is only two to three feet deep, has been poked and prodded and rearranged and channeled and dammed and developed ("We tend to build cities that leak toxins") and in much of the stretch Anderson cruises flows beside a major highway, state Route 315.

But when he's out on the water, Anderson said, all he has to do is cover his ears to keep out the sound of traffic, and it feels a little like he's one of the very first people ever to paddle on that river, whether he's looking out at the bright green vegetation lining the banks of a spring or the harsh white of snow and ice in the heart of winter.

And Anderson thinks maybe, just maybe, this river, his river, is going to be all right.

"Nature takes it back," he said. "Mother Nature always takes it back in the end.

"Mother Nature always wins in the end."