Wildlife photographer robbed at gunpoint in Oakland hills

A nature photographer, admired for his skills, was robbed at gunpoint of his personal belongings - including an expensive camera - in the Oakland hills.

Jim Roach, 72, said he was apparently followed and confronted by three masked robbers after he had parked his car near Joaquin Miller Road and Skyline Boulevard just before dawn Friday. He had been preparing to go on a hike and take pictures.

"A guy ran up to me and stuck a gun in my ribs and said, ‘Give me your wallet,’" Roach said Monday.

"Then they said, ‘Give me your phone,’ and then I couldn't find my phone, and they got angry, and they looked in my car for the phone and they found my camera."

They stole Roach's prized Canon camera with zoom lens, the one he uses to take high-definition photos of animals of all kinds, including a bald eagle, bobcat, coyote and birds of shapes and sizes.

"Until this event, I didn't realize my pictures were this popular," Roach said.

His photos have gained him a following online, including on Nextdoor. Admirers say Roach is a treasure, whose imagery is a refreshing breath of fresh air amid all the doom and gloom that dominate local forums.

"When this happened, wow, the outpouring of love on Nextdoor was over the top," he said.

Roach says he'll be back in the outdoors very soon. 

"I'm not going to let crooks stop me from doing what I do. I'd go right out and do it again," he said.

He believes the robbers, too, will do it again. They used his credit cards at gas stations in East Oakland within a half hour of the holdup.

"They were young kids, clearly somebody's telling them to do what they're doing and teaching them what to do. They're as much victims as I am, if you ask me," Roach said.

Kristy Parsons-McClain walked her dogs at the same spot where Roach was robbed. 

"Normally I feel safe. When I hear stories like that, I wonder if I am," she said. "I don't know if I would come up here that early in the morning knowing there's not that many people."

Henry Lee is a KTVU crime reporter. E-mail Henry at henry.lee@fox.com and follow him on Twitter @henrykleektvu and facebook.com/henrykleefan