ON a one to 10 scale of personal anxiety, a rattlesnake up your shorts would probably rate about 40. Although I doubt Tony Gervis was too bothered about the percentage game that day in the Arizona desert.

Had he thought about it earlier, he might have opted not to wear shorts for this particular expedition. But then again he wears shorts most of the time, even in the middle of an English winter, so in the baking heat of an American canyon there was no reason for a sudden change of strides. Well, not until he nearly trod on a rattlesnake.

Tony was out on Navajo land taking photographs of the stunning scenery when he heard a noise from a rocky ledge just above his head.

Slowly standing up, he peered on to the dusty shelf and found himself eye to eye with a rattler, which was only two feet away and staring right back at him.

“We eyeballed each other for about 10 seconds before I decided it was best if I move my camera position,” he said.

“So I slowly took a few steps backwards and lined up another shot. It was then I looked down and realised I had nearly trodden on the biggest rattlesnake I had ever seen. It was as thick as my arm and asleep in the sun.”

As memories of trousersnake jokes flashed through his mind, plus thoughts of what serious grief a rattlesnake up your shorts would bring, he gingerly clicked his camera and captured the desert panorama.

“The photographs I took turned out a little blurred,” he said. “A bit too much camera shake.” Which was entirely understandable given the situation.

There can’t be many Englishmen who take images of America’s Great Outdoors for the US National Parks authority, but then Tony Gervis is not your average Brit.

“My father might have been a lay preacher in Halifax, but my real dad was John Wayne,” said the Stetson wearing, Harley Davidson riding vice-chairman of Worcester Photography Club.

He lives at Abberley, where his hillside home looks across the Teme Valley towards the mountains of Wales.

His father was also a keen photographer, which is where young Tony first caught the bug, but the day job was an investment broker. And not your average investment broker either. For eight years during the Yuppie era of the 1980s he would visit potential customers in his Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow towing behind a custom made – and matching – silver trailer office. It was an impressive sight arriving in a front drive.

“Ninety per cent of the people who entered that office ended up as my clients,” he said.

It was 30 years ago Tony first visited America when he took the family on holiday. “I just fell in love with the country and the people. Everything was so big.”

The vast landscape and big skies also provided a panoramic backdrop for his photography and he soon began taking thousands of images of rock formations, canyons, gulleys, gultches and all the other iconic scenery of the American West.

They caught the eye of officials and Tony was asked whether he could undertake a substantial project for the National Parks authority – quite a coup considering the number of photographers there must be in America.

However, it would have been too big a commitment, so reluctantly he turned it down, but he still does provide images that the National Parks uses in a variety of literature.

As well as the landscapes, there have been the rodeos and Tony and his wife Linda have been regular visitors to them for many years, capturing photos of the cowboys, cattle and bucking horses. On his belt he wears a huge brass buckle, presented to him as a member of the Gold Buckle Club of Ellensburg Rodeo in Washington State for his good work.

But it didn’t really start out too well. Deciding he would like to visit a rodeo while back home in England, but knowing nothing about them, he stuck a pin in the internet and came up with Pendleton Rodeo in Oregon. It turned out to be one of the top 10 rodeos in the world and not about to welcome a Limey who walked into the chief exec’s office in his shorts and a T-shirt.

“Get out and get dressed,” he was told. Which meant like a cowboy.

Shirt with sleeves rolled down, a hat, boots and jeans. After all, have you ever seen John Wayne sat on his horse in shorts?