Rick Wise grew up in New York City. He escaped the confines of the Eisenhower years as quickly as possible, moving to Beirut,Lebanon in 1957 and then to Paris France in 1958. Strongly influenced by Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal, Wise studied filmmaking at l'Institut des Hautes Études Cinématographiques for two years, and then worked for American productions in France.

In 1967 he moved to Berkeley where he assisted John Korty as he shot Riverrun. On the strength of a couple of expressionistic black-and-white documentaries he had shot and edited in France he was hired at KQED in 1968 as a "filmmaker," shooting and editing daily assignments for the game-changing Newsroom under Mel Wax and producer Dave Grieve. When then-president Nixon cut PBS funding to the bone, he was let go along with most of his colleagues. After a couple of years in Los Angeles he returned to Berkeley, found and married the love of his life, and began to establish a new reputation as a cinematographer shooting commercials and high-end corporate films.

Today, an emerging stills artist at the age of 83, he teaches lighting to graduate film students at the Academy of Art University as his "day job." He also shoots the blog food photographs for his wife, cookbook author Victoria Wise. They live in Oakland, CA.