Rediscovering nature photography

January 22, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

I got started on wildlife photography by visiting places such as Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Glacier National Park. Sweeping valleys offered opportunity after opportunity for spotting bison, bears, and on the rare occasion, wolves. I was somewhat spoiled by the abundance of wildlife. While many of my photos from these places reflect my inexperience as a photographer, I developed a deep passion for wildlife photography, particularly photographing the large mammals of North America. I can’t fully describe what it was that clicked inside of me on these early trips, but I have found few things in life that bring the same rush of excitement and purpose as finding and photographing animals such as moose, bears, and wolves. There’s something deeply meaningful when a moose allows you approach and sit with it while it grazes at sunset. Or when a wolf looks up and makes eye contact with you, it’s yellow eyes meeting yours and staring right through you. These were a lot of my early experiences with wildlife photography and they shaped my photography more than anything else. IMG_4860IMG_4860Bald ealge in flight. Location: Covill Park, Red Wing, Minnesota. Date: February 15, 2016.

Living in Minnesota, finding and photographing wildlife looked very different. I would make occasional trips along the Mississippi River to photograph eagles. Every now and then I would trek up to a well known area to photograph owls. But much of the time my photography was limited to local state parks which primarily meant deer and birds. For the most part I felt somewhat lost in my own state when it came to photographing wildlife. I knew the opportunities were out there, but I didn’t know where to start. 

There came a season where I moved away from wildlife photography and focused on other pursuits. Along the way I had upgraded my camera gear and in the process hadn’t replaced the lens necessary to capture images of wild animals. I wasn’t sure if wildlife photography would have a place in my life going forward and in general I wasn’t sure how photography fit in.

T hen Covid happened. Many activities that I enjoyed were no longer available and I felt overwhelmed at the idea of sitting in my apartment for the next several months. So I started browsing Ebay for used lenses suitable for photographing wildlife. Within about a day I had purchased one and over the next few weeks I spent countless evenings wandering off-trail through the forests along the Minnesota River Valley photographing owls, sunsets, and anything else that caught my eye. 

Over the course of these few weeks I experienced a reawakening for wildlife photography. This time I started to feel a call to turn my attention to northern Minnesota, whose forests are home to bears, moose and wolves. I’ve lived in Minnesota my whole life and had never encountered any of these animals in my home state. In Yellowstone you are almost guaranteed to see these animals. Its sweeping valleys provide incredible opportunities. But the dense forests of northern Minnesota provide a unique challenge. 

DSC08908DSC08908Great Horned Owl, Fort Snelling State Park, Minnesota
Northern Minnesota has always been a very intimidating place for me when it comes to wildlife photography and I didn’t really know where to begin. Inspired by other local photographers, I started doing research on where I might encounter bears, moose, or wolves. Then my wife and I made our first trip up the Gunflint Trail. Our plan was to camp, canoe, and spend time hiking and exploring the area with the hope of seeing wildlife along the way.  On our first morning we encountered a moose. It was late morning  and in an unlikely spot. But there it was. The next day a pair of black  bears ran in front of the car. Then we came across two more moose later that night. On top of that we saw several foxes, loons, and had a great time canoeing, hiking, and exploring. I was completely hooked and throughout the rest of 2020 we made countless trips up north exploring back roads, canoeing, and hiking. 

All that being said, and as difficult as 2020 was, the pandemic led me to step back into nature with a long lens and the goal of photographing Minnesota’s wildlife. The experience of spending  time with wildlife is powerful and I hope that the images I capture and share inspire others to value nature and step into it with the goal of experiencing it in whatever way is meaningful to them. 

I have a lot of photography goals for 2021. First is to capture more and better photos of moose. Minnesota’s moose population has seen a significant decline in the past 15 years and to see and photograph these animals is truly special. I also hope to capture some quality images of black bears. These animals are numerous throughout the state but often difficult to find. But I have hope that this year might be the year I get a decent photo. 

Thank you to those that follow along on this journey whether it’s on Instagram, Facebook, or through my website. I am excited for this year and whatever it may bring!

DSC03034DSC03034A moose walking along the backroads near the Gunflint Trail
 


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