Many don’t know this, but in the early 1990’s, after I graduated from the University of Minnesota with my Wildlife Biology degree, and having found jobs very difficult to come by – I went to work for my dad at his photo lab/camera store/photo studio in central Minnesota. Life happened, and I found myself immersed in this business for almost two decades – in the end, as the owner. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I printed, and viewed literally millions of individual photos as I was most heavily involved in production for the majority of that time. Film was big back in the day – before digital became king, but as you can imagine, I’ve seen it all. Amateur. Professional. Print. Transparency. 35mm. Medium and Large Format. Movie. Copy services. Restoration. Black and White. Enlargements. Just about every subject imaginable. Etc. Etc. Over the years, I took a lot of photos myself – mostly recording my own adventures, day-to-day activities, and those of my family and friends. But after I closed the store in 2008, I slowly fell away from taking my own photos. I became frustrated with the shakiness in my hands – likely a mixture of things from nerve damage in my arms, breathing chemicals in the photo lab, and a lifetime of taking strong medications.
Fast forward to the present – where I regularly take Majestic View Bed and Breakfast guests out for a day on the ocean for their own personalized photo safari. I see all types of guests – from the casual person who does their best with a cell phone, to the semi-professional who shows up with a good digital SLR and giant lenses. Always, they want to photograph wildlife, and anyone that knows me would be quick to say – this is right up my alley. I’ve captained a boat, literally, since I was a boy. I have a wildlife biology degree. I have devoted my entire life to the pursuit of knowing and understanding all wildlife and their behavior, AND, I have a knack for being able to get in close!
Yesterday was one of those days – when a guest shows up whose vacation is focused on wildlife photography, and are pleased to find out that I do wildlife tours for guests of the B & B. Miguel and Nancy wanted to photograph a humpback whale, sea otters, harbor seals, puffins, eagles, and any/all birds that we could find. Along the way, we added Common Murres, Marbled Murrelet, Belted Kingfisher, Stellar’s Jay, Black-legged Kittiwakes, Herring Gulls, Cormorants, and several other species of songbirds I am forgetting. I was impressed how skilled Miguel was with his camera – which Nancy affectionately called “Big Bertha” (Miguel also had a smaller point and shoot camera). Me? I just did my best to maneuver the boat in close, and into the place which afforded the best lighting of the subject. We were even fortunate enough to spot a bear on the beach – which held still until we were in tight, while Miguel’s shutter snapped away.
Another highlight was when Nancy spotted a bald eagle on a rock eating something white. Closer inspection revealed that the eagle had a veritable pile of young Kittiwake that it had killed. The parents were angry and had commenced dive bombing the eagle, who raised it’s head and shrieked at the adult Kittiwakes. Again, Miguel got some amazing shots. He got amazing shots of EVERYTHING!
The trip started out amazing. I knew their primary interest was birds, but Nancy really wanted to devote the first hour to trying to find and photograph a humpback whale. This year – finding whales consistently has been spotty at best, but I did see three whales the day before – so we set out for that same area, about a 45 minute run West of Homer. It seemed to take forever, because Miguel kept asking me to stop so that he could photograph the amazing lighting over the Kenai Mountains – with interesting cloud formations, streaks of sunshine breaking through, and glossy blue/gray reflections on the soft ocean swells. “That’s fine” I told Miguel. “This is your trip.” Finally, I spotted several whales spouting in the distance, and I drove cautiously to the area where I had last seen them. I shut down the boat, watching and listening for their unmistakable breathing. Soon, one of the Humpbacks surfaced not 100 yards from our boat, and he was on a course to go right past my bow. We waited patiently while it did, and I maneuvered the boat into position so that Miguel could get this amazing photo. I think the whale became aware of our presence, and decided to dive – but not before we lined it up with Mount Illiamna in the distance.
Well – that’s how our whole day went. We saw all the wildlife we could ask for, and Miguel used his skills to capture the myriad of beautiful wildlife in its natural environment, while Nancy sat back and enjoyed the ride. A four-hour trip easily turned into five hours, and could have even been longer as we were just getting into some new migrant waterfowl: Harlequin Ducks, White-wing Scoters, and Surf Scoters. But it was time to go in and hit the bathroom.
It was fun to see the excitement on Miguel’s face as he emerged from his bedroom (The Blueberry Room), several times throughout the rest of the day, (and the next morning too) to show me the latest photo he had been working on cropping, adjusting, etc. WOW! He got some amazing stuff, and I am encouraging him to sell his images as I’m sure he easily could. Miguel promised to share his “Top 50” with me (I’m sure he took 500-1000 images). I will share them along the way. Lets start with the whale tail and Illiamna Volcano. And remember – if you are an avid photographer and love wildlife and scenery – I am your guy. Knowing where the critters are, and getting you close, is my specialty. Remember me in 2018! This could be you, at Majestic View!