Bob Schamerhorn was propelled into nature photography as a result of the digital age. In 2006, a once-in-a-lifetime encounter with a Peregrine Falcon on a beach in Cabo San Lucas sparked the transition from a point-and-shoot to a semi-pro camera. Within two years he began presenting programs at bird clubs, wildlife festivals and Audubon groups. He now keeps a full speaker schedule and displays at thirty art shows a year. Occasional publishing opportunities for book and magazine covers, plus photography contests have provided recognition and, in 2015, nature photography became a full time vocation.
Situated along the Rio Grande River, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge covers more than 57,000 acres and is a major wintering ground for cranes and waterfowl. Refuge personnel manage the water levels of its wetlands and impoundments to simulate what was once the seasonal flow of water from the Rio Grande before the river was damned and the flow altered. To feed the huge number of birds visiting the refuge each year, nearby fields are planted with corn, winter wheat, millet, and other grains. Loop roads transect the refuge marshes and fields and provide prime sites for wildlife viewing and photography. Species that may be seen include shovelers, buffleheads, pintails, teal and other ducks; bald and golden eagles; kestrels and other hawks; turkey; meadowlarks; quail; roadrunners; coyotes; mule deer; and more. In November, large flocks of snow geese and sandhill cranes will be present. At night to escape predators, the birds flock to the marshes and shallow pools. With dawn, the snow geese and other waterfowl rise in mass from the wetlands and sweep overhead on their way to nearby fields to feed. Each day we will spend the early morning and late afternoon hours at the refuge photographing birds and many other species of wildlife which are present at the sanctuary.
I live in Wyoming. Anyone who has visited the state knows it has a lot of open space. What many people don’t realize is that the area in which I live – the northwest part of Wyoming – is almost always drier and more temperate than that to the south. So when I finished several days of meetings in Casper a couple years ago, I was anxious to make the 5-hour drive home to my own bed despite the dire warnings of an incoming snow storm. I knew that if I could make it the hundred miles across the sagebrush plains and then north through Wind River Canyon, I would probably leave the worst of the winter weather behind me. Before leaving the city, I consciously packed my camera gear in the back of the car, not wanting the temptation to stop along the way.
How do you photograph an animal so elusive that the biologists studying them have never even seen the species themselves? The answer is simple: SLR camera traps. Photographing wildlife with a camera trap seems easy in concept. Place a camera trap in the wilderness, let it sit there, and have it take amazing pictures while you relax at home. This isn’t quite the case. One of the hardest parts about camera trap photography is getting your set-up to work like you want it to. The camera and flashes have to be ready to take a picture at a moment’s notice, but it also needs to conserve batteries enough to last for an extended period of time. And then everything has to be safe in a serious down drench. Continue reading →
This past spring, in upstate New York, I had the opportunity to photograph a family of wild Red Foxes at their den. The den was located under a shed in a suburban backyard, and the homeowners granted me permission to set up my pop-up blind in their yard, about 50 yards from the shed. Though they knew full well that I was in the blind, this fox family seemed pretty accustomed to human presence, and they went about their lives without appearing disturbed by me. This is of paramount importance to me when I photograph a wild animal, as I seek to capture behavior that’s as natural as possible, and I never want to disturb or endanger my subjects.
Over the course of about a month, I traveled to my set up whenever I had a free moment, spending hours in my blind; I always left wishing I could stay longer. I was fascinated by the relationship dynamics among the family members, and enthralled by the playfulness of the kits. I counted 6 kits at first, guessing they were roughly 2 months old. I was struck by how much they acted like puppies, which is no surprise, as foxes are members of the Canidae family. The kits roughhoused constantly, rolling and tumbling over each other. As time went on, their playfulness had an edge of ferocity, and their interactions became more adversarial. They honed their hunting skills by stalking one another around the tree trunks and shed corners, and familiarized themselves with prey by proudly carrying around the bodies of star-nosed moles and squirrels that their parents had brought back for them.
Bornean Orangutan, Pongo pygmaeus, Caretaker with infant at bath time, Orangutan Care Center, Borneo, Indonesia, (c) Suzi Eszterhas
For years I have specialized in documenting the family lives of endangered species. This work has taken me around the globe, spending long hours with wild animal families for weeks, months or even years at a time. In all of my projects I try to incorporate the conservation issues that surround my subject or the latest research presenting fascinating discoveries about that animal and its environment.
Some of my most recent work has taken me out of the wild and into animal orphanages. In the past, I have spent a lot of time with both Bornean and Sumatran orangutans, photographing them in protected areas where they have the ability to live wild and free. But the truth of the matter is that these protected areas on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra are too small to save the species. More and more forest is lost every single day to bulldozing for palm oil plantations. Orangutans cannot live in a palm oil plantation; they need the diversity of the rainforest to survive. What’s worse is that plantation workers routinely kill adult orangutans and sell the babies as pets on the black market. The lucky orphans are found and confiscated by government officials. There are thousands of baby orangutans in various orphanages on these islands. Continue reading →