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Capturing wildlife through the lens
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Capturing wildlife through the lens

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Capturing wildlife through the lens

Mike Harvey enjoys taking photos of wildlife in their natural habitat. In this photo he has captured two kits playing in Shenandoah through the lens of his camera.

Photo provided by Mike Harvey

A photo can tell a story all on its own, and each individual that views a photo sees a different story.

Mike Harvey of Shenandoah enjoys sharing stories through wildlife photography.

“I’ve always enjoyed wildlife ever since I was a kid,” Harvey said. “I just love being outdoors, and it’s fun to capture scenes, behaviors, and wildlife that sometimes you don’t expect. It’s always kind of an adventure. That’s what I like about it. It’s an adventure away from home.”

Harvey remembers as a kid taking care of young animals that lost their parents. He said he has always found insects and butterflies interesting, too.

“One of my passions is butterflies,” he said. “They’re so gorgeous with all their different colorations and patterns.”

In 2004, Harvey bought his first digital camera and has progressed along the camera lines since that time.

“It just evolved over time,” Harvey said. “I basically use all Canon equipment. I like to have variable focal length lenses that you can either do close up or as distal as you can.”

Harvey said he is mostly self-taught but has taken a couple of workshops that have been helpful. One of those workshops was a five-day trip to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.

“That was a little different for me because part of it was sunrises, and I’d never done that kind of photography,” he said. “I learned a couple of things from that workshop that applied well with wildlife photography too.”

Harvey said shooting digital has its advantages.

“It takes hundreds of shots to get some that I choose to share,” Harvey said. “With digital photography, you can take hundreds of photos and just keep the ones you want.”

Harvey said, for the most part, photography is a hobby, but he has sold some of his prints. He does his matting and framing.

One of Harvey’s favorite places to photograph wildlife is at the Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge by Mound City, Missouri. He said the auto tour around the wildlife refuge is about 10 miles and is a marsh habitat.

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“They get a lot of migrants through there that we don’t necessarily get through the Shenandoah area,” he said. “I like to go down there regularly. Right now, it’s pretty overgrown with grass and weeds, so it’s hard to see things as good as early spring.”

Harvey said wildlife photography takes patience.

“If you’re going to photograph wildlife, you need a lot of patience,” Harvey said. “Sometimes you have to sit somewhere for quite a while, or if I’m walking, I might be walking for an hour or two. If I’m in the car and I go down to the refuge, I may be down there for five or six hours or more.”

Harvey said capturing a photograph of a butterfly, especially in flight, requires a lot of time and patience, as well.

“Sometimes you have to do that in the heat of the day,” he said. “That’s when butterflies are really active when the flower blossoms they get more pollen.”

In 2014, Harvey was able to go on a two-week safari in Africa.

“I took over 3,000 photos there,” Harvey said. “We photographed lions at close proximity with the land rover and got some hyena shots. We saw 560 bird species in two weeks.”

Harvey said he photographed just about any animal you could think of in Africa.

“In those two weeks, we kept a journal, and that helped me on identification after I got home,” he said.

When Harvey isn’t out taking photos, he enjoys giving presentations of his work at local libraries.

Harvey suggested that anyone interested in photography should research equipment and start with what they can afford at the time.

“You have to think about what you want to photograph,” he said. “A lot of wildlife requires long lenses because you’re not going to get very close without spooking it. So you need the longest lenses that you can afford.”

Harvey said the longer lenses can be heavy and suggests using a tripod to support them, or if people are photographing from the car, to place a bean bag on the car window ledge to steady the camera.

Harvey is originally from central Iowa, and he and his wife, Donna, have lived in Shenandoah since 1980.

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