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My Journey to Wildlife Photography

I have had an unhealthy obsession with animals since I can remember. Up until 6th grade I spent all of my free time at the neighborhood pond. It wasn’t anything pretty for a passerby to look at. However, given a longer look, this pond displayed vibrant life and diversity. My daily routine was grabbing my animal encyclopedia, throwing on my Crocs, grabbing my net and a bucket, and making my way down the street. Once I was there I would catch mostly

frogs and turtles and use my encyclopedia to identify their species. Once I knew what it was, I would check the animal for any leeches. This pond seemed to have an incredibly high number of leeches. I released the animal after removing the leeches from its body. There was never a dull day at the pond. It was my favorite place in the world.

In 6th grade my parents broke the news that we would be leaving Michigan and moving across the world to Shanghai, China. A place where you see more stray cats than birds. In one of the biggest cities in the world, wildlife is not something you can depend on seeing. For awhile I put my love for wildlife on the back burner. However, that changed when I started taking AP Environment Science in 11th grade. My teacher, Mr. Smith, was (and still is) incredibly passionate about wildlife. During the first few minutes of class he would share pictures and stories of his trips to every continent on the planet. We took a field trip to Chongming Island, an island just off the coast of Shanghai. This island served as a refuge for wildlife. At this point I had a starter DSLR camera with a kit lens. I took pictures of everything.

The passion I had as a child came back to me that day. We saw a wild Chinese Alligator, a species which is on the brink of extinction. I was so intrigued by this alligator. I took trips back to this island whenever I could, and never saw the alligator again. It made me think about all of the possibility in wildlife photography and how much more there is to see.

Once I graduated high school we moved back to the United States. The adjustment moving back was difficult after being gone for 7 years. I found myself scrambling to connect with people and feel at home. I spent so much energy adjusting that I stopped prioritizing time in nature. My freshman year was spent trying so hard to fit in and deep down I felt more alone than ever. I became depressed and convinced myself I would never belong anywhere. My mental health deteriorated to the point that my parents drove 12 hours to pick me up and I never went back to that college. I spent time with my family and had enough support that I finally started to feel like myself again, a year after leaving school. Eventually I ended up at Grand Valley State University and my parents lived on the east side of Michigan. I began to explore parks and spend more time outside again.

During a weekend at my parents, my mom and I overheard a man talking about an albino fawn. That hope to experience what I felt with the Chinese Alligator came rushing over me. I

asked him as many questions as I could and he could not tell me much, at this point he knew of one person who saw the fawn. I spent every weekend at my parents and for hours a day I searched for this fawn. It took me months. One day I decided I would call it and began

driving home. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye I saw a flash of white. I stopped to look and there she was, drinking water from a pond. A pond just 45 minutes from the one I grew up going to. I got the best picture I could with my beginner camera and kit lens. It was the happiest I had been since I moved back to the U.S..

I realized, after my first encounter with the white deer, that I needed to dive into my passion for wildlife photography. Since then I have spent my time exploring Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Wyoming, and even Alaska. I have met so many incredible people through photography and I want everyone out there to feel the sense of belonging I finally feel again. My hope for this page is to bring people together and welcome everyone the way I was. Here’s to many more adventures and new friends.

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