Wildlife, especially large animals such as deer, elk, moose and bears, have always intrigued me. But I never considered using a camera to capture them until I became The World-Herald’s outdoor writer.

The camera I was given in 1990 required film. In fact, I still have several rolls of film in the freezer.

When the photo department switched to digital cameras, my interest — and success — in wildlife photography began to soar. I didn’t have to be frugal with film. I could shoot photos until my shutter finger gave out.

Photo gluttony was a perfect fit for my photographic ability. On every outing, I shot dozens and dozens of photos and hoped one would turn out. That cross-my-fingers method carried me through 16 years of writing about the outdoors.

The turning point came four years after I retired when Sam Swartz, a Lincoln wildlife photographer, led three of us on a winter photo excursion to Yellowstone National Park. Sam patiently explained why camera settings had to be changed throughout the day. He prodded us out of bed way before dawn so we could catch that perfect morning light. It proved to be an extensive, upper-level photography class.

Back home, I found that my wife, Ruth, was an eager partner whenever I wanted to search for wildlife. In fact, I learned she had an uncanny ability to spot photo subjects in fields and woods.

We began to plan photo excursions throughout eastern Nebraska. Then our trips expanded to neighboring states. My focus remained on animals until I had coffee one afternoon with longtime friend Jack Higgins of Lincoln.

Higgins suggested that I widen my subject matter to include birds. Until then, every bird I saw was a robin, a blue jay, a blackbird or a sparrow. I never took the time to look closely at them.

My attitude has done an about-face. Birds now are as important to me as elk, moose and bears. And I have discovered that the photographic opportunities in Nebraska and our border states can’t be exhausted.

I will spend the rest of my life exploring the Sand Hills of Nebraska, the mountains of Colorado, the Flint Hills of Kansas, the Badlands of South Dakota, the Ozarks of Missouri and Yellowstone — the crown jewel of Wyoming. See why on the following pages.

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