Darcy Baird was stunned to learn she would be honored in January as Down East Magazine’s top amateur wildlife photographer after her photo of a mother fox and kit won in the magazine’s annual contest. Baird only started taking photography more seriously five years ago.

But in her pursuit of wildlife photos, Baird also could be recognized for her patience and willingness to sit in the woods for several hours at a time. A working single mom, Baird has little free time. When she does, she’s apt to rise before 3 a.m., or hike far into remote areas around her family’s camp at Moosehead Lake to study wildlife and work at photographing it. More than 90 percent of the time, Baird doesn’t come away with a worthy photo. But the time in the woods is never wasted, she said. That’s the key to getting great wildlife photos, said Baird, who grew up summering at Moosehead Lake.

Darcy Baird’s photo of this mother fox and her kits won the grand prize for amateur wildlife photos in Down East Magazine’s annual contest. Darcy Baird photo

“I love watching nature wake up and come to life when nobody else is there. I have nothing to do but watch nature. I get a lot more out of that than getting great pictures,” Baird said. “I learn, and I get to see parts of the Maine woods that few others venture to find.”

That sentiment is shared by other amateur wildlife photographers in Maine. In fact, we asked the top amateur photographers who regularly send photos to the “Your Turn” feature in the Outdoors section of the Maine Sunday Telegram how they get amazing action photos of wildlife. Is it luck or hard work? Some said they are sometimes in the right place at the right time – but all said great nature photos requires investing significant time outdoors looking, waiting and appreciating Maine’s beauty.

The mother of three boys who teaches full-time at Winthrop Middle School, Baird came to photography 17 years ago after her first son, Ryan, was born. Five years ago she bought herself a Nikon D850 and a telephoto lens, rededicating herself to the pursuit.

“I’ve been covered in black fly bites while remaining as still as I can so I don’t give myself up to the wildlife around me, and frozen my hands stiff doing the same,” Baird said.

The fox photos Baird submitted in the Down East Magazine contest are a good example. After she got a tip that kits were born under a friend’s shed, Baird went there at 5 a.m. to set up in a ground blind. And wait. She knew the mother fox was off hunting and would return – just not when. So Baird sat for five hours. 

“I waited her out. She came back five hours later and the kits came out. That’s when I got the photo of the kits nursing – doing what kits do,” Baird said.

Glenn Parkinson saw these otters feasting on a frozen stream behind his Freeport home, and grabbed his camera to get this shot. Photo by Glenn Parkinson

To Glenn Parkinson of Freeport, the success he’s had capturing photos of birds and wild animals hunting, eating and bathing is a testament to a few things. It’s proof he lives in a wild, scenic state rich in flora and fauna, Parkinson said. And his collection of nature photos also speaks to the significant time he and his wife, Donna, spend exploring the ponds, fields, woods and coast around their home.

In the four years since Parkinson became serious about wildlife photography with his Nikon camera and telephoto (150 to 600 millimeters) lens, he’s come away with dozens of animated photos of wildlife. His best are on a changing screen in their home. So every time Glenn and Donna Parkinson pass the screen in their home, they’re greeted by images of the wildlife that live alongside them outside of it.

“It’s a reminder to me there’s a lot of things going on in nature,” said Parkinson, who has called Maine home for 45 years. “I put myself in places where I can see things. Then I pay attention. For me, it’s a hobby, but it’s an excuse to go to pretty places. And Maine has a lot of that. It’s a way to appreciate Maine.”  

Sometimes you only need to be in the right place, which Glenn Parkinson was at his home when he saw this scene and captured it. Glenn Parkinson photo

Last August, Parkinson saw a deer nursing a fawn in the stream behind his home and photographed the two interacting from 120 yards away. Another time, he snapped a photo of two otters on an icy stream in his backyard, watching each enjoy a fish meal. 

Even the time Parkinson went to Scarborough Marsh to photograph wading birds and came up empty, he was rewarded. As he hiked out he saw a pileated woodpecker in a cherry tree with the light hitting the bird’s red crest just so. Parkinson snapped another keeper.

“That was not at all planned. But you put yourself in nature and pay attention and watch what’s going on,” he said. “I’m not a great photographer. But I know the basics and how to use my camera quickly. Then I go and have fun. Part of the trick is staying far enough away. You have to respect that you’re interfering in their domain.”

Erik Bartlett in South Casco has enjoyed photography since he was a boy, starting out with an old-school Kodak Brownie. He even developed his own film in the basement of his home growing up.

Erik Bartlett photographed this moose in Baxter State Park while hiking to Sandy Stream Pond – one of many moose photos he took in the park. Erik Bartlett photo

Then in 2005, when he got his first digital camera at age 56, Bartlett started taking more wildlife photos. He especially enjoyed his Nikon and zoom lens on annual trips to Baxter State Park. He once got a moose looking over its shoulder at him while he hiked into Sandy Stream Pond, a hotspot in the park for feeding moose – and photographers. 

Now the bird feeder outside Bartlett’s South Casco home provides most of the subject matter for his photos: birds, squirrels and chipmunks. Still, Bartlett spends part of every day looking for wildlife to photograph around his yard, even if most days there’s nothing of note. It’s his daily pilgrimage.

“It’s a combination of luck, being very watchful, and having a lot of patience,” Bartlett said. “Basically, I have to keep my eyes open and my camera handy, as I never know what will be happening.”

Erik Bartlett, now 72, took this photo of a hummingbird outside his home near his bird feeders. Photo by Erik Bartlett


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