Silverthorne photographer Richard Seeley shoots award-winning photos
Richard Seeley has learned more than a few tricks since he retired from his computer software career in 2007 and became a full-time wildlife photographer. For example, he has to be in the right place at the right time, which requires careful planning rather than luck. Once he’s in place, he has to be prepared to wait and watch for a while, anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours. Then, once he’s in the right spot and it’s finally the right time, he has to be sure he has the right lens, the right angle, the right light.
In other words, he’s got a lot to think about.
“You’re always looking for that killer shot that people are really going to be able to connect with,” Seeley said.
Seeley’s ability to connect viewers to wild animals through his camera has been recognized by the numerous awards that his photography has won throughout the years. Most recently, his photo “Gawking Goslings,” which appeared in the Summit Daily and featured a mother goose surrounded by her babies, won first prize from the monthly competition put on by Mile High Wildlife Photo Club in Parker, Colo.
“That’s a very hard thing to do,” he said.
Another of his photos received the Excellence in Photography Award from the Rockport Art Association in Massachusetts at the Spring 2013 Photography Show. Seeley’s work has also appeared in magazines, including the international Nature Photography Magazine and National Geographic. His photos are on display in galleries in Colorado (Arts Alive Gallery in Breckenridge), Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Photographer on the road
While Seeley did his photography part-time before retirement, now he enjoys the freedom to travel all over the country, and even to other parts of the world, to capture the behavior of various animals with his camera.
Just this week, he and his wife, Beth, returned from a 43-day roudtrip drive from Silverthorne to Denali National Park in Alaska. This is the second such trip the duo has completed. This time, Seeley returned with more than 10,000 photos.
Seeley said that once he finds a good spot for wildlife photos, he returns to it.
“I tend to go back to the same places that I’ve been … because it’s always different,” he said. “The conditions are different, the light is different, the time of year might be different and the animals’ behavior might be different, and that’s what I try to capture, animal behavior, and you never get it in one go. You go back again and again and again.”
In addition to Alaska, Seeley often returns to a spot along the Mississippi River in Iowa, which he claims is one of the best places to take photos of eagles as they hunt fish that come out stunned through the lock-and-dam system.
Although he’s photographed hundreds of animals, Seeley still has quite a few on his bucket list.
“It seems to be a neverending list,” he said. “The more I do, the more I discover.”
He wants to get some better shots of eagles and, while he’s photographed snowy owls, he hasn’t gotten that perfect shot just yet. This shot, as he describes it, would feature an owl “in flight, wings out, eyes aglow, tack-sharp (photo quality), heading to the camera, (with) full depth of field.”
Seeley’s been to Kenya and hopes to go to Tanzania or South Africa in the next year or so. While in Alaska, he met a photographer who invited him to South Africa to, in Seeley’s words, “shoot the Great White sharks jumping out of the water with the dolphins in their mouth.”
Good animal photography requires an understanding, not only of how cameras work and the best way to set up a picture, but animal behavior as well, Seeley said.
“To be a real successful wildlife photographer, you have to become a naturalist,” he explained. “You have to learn about the wildlife, you have to learn their behaviors, because one ingredient is anticipation. You want to know what the wildlife animal is going to do, and you learn that by studying.”
That’s how Seeley got his photo “Spin Cycle,” an award-winning shot of a grizzly bear in Alaska in mid-shake, his head surrounded by swirling fur and a shower of water drops.
“You get a certain rhythm,” Seeley said, describing how he watched the bear hunting fish in the stream, trying to anticipate when it would shake its head. “You look and you watch the body motion and you can tell when his muscles are tensing and he’s just about ready to shake his head.” He had only a few seconds to get it right, and he did.
Seeley said he uses three different camera bodies and four different lenses to get the perfect shot. All of his equipment is digital, which is unsurprising, considering his background.
“For me it was a no-brainer, because I grew up in the digital world,” he said, explaining that as a former software designer, he is quite comfortable with computers. “So going to a digital device was just like (an) ‘I understand this without even reading the instruction manual’ kind of thing and it just worked great for me. … It’s a natural fit.”
Seeley’s artwork can be seen at the Arts Alive Gallery in Breckenridge, where Seeley is a member. He also writes a blog, updated several times a month, and a newsletter that comes out four times a year, about his travels and photography. He can be found online at www.richardseeleyphotography.com.
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