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Seeking the ultimate photo

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Larry Turner’s tips for photographing eagles, waterfowl and other birds in winter
Photo by Larry Turner Bald eagle
Photo by Larry TurnerRingneck pheasant
Photo by Larry TurnerSandhill cranes

Tagging along with Larry Turner is always educational.

He’s an incredibly zippy fast downhill skier, a relentless hiker, a suave-in-the-saddle horseman and all-around outdoorsman. As a professional photographer, Turner combines his getting-out excursions with his abilities as a keen observer of sights and sounds. Wherever he goes and whatever he does, he packs along a camera or two, always alert and ready to capture images of wherever he is or whatever he sees.

This time of year he carries his Santa-sized bag of cameras, lenses and accessories during purposeful wanderings on farms and ranch lands or on regional wildlife refuges. His mission is simple: stalk out places to photograph all varieties of songbirds, waterfowl and predators — bald and golden eagles, great blue herons, snowy egrets, scrub jays, hairy woodpeckers, mallard ducks, rough-legged hawks, great gray owls, Canada geese — whatever he can spy.

Turner is always focused on trying to capture what he calls “the ultimate photo.”

“You have to be stealthy. You have to have patience,” says Turner, a 74-year-old Malin native. He shoots photos close to home and around the world. His photos have appeared in dozens of newspapers, magazines, books and photo essays for High on Adventure, a website he co-owns.

While the Lower Klamath and Tulelake National Wildlife Refuges are among his favorite places for winter photography, Turner also seeks out waterfowl in other, often overlooked locations, including anyplace where water flows.

“I especially like the canals connected to the (refuge) lease lands. This time of year I’ll come across great blue herons, egrets. They key component is water. You’ve got to have water,” he says of finding places to photograph bird life. “The farms and the ranches provide some of the best habitat. Of course, with the water cutoff it’s a different formula.”

He’s concerned about water policies and their impacts on a wide range of Klamath Basin people who rely on water for use by irrigators, for endangered fish like suckers and salmon, and habitat for migrating and resident waterfowl and predators.

"This year is the least number of birds that I've ever seen my entire life at Lower Klamath and Tulelake National Wildlife Refuges, and the blame goes directly on the feds, along with the Klamath Tribes, who are supposed to manage this treasure, the heart of the Pacific Flyway.”

Turner believes his and others concerns are “directly tied to the water cutoff earlier this year to the refuge system” along with single species (sucker fish) management policies, and with keeping high water levels in Klamath Lake “to the brutal detriment of all other species. It is abhorrent what is taking place right now. And if water continues to be withheld, this Crown Jewel will become a rusted and dead jewel. The main body of ancient Tulelake is bone dry, the first time possibly in millions of years. The powers that be should be having restless nights until this tragedy is remedied."

Turner is obviously concerned. That’s why he uses his photography to express the beauty and uniqueness of a region that includes refuges in Southern Oregon and Northern California along with nearby and more distant privately owned lands. He’s also happy to share his advice and expertise with others, beginning or advanced photographers, to help them capture and appreciate the landscape and its inhabitants.

“Sunrise and sunset are good times to get dramatic shots,” he advises. At the Lower Klamath Refuge, Turner appreciates “the joy of morning light directly on Mount Shasta,” along with often rapidly evolving cloud formations, sometimes using them as backdrops for photos of waterfowl taking flight. He shoots multi-frames a second because, “One of the key elements is speed. They move so fast, their wings beat so quickly. I’m ready for the opportunity.”

He can advise about technique, lenses and other equipment. He willingly provides tips on times and places that offer the best opportunities for pursuing the never-ending quest for the “ultimate photo.”

But more than anything, he encourages people to get out to see and experience the abundance of nature in winter, with or without a camera.

As for his own photographs, Turner says, “I prefer to let the images tell the story.”

Reach freelance writer Lee Juillerat at 337lee337@charter.net or 541-880-4139.