Several years ago, when bluebirds were a rare sight in Gearhart, Neal trained his camera on a bluebird box, intending to take the picture remotely, to minimize movement. Then out flew a bluebird and perched on his remote.
You may have seen Neal Maine’s spectacular nature photography on display at Fairweather House and Gallery in Seaside; you might even have one of his framed photos hanging in your home. Fairweather generously donates proceeds from the sale of these photos to North Coast Land Conservancy.
For every photo you see on display, however, Neal may snap the shutter hundreds—maybe thousands—of times; few photos make the cut. They need to be sharp, in focus, and the exposure and composition must be perfect (Neal doesn’t PhotoShop his images). And they need to have, as Neal puts it, an “overwhelming beauty” that speaks of wild life on Oregon’s North Coast.
Which means, of course, there are a lot of photos that may never get seen—”tons of stuff that’s not going to show up anywhere,” Neal says. Here, then, are some of the quirkier shots, the strange shots, the shots that may be beautiful in their own way but that aren’t likely to get chosen for anyone’s living room wall. “I got the best shot ever of a nutria,” Neal says by example, noting that it’s unlikely anyone is going to want a beautiful photo of a nutria when they can have an image of an elk herd in the estuary instead. Of course, if one of these also-rans rings your chimes, Fairweather may take special requests.
“We think surfing is cool, but surfing inside a wave must be really cool.” Neal watched this seal at the Cove ride wave after wave.
Neal had never seen a great blue heron stab a carp like this. Now what does the heron do? Neal watched as it bent down to the marsh grasses and slid the fish off its bill and quickly swallowed it down. Not the heron’s first rodeo.
Neal was picturing the scene on those boats on the Columbia River–lines tangling, yelling, jockeying for position–versus the serenity of the solo angler: “What do we want from our experience of nature?”
An albio nutria–one of a succession of such nutria found at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge over the past couple of decades–nursing its dark-furred babies.
Can you guess what you’re seeing? It’s a close-up of the burrows shipworms have left in a piece of driftwood Neal found on the beach one morning.
Yes, that is a live beaver on the beach. Every now and then a beaver seems to get disoriented and winds up in the surf, like this one apparently did. “It was pretty beat-up,” Neal remembers. “If you think you’re having a bad day … Every day on the beach is an adventure, because you just don’t know what the ocean will deliver.” (He called wildlife rescue to help the beaver recover from his or her adventure.)
“Raccoon Tales,” Neal calls this photo. (“If you’re outside in the Northwest for too long, you start losing it,” he says, apologizing for the pun.)
One evening at Ecola State Park, as Neal set up for a shot of Haystack Rock, he noticed a couple of elk by the restrooms. And he started wishing, willing them to move into the viewfinder. Which slowly, step by step, they did.