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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Extreme Wildlife

Jim Oltersdorf works on the edge to get wild and unique photographs of wildlife and nature as a whole

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Alaskan brown bear fishing for salmon; Floatplane in the backcountry.

Photographing in the wilds, whether deep in the Alaska backcountry or the jungles of Central America, Jim Oltersdorf takes his work to the extreme. It’s not that he’s an adrenaline junkie. Oltersdorf is a photographer who has spent a lifetime learning animal behavior, and as a meticulous planner, he knows how to avoid getting into trouble when he’s taking pictures. His workshops teach photographers how to be safe and respectful as they maneuver to get the perfect shot.

"Normal" isn't usually a word that describes what high-risk, extreme outdoor photographers' lives are like. When we think about what they do, it usually conjures up death-defying antics—that somehow they’re hanging with a vice-like grip on the arm of Lady Luck to get out alive. Imaginations run wild about how these photographers capture their images. Those perceptions may not be entirely accurate, but one thing is certain—high-risk outdoor photography isn’t for the faint of heart, and these photographers are definitely different from the norm.

Spawning wild salmon in Alaska
There are only a handful of people in the nation who fit into this category. Why? It takes a lifetime of training, experience and know-how to get to the point of receiving wildlife and nature assignments like these. The photographers have to be exceptional at handling their cameras and other related photographic gear. And it helps to have technical experience and training in many other areas, such as wildlife behavior, biology or geology, to complete the job safely. It’s not a case of, “Oh, he’s really good with a camera.”

One of those photographers who works in these extreme environments is a year-round, 10-year resident of Alaska, Jim Oltersdorf. Oltersdorf lives on the vast Kenai Peninsula on the edge of a private lake. Fronted by 2.1 million acres of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, it’s a “Walden’s Pond” of serenity and tranquility, and it’s from this base that he plans his adventures.


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