On a rainy fall day two years ago, Muncie local Patrick Conner was driving around Muncie’s Prairie Creek Reservoir when he spotted an eagle flying over the water.
“I jumped out of my car because I had never seen one in person,” he said. “At that time, I didn’t have a good camera to take its picture. So, I went out and bought a camera. The next day, I started taking pictures every day from then on.”
With his Sony a6000 camera and Sigma 150-600 or 55-210 lenses on hand, Conner photographs birds, deers, squirrels and more around Prairie Creek Reservoir, Summit Lake State Park, the Wabash River, the White River and throughout Peru, Indiana.
What Conner loves most about wildlife photography, he said, is showing his family members his work. Because his mother doesn’t get out much, he said, he wanted to be able to show her the pictures he takes to share what kind of animals are in Muncie that are “just awesome to see.”
Conner posts his wildlife photography on his personal Facebook account, his photography page — “PDConner Photography” — and other Facebook groups, such as “What’s Up Muncie,” “Indiana Images,” “Indiana Nature & Wildlife” and “Backyard Birds and Critters.”
This way, he said, people know they don’t have to travel far to experience seeing animals they have never seen before. Conner also takes requests to find and photograph animals his photography page’s followers wish to see.
One of the most challenging things about photographing wildlife is sitting outside for seven or eight hours and seeing absolutely nothing, he said. Although it can be aggravating, he said, he believes it’s also peaceful to sit and observe the nature around him.
“There is just the surprise of everything — you can just be sitting there, and an eagle will fly up or over, or different birds or deer,” Conner said. “It is just amazing to know all of that stuff is right here [in Muncie]. I love the details that you can see up close, just by seeing an eagle, a bird or even a sunset. You can’t get a true grasp of all of the colors by just seeing it with the naked eye. With photography, you are able to see it up close. It is just awesome.”
As he has been taking pictures of Muncie’s wildlife, Connor has noticed eagles are entering more often into the city as well as along the White River, and they are beginning to become more comfortable around Conner as they approach his camera.
Andrea Cross, Yorktown resident and freelance photographer, is a designated “Top Fan” on Conner’s photography Facebook page, which has more than 1,800 followers. Cross said she happened upon his work in the “Indiana Nature & Wildlife” Facebook group and noticed they had a few mutual Facebook friends. As a photographer herself, she believes Conner captures Muncie wildlife perfectly. She shows appreciation for his work by liking and commenting on his photos frequently.
“I love nature pictures, but I am not great at getting all of the little details like Patrick is,” Cross said. “I appreciate the artistry that he provides with his photography.”
Another “Top Fan” of Conner’s photography is Jean Bright, who lives in West Yorkshire, England. One of the first photos Bright saw from Conner were of an eagle family he posted on his personal photography page. Because she and her husband are both huge lovers of eagles, Bright kept following Conner’s work.
On average, Conner takes around 300 to 600 pictures of one subject. He then looks over them to find the photos he thinks are most unique, such as the animals with their tongues out or with food in their mouths. The most tedious part of this process, he said, is looking through every single shot to see which ones he likes the best.
“A lot of people take photos for what other people will like,” Conner said. “I take photos for me and what I think is spot on. I then post them to my Facebook page, and, then, that is what makes people love it.”