Terry Steele: Trapper turned Photographer

December 17, 1999

As a prelude to the slide show, Terry Steele gave a very personal account of his transition from a professional trapper to that of naturalist photographer — when he decided that fur looked better on the animal than on a lady. His conversion to conservationist and resultant desire to “spread the message” lead to his overcoming extreme shyness (particularly with respect to public speaking). Terry’s new-found mission is effectively apparent in the technical and æsthetic quality of his photography. Anticipation of the latter must account for the very full house of Obsidians in attendance in spite of the stormy night.

Terry limited this show to an area of which he is particularly fond. These are the National Forests and Parks of the southwest that are on the border of or close to the Sonoran and Chihuahuan desert areas of Mexico (Big Bend National Park in west Texas and Coronado National Forest in the adjoining southern corners of New Mexico and Arizona). He has found the areas where the desert and forested habitat overlap to be particularly rewarding — where one might find a cactus growing close by a Douglas fir! Much of the scenery and wildlife is more typical of Mexico than the United States.

We were treated to a veritable feast of animal life — from tarantulas to desert mule deer. Two nice photographs were of two “collared” peccarys going full bore down a slope, and that of a hovering nectar-eating bat with its head deep into a flower (incidentally, the latter have been called “humming birds of the night”).

We were also shown quite a selection of different species of rattlesnakes and one poisonous lizard — hikers, watch your step! There are good hiking trails throughout, but some areas of Big Bend National Park suffer from a severe lack of drinking water.

We saw only a fraction of Terry Steele’s output, of course. His skill in capturing on film such a broad spectrum of animal life (which is usually on the move or in hiding) is enviable. It seems apparent that Terry acts on the advice of one of the inimitable Yogi Berra’s great ‘aphorisms’: “You can observe a lot by watching”.

Bep Fontana

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