By Cal Braid
Sunny South News
The Birds of Prey Centre recently decorated the gallery in their Natural History Building with the wildlife photography of Clive Schaupmeyer.
Schaupmeyer was born in England and lived there until he was eight years old. He moved to Alberta as a boy and settled in Coaldale in 1999. He lives across the street from the Birds of Prey Centre and references the Creedence Clearwater Revival song “Looking Out my Back Door” as a suitable soundtrack and title for his photography display.
“I was an agronomist and have degrees from the University of Alberta and the University of Guelph,” he explained. “I worked for a public research agency out of Brooks. The last 25 years of my career, I was a potato agronomist.”
In 1997, he released a book entitled The Essential Guide to Fly-Fishing. “It was a good book. It was fun to write,” he said. “It was hard work and it was well-received. So, I’m an agronomist, a fly-fisherman, and a photographer. I don’t fly-fish as much as I should anymore.”
“I got my first camera when I was 12, just a ‘Mickey Mouse’ plastic one. I’ve been taking pictures ever since. I’ve been a Minolta/Sony guy for 54 years, and they make good stuff. Taking photos is good for the mind and soul. If I take a really good picture, it makes me happy.”
He gave a one-on-one guided tour of his gallery at the Centre and described the species and locations in each shot. Many of them were taken on the grounds of the Centre, others were from locations in southern Alberta, and one was from the Northwest Territories. A Nov. 29, 2020, shot of the evening sky over the Centre’s wetlands is stunning, and he explains, “there was no colour manipulation done,” just some contrast tweaking.
Aside from the pictures on the wall, the TV screen in the gallery room will also be running a slideshow of his work. Schaupmeyer and Colin Weir, manager at the BOP Centre, have discussed selling the pictures once they have been on display for a while. Weir would like the collection to remain intact for now. When they decide to price and sell the pictures, Schaupmeyer said, “I don’t want the money. The money can go to the Birds of Prey.” He donated the pictures to the Centre, and the cost for printing was about $3,000, which Weir paid for. Several of his pictures were already featured on the interpretive signs throughout the grounds.
Most of the photos on display are of birds, and Schaupmeyer said, “I like to take pictures of birds because they’re a challenging subject. I consider myself to be an amateur photographer with an interest in birds, versus a birder.” Amateur isn’t the word that comes to mind when you enter the gallery though.
As for his equipment, he noted, “I’ve got some reasonably good camera gear. I am currently shooting with a Sony A7III, full-frame, mirrorless camera. I use two smaller lenses for scenery, general photography, and night-sky photos. For wildlife, I use a Sony G series, 200 to 600-mm telephoto lens.”
Getting even more specific, he said, “The last photo (taken last night) with this current camera body, purchased in March 2018, was number 127,120 — a bit crazy. Some say it is way too many and others say, ‘Is that all?’ It takes a lot of clicks to get one good flying-bird photo…something like one good one for every 100 or 200 shots.”
Despite his expertise and knowledge, he’s not a picture or gear snob, and has a little bit of advice and encouragement for other photographers. “The only person that the camera gear should make happy is the person taking the picture. Whether you’ve got a cell phone, a $100 point and shoot, or a $10,000 outfit; if it makes you happy, that’s the way it should be. We do this to relax and maybe to escape from the insanity in the world. Heaven knows there’s enough of that.”
His attachment to his photography is evident, and he seems very happy to share it with others. “There are a lot of very good photographers in the Lethbridge area who have good equipment and know how to use it. They take amazing photos. I’m a little embarrassed because there are better photographers around than me. I’m flattered that Colin would ask for me to put up a display; it’s an honour to me, and I thank him very much. I’m fortunate to live across the road from the BOP wetlands and ponds. They’ve provided many hours of enjoyment and recreation for me, and I’m pleased to share images from these wetlands and surrounding areas.”
Schaupmeyer can be found on social media, and you can visit his gallery for the price of admission to the Birds of Prey Centre.