(OSHKOSH, Wis.)-Wildlife photographer John Van Den Brandt stood still. Ensnared by a cactus, unable to free himself and unwilling to make any noise that might scare away the rare elf owl he had come to photograph, Van Den Brandt waited, hoping his guide would notice Van Den Brandt was no longer trailing him through the dark Sonoran Desert.
“I felt like an insect in a Web,” Van Den Brandt recalled.
A few moments later, he heard rustling. His guide, recently retired from the Arizona Fish and Game, was doubling back to find and free him, his tripod, camera and a telephoto lens from the thorny vegetation. As they continued through the inky darkness, his guide let out a series of soft barks and squawks, inviting the rare elf owls for a chat. The response was unmistakable.
A tiny 5″ elf owl, no larger than a child’s fist, was perched atop a giant saguaro, looking for scorpions, insects and reptiles to dine on. The bird peeked out of its cactus perch, allowing Van Den Brandt to take his shot.
This is just one of the images in the exclusive 2008 4imprint Wildlife Calendar, available at www.4imprint.com/exclusivecalendar. For each image, Van Den Brandt profiles his adventures snapping the shots.
For bald eagle and short-eared owl shots, Van Den Brandt braved frigid temperatures-as cold as -15° Fahrenheit-waiting for the perfect frame. In one resulting image, even the short-eared owl looks cold as it fluffs its fur, catching air in its wings and showing off its Ugg-like-booted feet.
“Their feathers are different than most birds,” Van Den Brandt explained. “The furry leggings make their claws silent. When they are diving down, you don’t hear any whistling noise. This makes them stealth hunters.”
In another cold-weather image, a bald eagle is captured in flight, with a freshly-caught fish in its talons. The photograph, taken along Wisconsin’s Fox River, took three hours of standing outside in -20° temperatures.
“When I finished, I could hardly feel the camera in my hands,” Van Den Brandt said.
The nature photographer’s dedication shows. The wildlife calendar, which features shots from Arizona to Florida, Montana and Wisconsin, features photography that is beautiful and unexpected.
“Some nature calendars feature photographs taken at game farms,” Van Den Brandt said. “This is authentic nature photography, where you see animals as they are, hunting, eating, perching and observing.”
The full-color appointment calendars are available for imprint with an organization’s logo, in quantities as low as 100, with pricing from $1.29 to $1.98 each. The limited edition calendars can be ready-to-ship in 11 days, and are available while supplies last. To order, visit www.4imprint.com/calendar.