Capturing nature on the fly

By JOHN HOWELL
Posted 8/5/20

David Chartier is a hunter. His preferred target is birds, although he’s shot deer, squirrels, fish, foxes and even crabs.

His choice of weapons is a Canon digital camera armed with a fixed …

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Capturing nature on the fly

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David Chartier is a hunter. His preferred target is birds, although he’s shot deer, squirrels, fish, foxes and even crabs.

His choice of weapons is a Canon digital camera armed with a fixed 400mm lens, which he says gives him the sharpest images. He also uses a 60 to 600mm Sigma lens with image stabilizer, as it provides him greater flexibility.
But cameras are not what Chartier is all about. It’s wildlife and capturing it as it is naturally.
That doesn’t always make for a postcard pretty picture. And sometimes the images defy what seem to be the logical laws of nature, such as a mocking bird attacking a fearsome red tail hawk or, as Chartier believes the same hawk that he spotted flying over Buckeye Brook as West Shore Road in Warwick, being chased by a trio of red wing blackbirds. We don’t know the end of the story, but it’s a safe guess the hawk is fine although it is likely to have moved residences.
“I just love it,” Chartier says of his pursuit of the wild in the midst of suburbia.
Ever since he was a kid, Chartier was interested in photography, but it was lung cancer that introduced to digital photography.
More accurately it was his daughter, Renee, who teaches photography in California, that got him taking pictures. Soon after being diagnosed and leaving his job of 30 years with the post office, she convinced him he should pursue his interest in photography. He bought a used Canon 10D. That was 14 years ago.
Chartier doesn’t hide in blinds and he rarely uses a tripod. Most of his photographs are taken for a car window.
“As long as you stay in the car wildlife is not afraid of you,” he said. He brings along a bag filled with rice or beans that he’ll place under the camera as it rests on the window frame for a stabilizer.
One of his favorite hunting grounds is Arnold’s Neck in Warwick, where the road runs alongside Apponaug Cove. He’s captured a wide range of waterfowl from ducks to egrets and osprey diving and catching fish. He shares his pictures with friends and family on Facebook and on occasion will submit them for the city of Warwick calendar or share them with the Warwick Beacon.
He gets favorable reviews. That was until the picture he snapped earlier this summer while visiting his son who lives in Johnston on Slack Pond. Chartier brought along his camera planning to photograph the high hanging oriole nest he saw on an earlier visit.
As he looked around the yard, spotting a great blue heron standing perfectly still. It was on the hunt.
Chartier was instantly intrigued, because instead of standing at the pond’s edge where one would expect a heron, the bird was focused on a shed used to store fishing and boating gear. He didn’t know what to expect, but he wanted to be ready. In a split second, the bird struck at something under a corner of the shed and pulled it out.
Chartier couldn’t think what it might be. He kept his lens on the bird as it walked to the pond and dunked its catch. Only then did he see that the heron had snatched a baby chipmunk from its nest. He caught the image.
Some of his friends on Facebook questioned if he had tried to save the chipmunk. They had never questioned whether he had sought to save fish from the beaks of egrets or the claws of eagles.
Chartier admits he was “shocked” yet when he thought about it he wouldn’t have intervened.
It’s the heron’s dinner.
This is nature and he never knows what he’ll capture.

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