Pamela Cather was teaching psychology at Heartland Community College when she decided to take a free class in digital photography. That was all it took to set her on off on a new career behind the lens.
Cather’s work has recently been on view at the McLean County Arts Center in Bloomington as part of the exhibition, “Prairie to Peak.” Initially working as a portrait photographer, Cather was soon wooed to take her camera outdoors to capture the wildlife in her own backyard.
“About six years ago we moved out to Lake Bloomington. We had only been there a week and I was just looking out the window at the lake and all of the sudden I just started screaming at my husband, 'There’s a pelican outside!’ We get every spring for sure and sometimes in the fall one hundred or more white American pelicans that come through. They’re gorgeous and I fell in love with them. And I realized that I needed a better lens on my camera.”
Cather’s work in the show features the wildlife that she photographed exclusively at Lake Bloomington. “I wanted people to see that there’s a lot of beauty around us in this area, if you just look.”
“Part of me just likes the hunt,” Cather said. “Sometimes I just look outside and realize the light is really pretty and I go to see what I can find. Sometimes I look for a certain species that I know will be in a certain area. It’s nice to ge a photo of a bird on a stick. But you can have only so many of those. So, I do try to find them behaving in some sort of behavior or displaying some sort of personality.”
Cather’s forays around Lake Bloomington not only result in photos, but the artist also learns about animal behavior in the wild. One of her photos depicts a fox over the body of a freshly killed squirrel.
“It was a very young fox and the mother was teaching her brood how to hunt. At this stage, they don’t eat meat; it’s a toy. I watched them and it was like what my dog did with his toys, pulling them around and shaking them but actually not eating them.”
“The next week I saw that they had one that had been partially eaten. The mother was putting it with them and paying tug of war with them. Just seeing this process of the mother training them to be able to take care of themselves was very fun and interesting.”
Cather captures many birds in her work and has discovered the secret to photographing the fast-moving hummingbird.
“Hummingbirds are actually easy to photograph if you’re patient. Hummingbirds will come to the feeder and if you come out they’ll fly away. But if you sit very still, they’ll realize you’re not a threat and start to come back.”
Not so with cardinals or blue jays. “They don’t come back, but the hummingbirds will.”
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