Photographer sees ospreys from special perspective

Hunter Wade stands by his drone photographs, which are on display at Zero Degrees Gallery in Marquette. Wade is the gallery’s September/October Guest Artist. (Journal photo by Christie Mastric)

MARQUETTE — What better way to get a bird’s-eye view of an osprey nest than to use a drone — especially when it doesn’t bother the birds?

Hunter Wade of Negaunee, who is the September/October Guest Artist at Zero Degrees Gallery in Marquette and recently winner of the “Best New Artist” title at Art on the Rocks,, specializes in drone photography, particularly ospreys nesting at Lake LeVasseur in Chocolay Township.

Wade spoke about his work during a Saturday reception for him at the gallery, located at 525 N. Third St.

He said is involved in videography with his Yooper Soul Productions, but his interest expanded.

“I had a drone in the sky that had a camera, so I started taking pictures, and then I found that I enjoyed it,” Wade said. “I stuck with it. It just surprised me. It wasn’t the plan.”

A person looking at some of his drone photography work on display at Zero Degrees might notice some of it looks stylized.

“I made a decision to lean into the fact that images are representative,” Wade said. “They’re a concept.”

He said images are never going to look like their subject.

“They’re never going to look like the thing itself,” Wade said. “So I was like, why am I toiling, attempting to make it look exactly like the thing itself, especially because nobody sees the thing itself the same way?”

It’s a matter of perspective.

“I would think I”m making it the way other people see it, but I would still would be making it the way I see it,” Wade said.

However, he wouldn’t get what he called “the goods.”

For instance, one of his osprey photographs at the gallery was printed on brushed metal. Another one was layered over with acrylic.

Those techniques give the works a unique look.

“The pictures that I get already have a lot of clarity and texture,” Wade said. “I have a really cool tool that works well in the drone that I use.”

Wade has a plan with his drone photos.

“What I’m aiming for is to leverage what’s unreal in the look to create a more real experience,” Wade said.

Why ospeys?

“I didn’t necessarily love ospreys before, but I’ve fallen in love with ospreys through the process,” he said. “It was just novel that I happened upon these raptors.”

Wade wanted to start out with taking pictures of swans, but he discovered their behavior was too aggressive for his presence.

However, he acknowledged having a a bit of trepidation with following the raptors.

“I thought, ‘I am going to get footage? No, they’re going to eat my drone,'” Wade said.

That didn’t happen, he noted, with the ospreys getting used to the drone sound and realizing it wasn’t going to attack them.

Wade did, though, put some thought into the process.

“I very much took the perspective of the bird from the get-go,” Wade said.

As with many photographers, he had to search his inventory to find the right photos.

“They rarely look at the drone,” Wade said of the ospreys. “I have to go through tons of photos to find a picture where they’re facing the camera.”

Over time, Wade was able to get his drone within a few feet of an osprey nest.

“At the end of this year, the nestling knew the drone had been there from the time it was an egg, whereas last year, I didn’t start showing up until the nestlings were, I don’t know, halfway through their cycle,” Wade said. “So, this nestling knew nothing outside of the drone as part of the world. Oh — and news flash — it doesn’t know it’s a drone.”

Thus, spying into their window wasn’t a big concern for the nestlings.

The osprey as a species, according to the Michigan Natural Features Inventory, is a large hawk, measuring 22 to 25 inches, with long, narrow wings, dark brown upper parts and white under parts. Its head is white with a dark eye streak, and the dark “wrist” patches on the underside of its wings are visible in flight.

Female ospreys may have dark streaking around their necks and immature bards have pale buff edging on the dark feathers of their upper surface.

Wade, through his drone photography, also learned about osprey behavior.

“They communicate a lot with one another,” he said. “They’re super clean, just ridiculously clean. They’re bathing themselves all the time. They, from birth, know how to poop outside of the nest, and they do.”

Zero Degrees Gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 550. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.


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