A wild hobby takes flight for IDT chemist.
Timing can mean everything for a successful wildlife photographer. For Dean Hester, a Tech II in IDT’s Chemical Processing division, that was epitomized back in August, 2018 during a trip to Maine.
Hester, who became interested in wildlife photography while studying at the University of Iowa, had headed north from Boston to go on a whale watch when he came across an online story about an extremely rare bird sighting in southern Maine.
“It said that a young and apparently very lost Great Black Hawk had been seen in the area,” he recounted. “It’s a beautiful, pure-black hawk that usually calls the Amazon rain forest its home but this one had gone far off course and was spotted on the coast of Maine, only 15 minutes from where I was staying!”
According to the American Birding Association, the hawk was confirmed to be the same one that had been spotted four months earlier on South Padre Island off the southern tip of Texas. Hester’s timing couldn’t have been better.
The hawk’s magnificent journey, unfortunately, came to a sad end. A few months later, in the middle of a harsh New England winter, it suffered frostbite and had to be euthanized. It was mounted and set for display at the Maine State Museum in Augusta.
The encounter was the type that fuels many birders and wildlife photographers, of which Hester is both.
Hester, who shoots with a Nikon D7200 DSLR and a Tamron 150-600mm lens, said it isn’t necessary to travel far from IDT’s headquarters to photograph some other rare birds.
"The diversity of birds is a boon to the photographer, with more than 400 beautiful species of birds found in Iowa alone," he said. "It's a never-ending source of photographic challenge and inspiration to capture them all. I often describe birdwatching at real-world Pokémon to those who question how it can be so entertaining.
"I have a bit of a 'collector personality,'" he said. "I keep track of each new species I see. I'm currently at around 750 species of animals, from blue whales off the coast of San Diego to bald eagles here in Iowa City. Some of my favorites that I've photographed are West Indian manatees, timber rattlesnakes, fin whales, green jays, black bears, and numerous other birds. The rarest I've ever photographed in Iowa is probably the blue-spotted salamander, which is only found in two locations in the state, and both locations aren't much bigger than a football field."
To view or purchase his work, visit the Hester Wildlife Photography on Facebook.