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Florida Wild Life, Not Just for Humans!

Florida Wild Life, Not Just for Humans!

Florida Wild Life, Not Just for Humans! – Photographer Robert Steagall

Article by: Angelina Assanti –  

In a world where “Florida Man” dominates headlines, one local man is proving that Florida Wild Life should refer to animals, not to its human counterparts.

Robert Steagall (rhymes with eagle) has been capturing Florida wildlife since 2015. With the loss of his father, Robert decided to do something he had never done before – pick up a camera. Not only did he find this a coping mechanism, but he found his real passion – photography. 

“I picked up a camera on a whim. Something told me to do it. I had never even taken photos with a cell phone. Once I started, there was no going back. Photography combines communing with nature and creation. Capturing the emotion of animals in their natural environment is very special. Going out on a nature adventure has always been my favorite.”

His portfolio includes my favorite “Heart Series,” which consists of the Roseate Spoonbills in a posture of their wings in a heart-shaped stance. Roseates are the only spoonbill that isn’t white. And like flamingos, they gain their color from their diet – which consists of shrimp and small invertebrates. 

One of these birds’ best viewing areas is in southwest Florida at J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. It is home to more than 245 different bird species. If you make the trip, there are walking, hiking, kayaking, and other activities onsite. And the trail is ADA-accessible. 

Included for your perusal in this article are also a perfectly-timed eagle drinking water and a mid-air jump from a young panther. But Robert’s photos range from flowers to waterfalls. 

Though Robert does not currently work as a photographer, he easily could. As a paralegal with a finance background, he has been working at Gartner since 2000. He plans on focusing full-time on photography when he retires. However, Robert spends all his free time in nature. 

When I asked him about his connection with nature, this is what he had to say:

“I have always connected to wildlife. I think they know I am friendly and am there just to observe and be observed.”

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Since Robert is self-taught, he has grown a lot from the beginning of his photographic journey. He confesses he is his own worst critic. He credits his ability to capture the perfect shot on patience; all of his sessions are unscheduled and just happen. On advice for beginning photographers, this is what Robert had to offer:

“Safely get as close as possible to your subject without bothering the wildlife. Learn your camera and its settings. Be present in the moment and their world as an observer. Animals can sense your emotions, so it’s best to be calm and happy.”

Robert said that he doesn’t plan his shoots around the weather – which can be tricky in Florida. But he likes to capture unexpected moments in the rain. He has also started photographing lightning, which has become popular on the internet. 

Instinct has become an excellent tool for Robert’s work, so I asked Robert to share a special moment from one of his impromptu sessions. 

“I was in Okaloacoochee Slough State Park in Hendry County. This was back in October 2016. I was headed to the back of the park. I was almost at the back of the park, and something told me to turn around. I had goosebumps on my arms. So, I turned around about 3 miles later, parked my car on the dirt roadside, and proceeded to walk the dirt road. As I rounded the corner, a huge male panther was staring at me about 50 feet away. These animals (in my experience) are very skittish. He stared me down, then proceeded to gallop then jump over bushes. This was after he let me get several photos. It was an amazing experience. I knew photography was my passion at that moment.”

Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest is located approximately 30 miles east of Fort Myers. This park has a fascinating history in that it was logged in the early 1900s to make the crossties for the southwest Florida railway system. 

I asked Robert if he felt his photos tell a story. 

“Nature tells the story I capture on digital media. In that sense, yes, they do tell a story. The eyes are the emotive engine of the soul. If you can look at a picture and imagine what story it tells, you have accomplished your goal of pulling your audience into that world.”

Robert is available for hire but focuses strictly on wildlife and landscapes. 

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