The work of some of the area’s finest waterfowl photographers is on display at the Colusa County Arts Council, which held an artists’ reception earlier this month. Among the featured photographers offering their take on duck season in the North Valley are Sam Etchepare, John Simlick, Amy Bullen, Brenda Bebensee, Sue Graue, and Neil Cotter.
“Each of these photographers offered a unique perspective on waterfowl season,” said Colusa County Arts Council member Sheryl Goodman. “For example, I really wanted to have Amy Mullen and John Simlick featured because their photography focuses on their dogs. Other photographers focused on the landscape during duck season, and many of them had an emphasis on the birds themselves.”
Of all the photographers featured, Brenda Bebensee has the greatest number of photos on display. Many of her pictures were taken at the North Valley’s various refuges, from Grey Lodge to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Others were taken at a local hatchery, which is part of the California Waterfowl Association’s Egg Salvage Program.
“I started taking (waterfowl photos) about five years ago,” said Bebensee, who lives in Butte County. “I spend a lot of time out there. I have 8,000 pictures on my memory card, so I spend a lot of time searching for them. I enjoy it, and I think we really need to get some of the youth involved.”
The most experienced waterfowl photographer of the bunch is Sue Graue, who estimates that she has taken hundreds of thousands of waterfowl photographs in the last 17 years.
“I started out in the year 2000, around Colusa County,” Graue said. “It was film days. I got my first digital in 2006, and I’ve lived out at the Colusa Refuge for 10 years or so, so I’ve had a lot of opportunities to see wonderful season changes and migrations. These are just a few of my favorites from out there.”
Cotter said he got his start in photography in high school – his school offered a photography class, which he took in all four years. He said that his favorite medium is black and white, but added that it was really hard to get duck prints and turn them into black and white.
“I had a bad day one day, and decided I was going to swing out to the refuge, and my camera was in the car,” Cotter said. “I found kind of a new passion. It’s still not my favorite (subject to shoot), but it’s hard to beat the beauty of the waterfowl that we have around here.”
According to Goodman, the work of the various waterfowl photographers will remain on display for the rest of the month, and possibly into next month, if popular demand so dictates. Around 40 prints are still up for sale. Ten percent of all proceeds go to the Colusa County Arts Council. ■