The Loon Guy & the National Geographic Photographer

I had been photographing the Common Loon (Gavia immer), the state bird of Minnesota for several years. I lived in the town of Walker on Leech Lake the third largest lake in the state. I had a number of images that I was selling around town as well as through my agency in Minneapolis. What I did not know was that some local residents were starting to refer to me as the “Loon Guy”. When I heard this I took it as a compliment.

Then one cold winter evening while I was having a bite to eat in a local restaurant a friend came up to me and informed me that “some guy from National Geographic” was looking for me. As you might imagine this got my attention rather quickly. I asked what his name was, and my friend replied “not sure but he had two or three cameras around his neck”. Should not be too difficult to find him in a town of roughly 998 people, it did not take very long.

There he was standing by the bar in a local watering hole talking to  a guy nursing a beverage. I introduced myself a to a very unassuming gentleman with 3 cameras around his neck. As we visited he explained that he was working on an article for National Geographic on the Lake Country, and he was hoping to get some images of a nesting loon and heard I could help him out. He said he would be back in the spring and would like to go out on the lake with me. I was more than happy to guide him and we made plans to connect the next spring.

The next few months could not have gone by any slower with the anticipation of the experience of shooting with a National Geographic photographer. Eventually the last of the snow and ice melted and spring was finally upon us. I put the boat in the water and began scouting out nests  and found that a favorite pair of Loons had built their nest in almost the same area as the prior year.

Right on schedule the phone rang and we arranged our first outing for the next evening. As we made our way out to the nest I discovered that he had been working for the Geographic since before I was born. Even though he had been with the magazine a good many of years, he was very down to earth and humble. We both captured some great images of the nesting loons that evening. We went out a couple of more times and managed to bump in to each other from time to time that summer.

The article “Time at the Lake”, was published about a year later. It was not long before news came that he had decided to turn the article into a book. As a young boy growing up in Minneapolis his family would spend “Time at the Lake” every summer like many midwesterners. We would continue to occasionally bump into each other, Like the 4th of July Parade we were both walking backwards photographing and ran into each other.

One day I hope to bump into my friend William Albert Allard again.