Photographer banking on wildlife showing up

Deborah Dickinson is a very successful hobbyist photographer, taking photos of local wildlife like this black bear.

To hear Deborah Dickinson tell it, wildlife photography is a cinch.

For her, maybe.

For most casual picture-takers, wildlife photos tend to be rare, distant and grainy.

Dickinson’s shots are up-close and personal of critters many folks rarely see in the wild.

Dickinson was born in California when her father was in the service and grew up in the Berwick community of her ancestral Amite County. She attended Liberty Attendance Center, switching to Amite School Center in her last year before graduating in 1971.

After that, “I’ve done so many things,” said Dickinson, citing such jobs as hair dresser and real estate appraiser and broker in Baton Rouge and elsewhere.

Now she is vice president of Delta Bank in Natchez — and an avid wildlife photographer in her off hours.

She posts her photos on Facebook, and observers would never guess she’s a relative novice to photography.

“I’ve always been interested in it and never really took the time to learn,” Dickinson said. “At the end of 2019 I decided I’m going to do this and get a decent camera and learn.”

She started with a Canon T7i, later got a Sony A7R4 and is now looking forward to the new Sony A1. She uses a Sony 200-600mm zoom lens, most of the time set at 600mm.

“I’m usually photographing animals you can’t get close to,” she said.

Dickinson owns 17 acres on St. Catherine Creek adjacent to the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians, and that’s where she takes most of her pictures.

“I love animals. I love being outside. I love outdoors. I love animals better than people,” she said.

Also, “I love learning new things. One of the things I love about photography, you’re always learning.”

Asked about her methods of getting within camera range of so many critters — deer, turkeys, bear, bobcats, foxes, owls, eagles and much more — Dickinson laughs.

“I hear that a lot. People say, ‘I want to follow you around.’ ”

A big part of her success is location.

“I can sit on the creek and put up a little pop-up tent sometimes. I really don’t have to have that if I just sit still,” she said, noting her positions tend to be elevated.

“I had a big tent, but it was too hard to fold, so I got a little Walmart $30 pop-up blind,” she said.

She also rides the Mississippi River levees and visits places like a friend’s farm outside Tallulah, La., as well as Cocodrie and Tensas River national wildlife refuges in Louisiana.

Mostly she just goes to the creek in the afternoon.

She typically wears a camouflaged shirt and dark pants, but no scent or face-paint.

“I can just sit on the creek and you just never know,” she said.

“If go down on the creek, it might be three hours. I just sit there. I just enjoy it. It’s quiet time.”

She likes the anticipation of the unknown, “kind of like when I used to like to fish — ‘the next cast, the next cast,’ ” she said.

“You sit there long enough, quiet enough, something’s going to come out, and I feel like it’s gifts from God.”

She pays attention to the direction of the wind, which can carry her scent and alert critters.

Lighting is a factor, too, particularly since some animals are more likely to appear at dawn or dusk.

“I just have to make sure I do a real slow shutter speed,” Dickinson said. “That’s a big problem sometimes. They’re too far away to use a flash.”

Different animals react differently.

“Deer, if they see movement, they’re gone,” Dickinson said.

At the other extreme is a bobcat.

“He walks out and it’s like he’s looking at me,” Dickinson said. “Most of the time he doesn’t act like I’m there. It’s pretty cool.”

She doesn’t carry a gun — doesn’t feel like she needs one.

“Raised in the woods in Amite County, I grew up going in the woods all my life,” Dickinson said. “You should be scared in the city. Nothing out there’s going to hurt you. I’m not scared of wildlife — I’m scared of people.”

She hasn’t tried to profit from her photos but hasn’t ruled it out.

“I’d love to find a way to make money,” she said.

Meanwhile, Dickinson relies on quality equipment, good location and simple perseverance.

“Perseverance is a thing I have,” she said. “I don’t have any quitting.”

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