March 22 • 04:49 AM

Holiday spirit spills into wildlife shots

Dryden woman uses planning, patience for Christmas cards

December 12, 2007
DRYDEN — For Dawn Kopp, it's all about the perfect shot—with a camera, that is.

The 38 year-old photographer has a passion for wildlife and nature that lights up the landscape every time she points her lens.

A dog groomer by day, Dawn transfers her patience with animals to her photography skills, spending several hours almost daily waiting in the early morning light for that perfect shot. Early evening is another time Dawn uses to become an invisible bystander in nature, hoping to capture its gentle beauty on film.

"They talk about husbands leaving wives to go hunting but for me it's the other way around," Dawn says.

As if he’s posing for the camera, ‘Bucky’ checks out holiday ornament. photo by Dawn Kopp.

It was Dawn's search for a perfect shot to use for Christmas cards that led her to an early 'hunting' season in October.

At the suggestion of her boss, Oxford Mills veterinarian Dr. Richard Wojciechowski, she decided to decorate the pine trees in her Lake George Road yard in early October.

"He said 'You should dress up your trees with ornaments and get pictures to make Christmas cards," Dawn says. "So I set some ornaments out and the deer just came right up to see what they were."

And Dawn was there to capture the moments.

Waiting in a little shed her husband Erich built to house Dawn's geese, Dawn peered patiently through her camera lens and popped off several perfect shots. The curious deer who stopped by included a pair she's photographed for the past four years— 'Bucky,' an eight point buck and 'Nanny,' a fertile doe.

"As a yearling, Bucky would bed down in my backyard and watch me clean out my horse pen. I would always say hi to him," Dawn grins. "He has never been that afraid of me. I admire his beauty and I always feel grateful for the opportunity to photograph him."

Nanny has also demonstrated a trusting tolerance of Dawn's presence. Named because she produces triplets every year, Dawn says she's equally honored every time she captures Nanny through her lens.

"The past three years I have seen her with three fawns at her heels. She lets me get about 10 feet from her before she walks off," Dawn says. "I have photographed her and Bucky for four years now. What a thrill!"

Dawn says she almost stumbled into her photography sideline—noticing that she had some luck with a simple 'point and shoot' camera. She decided to hone her skills by taking a few classes through Rod Planck Photography. Based in the upper peninsula, Planck is nationally known for his landscape and wildlife photography and offers seminars throughout the country. After taking the first one, Dawn says she was hooked.

"I learned a lot about lighting and how important that is—that early morning 'butter light,'" Dawn says. "He also teaches ethics, and those are if you don't see it in the camera, don't fix it on the computer. "

Dawn found herself taking those lessons to heart when she photographed the deer around her decorated trees.

"I was waiting for that 'butter light' in the morning and praying for the deer to come up," she says. "I was shocked at how good the photos came out. As soon as the trees were decorated it seemed to bring in more deer to look at them."

That's when she also got what she calls 'the Monet' of all photos—Bucky standing next to a decorated tree, antlers aglow in the soft morning light.

"That's the most elegant shot," Dawn says. "I like them all, but that one by far is my best—the one I waited for."

Dawn's images now grace the cover of a number of unique Christmas cards bearing warm holiday greetings. They're available for purchase at the Country Smoke House and the Country Corner in Almont and at Oxford Mills Animal Clinic in Oxford.

All of Dawn Kopp's images are shot with a Canon 20D digital camera using a 75-300 mm lens or an 85 mm lens.

She and Erich have lived in Dryden for seven years.

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