Photographer Feature: A Student of Wildlife Photography

  By Evelyn Drake

75-year-old Don Mcvee is a self-proclaimed student of photography from Kelowna, and has been shopping with The Camera Store’s online department for nearly a decade. We came across his Flickr account while reviewing his order one day, and were struck by the diversity of the wildlife he has captured around the world. Don truly has a passion and eye for photography. I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his journey of making photographs.

Don bought his first serious camera in 1975, and for several years concentrated on black and white, processing his own film and prints. “I started with a Mamiya 500DTL and graduated to a Mamiya C330 medium format camera. In 1988, I became interested in wildlife photography and purchased a Nikon SLR and a Sigma 300mm lens. Since then I have owned a series of SLRs and DSLRs, and recently switched to Micro 4/3.”

When I asked him what he loves most about photography, he told me that he has always been a nature/wilderness freak. “Wildlife and landscape photography give me lots of opportunity to spend time in wild, natural places. Photography gives me an opportunity to express my love of nature and share it with others.” His approach is based on his love and respect for wild places, and would never bait animals for his photography. He gains the most joy from going to where the birds and animals live and photographing them there. Don respects photographers like Steve Perry and Art Wolfe, and is inspired to create photographs as good as theirs.

This photo of the leopard in the tree taken in Kenya in 2012 is one of his personal  favourites. “It is the photo that gave me the greatest thrill to capture and the greatest pride that I actually got it in focus, properly exposed and reasonably well composed. It is also a favourite because it shows the incredible beauty of animals in the wild along with the savage reality of the life of a carnivore.”

Of all the places Don has photographed from South Africa to the Galapagos, he would love to go back to Cape St George, Newfoundland one day. He had the opportunity to photograph Northern Gannets in flight, but did not have time to satisfy his wish for more and better images. He would also love to revisit Spillars Cove, Newfoundland, where he captured a variety of pictures of puffins, but very few in flight. He plans to go back to both of these places in the summer of 2018.

I asked Don, “if you were to go back in time to give yourself one tip, what would it be?” He said, “my tip to myself, and I hope I would be totally convincing, is to spend more time and money on learning photography (training courses, workshops etc) than on photo equipment. More on acquiring skill and less on acquiring the latest and greatest bit of kit.” One area of photography which he intends to explore further is macro photography. “I see this as an extension of my interest in wildlife photography but using different equipment and different techniques.”

What Don Packs in His Camera Bag:
Two Olympus OM-D E-M1 MkII bodies, Panasonic 100-400 mm lens, Olympus 40-150 mm f2.8 lens, Olympus 7-14 mm lens, Panasonic 12 -35mm f2.8 lens, Panasonic 14-140mm lens, Olympus MC14 1.4X teleconverter. Olympus FL-900R flash, spare SD cards, spare batteries and two battery chargers, Apple 12 inch MacBook, one 500GB portable hard drive, polarizer and protective clear filters in 58mm and 72mm size and Peak Design Slide strap. All of this fits into a LowePro Roller Lite AW 150 case.

The strangest non-photo item that always goes along is a small (6”) grey stuffed rabbit. This rabbit lived in our house for years and it was a bit of a game to hide it whenever you came across it. Our grand-children got into hiding it really well, and delighted in finding it in the same place on their next visit, or tearing the house apart looking for it. On a trip to Iceland five years ago my wife and I unpacked our luggage to find that “Bunny” had been carefully concealed in a shoe by our granddaughter. Ever since then, Bunny always goes on trips – photo or otherwise. 

To view more of Don’s work, you can check out his Flicker Collection Here


Evelyn Drake has been in the camera business since 2004. She has been involved in every aspect of The Camera Store's operations with a focus on marketing and event-based initiatives. She also hosts our YouTube channel The Camera Store TV.