Wildlife photographer Allen Norby has taken a hobby and turned it into an award-winning passion

Allen Norby, dressed in camouflage, carefully hiked along a leafy path, scanning left and right for signs of motion in the woods at E.E. Wilson Wildlife Area.

He’s always been a hunter, and, in a way, he always will be. It’s just that the silver-haired 70-year-old shoots with a camera nowadays.

Norby’s approach to wildlife photography is the same as hunting, he said.

“I’m very patient. In a tree stand, I’d sit from daylight to 10 o’clock in the morning,” said the North Albany resident.

Although Norby took plenty of pictures of the Far East while he was in the Navy, as well as of Robert Kennedy at a whistle stop in Albany, his photography hobby started in earnest in 2004.

That’s when he quit archery hunting.

Norby stopped drawing a bow because of a bum shoulder, but he still went along with friends on his annual Eastern Oregon hunting trip.

He brought along his new digital camera, captured a cougar’s image, and shared his story and pictures back at camp.

“I really got hooked,” he said. So he started taking photographs of birds around Albany like he was collecting each species.

“At first, I wasn’t focusing on the quality of the picture. I just wanted to get a picture,” he said.

Now, Norby has photos of 115 species of birds within 10 miles of his house, some of which he hadn’t even known existed, and some of which are uncommon for the Willamette Valley.

“That makes it fun. It’s like a treasure hunt,” Norby said.

His skill with a camera and the quality of his images have improved over time. And he carries a camera almost everywhere he goes.

Even though Norby has photographed foxes, otters and mink, he’d love to get more pictures of mammals.

“I’ve discovered there are a lot more birds around. Everywhere you go, there are birds,” Norby said.

While Norby gets a kick out of wildlife photography, his wife, Patricia, isn’t too sure about the hobby.

“As far as she’s concerned, I’m addicted,” Norby said with a laugh.

Cameras, lenses and gear are expensive, and Norby also spends a lot of time with photography.

Once or twice a week, he heads out on field trips for a few hours, usually in the mid-morning to E.E. Wilson, which is only four miles from his house. He’s so familiar with that landscape that he knows some birds’ favorite perches, or the hollow snag a screech owl will peer out from.

Norby said he’s wired to immediately finish projects, so after each shoot, he sorts through pictures, selects keepers and polishes those with Photoshop.

Norby has achieved acclaim for his wildlife photographs, with showings, awards and some of his art selected for Audubon Society calendars in Oregon.

Noted painters also have bought prints as the basis for their artwork, and an upcoming exhibit is scheduled for Oregon State University’s Center for the Humanities in the spring.

The retiree has had a little bit more time for photography now that his youngest granddaughter is in college.

The Norbys raised three children, Michelle, Scott and Todd. The youngest had just left the house when Michelle, by then Michelle Lavin, was killed in a murder-suicide in 1999.

In the aftermath, the couple raised their grandchildren, who were 8 and 5 at the time. Norby said it was almost like starting over as a parent.

Chelsey Lavin now is a senior at Oregon State University. Megan Lavin is a freshman at Linn-Benton Community College. Both graduated from West Albany High School and played water polo there.

And, of course, Norby took photos at all their matches and plenty of other Bulldog sporting events.

“I like to photograph anything, really.”

To view Allen Norby’s wildlife photography, go to www.ajnorby.fotki.com/wildlife-1/

Kyle Odegard covers public safety for the D-H. He can be contacted at 541-812-6077 or kyle.odegard@lee.net.

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