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A month or so ago I was hired to take a portrait of Barry Rothfuss for Canadian Wildlife Magazine. Barry is the executive director of the Atlantic Wildlife Institute. If you have a few hours to spare, run his name through Google, he’s done some very interesting things throughout his life (former track star & a cross country trip with his mom, siblings & a Donkey named Donkey Oatie… to name a few) . AWI is located in Cookeville NB, about 20 minutes outside of Sackville. If I remember correctly the sign that welcomes you says: “population 22”.

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I came into the shoot knowing exactly the types of images I wanted to take. I did have a bit of an advantage because I had photographed there before for the National Film Board (check it out here) and I knew what the landscape looked like.  I had been given an idea of what the magazine was looking for, and planned to do some images with and without animals.

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Before heading down I chatted with Barry and asked if they had any bald eagles at the moment. That was one of the animals I knew I wanted to photograph him with. To be honest, being that close to a bald eagle is kind of freaky. It is a huge, extremely powerful bird. Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful and all, but I swear it was staring at me…. maybe it was just posing? Barry was quite relaxed, it obviously wasn’t his first time. At one point the bird starting snapping towards his face & he calmly controlled it.

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Atlantic Wildlife Institute is an entirely charitable organization. Here’s a little excert from their website to give you an idea of what they’ve been able to accomplish:

“aided by widespread corporate, foundation, and voluntary support, the organization has: Rescued, rehabilitated and released hundreds of orphaned, injured or displaced birds and mammals every year. Helped more than 100 ‘at risk’ young people get their lives back on track through life skills training and employment. Provide summer employment opportunities for students and internships. Shared the experience of working with wildlife with thousands of schoolchildren, members of community groups and casual visitors.”

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It’s truly amazing to see all the wonderful work that they do at AWI. It’s a 24hr/day job as they live on the land where the Institute is. When we arrived we were greeted by more than 50 ducks, one of the many animals that are cared for and rehabilitated. They do the work they do because they care more than you can imagine. When they talk about their work you can see how truly passionate they are about it. One of the many things that stuck with me was when Barry told me he could tell all the geese apart. All these geese, that looked pretty well identical me, were staying for the winter because one of their flock was unable to fly. How could he tell them apart? “if you get to know them well enough, it’s easy to tell them apart”, he said.

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I also wanted to get some photos of Barry with his wife Pam, who at one point was a furniture designer in New York. Throughout the whole shoot he kept saying “Pam should be in these photos too”, as he is quick to point out he is not the only one who makes AWI work. Together Barry and Pam built it from the ground up, with help from various people and organizations. They’re also 2 of the greatest people you’ll ever meet. My wife came along for the shoot to help, in case I needed someone to hold a light stand, and we chatted away with them throughout the shoot. I probably shot for a total of 45 minutes and we were there for over 2 1/2 hours.

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I had to wait until I received my copy of the magazine before I could put up this post. They have full rights to the image for a few months, and I wasn’t sure which one they were going to use (the image they used` obviously isn’t in this post). Believe me when I say that it was extremely hard for me to wait, I was really excited to share this post. Not just because of the images, but because I wanted to share a little bit of info about AWI and the wonderful people behind it. I think I’ve said this before but this is one of the many things I love about portrait photography: being able to meet amazing people that I may not meet otherwise.

Follow Atlantic Wildlife Institute on Facebook & Twitter.

You can read the article from the magazine here

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