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Wildlife photographer Lott enjoys 'shooting' animals
Rick Lott
Rick Lott holds a copy of his book that features a stunning photograph of Yellowstone National Park’s Grand Prismatic Spring. The brilliant colors arise from minerals in the heated water. - photo by Photo submitted
To do what I’m doing with wildlife photography, you don’t go for ten or fifteen minutes and get what you want.
Rick Lott

RINCON — Rick Lott is a crack shot whose prey has nothing to fear. He is deadly with a camera, not a gun.

 “When I start talking about photography, I’ve learned to be aware of my audience,” Lott joked. “When I say, ‘I am going out to shoot something,’ people might get the wrong idea.”

 Lott, 65, has been enamored with wildlife photography for five decades. Some of his best recent images are featured in a new book, Rick Lott Nature Photography.

“I think it includes 71 pictures,” he said. “These are more current. I’ve got literally thousands of negatives and other images.”

Some might say Lott is a natural when it comes to taking pictures.

“I took my first photo class when I was a junior in high school in California,” he said. “That was quite an experience. It really opened my eyes and got something going inside me that caused me to want to continue to pursue it.

“Since then, I have loved photography.”

Lott developed his skills during the age of film cameras and was slow to warm to digital models.

“I swore they would have to drag me kicking and screaming off of film,” he said. “I finally did and there has been no looking back. The quality of digital photography now is just amazing.”

Even before he retired a few years ago, Lott, the former chairman of the Effingham County Chamber of Commerce, always made time for photography.

“(When I worked for the chamber), I got to where I would keep my camera in the car with me,” he said. “There was one house along my route that — every now and then — that I would see wild turkeys in the yard. When I’d see them on Highway 21, I would pull over, try to be as careful as I could, get the camera out and shoot as much as I could until they went away.

“Effingham County is a great place for that kind of thing. You can see wild turkeys on your way to church. You just never know what you are going to see.”

Lott’s pursuit of wild animals in their native habitat has taken him to some of the world’s most beautiful locales, including Machu Picchu, an ancient Incan City high in the Andes Mountains of Peru.

“That was amazing,” he said. “You wonder about places like that. Are they really magical or is it just a lot of hype?

“That place is for real.”

Lott encountered chinchillas, llamas and alpacas while in Peru. In Alaska where his two daughters live, he has photographed seals, sea lions, bison, grizzlies, otters, puffins, elks, moose, reindeer and more.

“I like to learn about the animals and one of my favorite things to do is to keep up with fellow photographers from around the country,” Lott said. “I like to see what they are shooting and what they can tell us about the animals’ activities and what they’ve seen. That can help you find a particular animal out in the wild because you can see what other people have posted.”

One of Lott’s preferred spots to view wild animals isn’t far away. 

“My favorite in the general area is the Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge in South Carolina,” he said. “It’s just at the end of Bluffton before you cross the (U.S. Hwy 278) bridge and get into Hilton Head (Island.)”

Nearly 67 percent of the 4,053-acre refuge consists of salt marsh and tidal creeks, making it a magnet for waterfowl.

“When the spring comes and the rookery really heats up, that’s when a lot of birds come to nest,” Lott said. “It’s just magical because the birds are doing their mating dances and they are wearing their mating colors on their faces.”

Lott is awaiting the arrival of a 150-600mm lens that will make him even more effective at his craft.

“You always want a little bit more reach, so this will give me that,” he said, adding that a larger lens enables him to keep from disrupting the animals’ natural behavior.

A talented photographer and artist in her own right, Lott’s wife, Marsha, occasionally uses one of his pictures as inspirations for her paintings.

“Sometimes, she will paint one just because she likes it and wants to do it in watercolor,” Lott said. 

Lott isn’t a painter but draws very well.

“I’d like to think that I use that skill when I’m shooting in terms of getting good composition,” he said.

Lott said it usually takes more than good luck to get an outstanding picture.

“To do what I’m doing with wildlife photography, you don’t go for ten or fifteen minutes and get what you want,” he said. “If you go and are prepared to stay an hour, two hours or three hours, then you will catch the birds doing things that are interesting. You can catch them hunting and fishing for frogs, and that kind of thing.”

Lott said he always centers his aim on the eyes of his subjects.

“I was always told to do that and the rest would take care of itself. That has pretty much held true,” he said.

Lott said wildlife photography has never stopped being fun for him.

“The technical side of things can be a lot of fun but, ultimately, it’s what you get at the end of the day,” he said. “You either come back with photos that are in focus and the colors are good and rich, and the animals are doing something interesting — that’s kind of what it’s about -- or you don't."

To purchase Lott’s book or matted copies of his photos, visit Rick Lott Nature Photography on Facebook.