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10 Incredible Photos of Midwest Wildlife

A good eye. A sense of adventure. And tons of patience. That’s what it takes for 28-year-old Benjamin Olson of Burnsville, Minnesota, to capture his incredible wildlife photos. Ben grew up in the ‘burbs, but his parents often took him fishing, hunting and camping when he was younger. He credits them—along with his grandfather who gave him his first camera—for his passion for the outdoors. “My main motive isn’t just to produce a stunning photograph,” Ben says. “It’s to track, understand and ultimately find the animal I’m looking for. It provides a story.”

Here are the stories behind 10 of our favorite images from Ben’s collection on his website and Instagram feed:

“During the winter of 2014, there was a huge boom of snowy owls in Minnesota. I was determined to photograph these birds without live or dead bait (a common practice in owl photography). I waited until I was the only person around to photograph this owl and watched her hunt naturally.”

“A year before the snowy owl encounter, I had the privilege of spending 18 days with a great gray owl over the course of three months. This was my first experience with an owl, and I contemplated using bait, but in the end, I decided not to cheat. I watched him hunt, court a potential mate and fly gracefully through the forest. As time went on, he allowed me to get closer and closer, and on this particular snowy day, he let me within 10 feet. I ended up spending four hours with the guy that day. It was the last time I ever saw him.”

“I came upon this red fox vixen along a road near Minnesota’s Boundary Waters. To my surprise, she allowed me to get out of my vehicle and spend the next hour at eye level with her as she hunted and explored. On multiple occasions, she came within a few feet of me to investigate.”

“There’s a herd of white-tailed deer that shows up at Fort Snelling State Park in Saint Paul each winter. The deer are highly approachable because they’re exposed to humans every day. I spent an entire month working with the bucks and does to create a highly intimate portfolio. For this shot, I got down on my hands and knees to capture the buck scraping away snow to get to some buried food.”

“The American robin migrates back to Minnesota each spring. One day, while tracking foxes along the Vermillion River near Red Wing, I noticed an abundance of these birds exploring the river’s edge as the ice was breaking up. I grabbed my camera and spent two hours watching them forage in the sun’s warmth.”

“I try to make it to Badlands National Park in South Dakota once a year. I'm always blown away by the diversity of terrain and wildlife. The bighorn sheep is just one of the many species that calls this park home. I’d been following this male along the edge of a precipice for about 20 minutes when he reached the summit. He posed up there for 10 minutes before descending to a ledge to nap in the afternoon light.”

“During the winter of 2010, I spent a week in the Badlands trying to photograph one of the elusive bobcats. My father and I searched for eight hours each day, only to experience five sightings that lasted less than two minutes combined. The day before we left, I got the opportunity I’d been waiting for. We saw a cat slinking through the tall grass at sunset, so we sat and waited. The bobcat emerged and gave me a quick glance before descending into the hills.”

“This is one of my first images. When I initially got into in wildlife photography, I had an obsession with wild horses. Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota has a sizeable resident herd, so I headed to Medora in the winter of 2008. It was a total ghost town that time of year. I spent the better part of a day photographing a herd of horses, and just as I was ready to call it a day, this foal began to trudge uphill toward its mother as the snow gently fell.”

“During the same trip, I had the chance to document two fighting stallions. I’d spent the morning wandering with the herd when this brown stallion started to get snarky. I focused my attention on him, and about five minutes later, patience paid off with this image.”

“This was also taken during my winter 2008 trip to TRNP. I had so badly wanted to see bison in the park but was having no luck in the South Unit, so I jumped in the car and made the drive to the much smaller and less visited North Unit a few hours away. When I got there, I realized there wasn’t the abundance of wildlife that I expected. I was losing faith in seeing anything, but as I made one more loop through the park, a lone bison appeared during a light snowfall.” 

See more of Ben's work at benjamin-olson.com and on Instagram @olsonimagery.

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