This photograph of
a great blue heron taking flight is one of dozens of Mundy Hackett
bird photographs featured in “Missouri
in Flight,” published this spring by University of Missouri
Press. The great blue heron is the
largest and most widely distributed heron in North America.
As the sun crawls
over the limestone bluff and ascends into a cloudless sky, its warming
rays cascade down on the stand of sycamores where Mundy Hackett has
staged his ambush.
Holding tight to
the shadows, he scans the treetops, watching and listening for his
quarry. A flash of color catches his eye. Swiveling his camouflage-covered,
tripod-mounted, 500mm telephoto lens, Mundy focuses on a branch he
scouted out earlier. He waits silently.
the warbler lights upon the branch. Mundy aims and fires a dozen
shots. The bird flies off, but it’s too late. Another Mundy
Hackett photograph has been created.
always gone hand in hand with fieldwork for the wildlife biologist,
but mixing pastime with profession also has earned Mundy a few dirty
looks over the years.
always had a tendency to work pretty pictures into my scientific
talks, but it’s really frowned
upon,” he says. “It’s
got to be strictly meat and potatoes in those things. You don’t
want a lot of fluff.”
his frame-filling images, Mundy uses serious camera equipment.
(Photo by Jason Jenkins.)
pretty pictures in his first photo book, “Missouri in
Flight,” published this spring by University of Missouri Press,
have received a much warmer welcome.
As Mundy has traveled
around the state discussing the new book, which features more than
100 full-color images of native birds, it seems birding enthusiasts
get enough of his wildlife art.
For all his success
working with critters and cameras, neither was part of the 37-year-old’s
original career plan. Although he grew up hunting and fishing in
rural Virginia, he initially earned a philosophy degree.
got away from being outdoors when I first went to college,” he
says. “After I got out, I started hiking and camping
and getting outdoors again. Around the same time, my dad gave
me a 35mm camera, and I started making pictures, too.”
his love of the outdoors rekindled, Mundy went back to school
in his mid-20s, this time to study wildlife at Colorado State
University. For three summers, he worked in the mountains
and took pictures.
warbler breeds in Missouri but winters in Central and South America.
had the camera in the field with me ever since,” he says.
is a mostly self-taught photographer, relying on trial and error
to hone his skills.
“I took one
of those one-day seminars when I was starting out, but to be honest,
I don’t remember
much about what was talked about that day,” he
admits.After earning a master’s degree in Virginia,
Mundy moved to Missouri in 2003 to complete a doctorate
in wildlife sciences at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
He has studied carnivores such as coyotes, bobcats
and foxes in the Ozarks and the Bootheel. Once again,
his fieldwork has provided a venue for his photography.
he doesn’t plan to make a living as a professional
wildlife photographer, Mundy says he wants to continue
developing his own style, one that gets noticed.
in flight: The bird photography of Mundy Hackett" is available
from University of Missouri Press.
think that’s probably what we all want anyway,
to end up with something that someone can look
at and say, ‘Well, that’s so and
so,’ or look at a bird picture and say, ‘Oh,
that’s a Mundy
Hackett,’” he says. “Even if
it isn’t, then you’ve
gotten to the point that you have a style that’s
associated with your name.”
including Dan Brueggeman, a full-time wildlife
woodcarver who lives near Brazito, have recognized
it’s remarkable that he’s as
good as he is considering it’s not a full-time thing for him,” says
Dan, who met Mundy at the Missouri Wildlife Art Festival, which is held in
St. Charles each November. “We
should all dabble so well.”
wildlife photography is the result of planning,
patience and persistence, Dan says. One picture
might be the culmination of a week or two
weeks worth of effort.
not like shooting portraiture where people will sit where you want
them to and hold still when you want them to,” he explains. “I
think most people don’t realize the
effort that goes into obtaining those wonderful
photographs. A lot of great serendipity
for the wildlife photographer is the result
of a lot of great preparation.”
Mundy, the opportunity to publish a book
of his photography was certainly a serendipitous
owl is common in Missouri forests and can be recognized by its
call, which sounds like someone asking, “Who cooks
for you? Who cooks for you all?”
In the spring of
2005, his wife, Susan King, came home from work with an invitation.
Her supervisor, University of Missouri
Press Director Beverly Jarrett, said a coyote family was rearing
a litter of pups on her property, and
she wanted to know if Mundy would like
to photograph them. It was an opportunity
he jumped at.
seven pups altogether, and I took almost 800 pictures of them and
their parents,” Mundy recalls. “I
gave Bev a photo as a thank-you afterward, and she asked if I’d
ever thought about doing a book. We had a meeting and decided to
start with a book on birds first.”
in Flight” includes
a variety of native birds, including birds of prey, waterfowl
and backyard birds. Mundy provides interesting facts about each bird
and its behavior. He also offers tips for successful wildlife
probably my favorite subject because of the variety of species and
their accessibility,” he says. “In
Missouri, there are only 30 or so mammals larger than a mouse,
but there are hundreds of birds.”
Even with such
diversity, Mundy still finds excitement in photographing
common birds such as robins or
cardinals, especially when they
do something out of character.
By capturing subtleties like feathers
ruffled by a slight breeze, he can make
a picture just different enough that
it will catch someone’s eye.
a professional photographer and owner of Full Spectrum Photo and
Audio in Jefferson City, has known Mundy for about four years. He
says one thing that sets Mundy apart is his ability to find a pleasing
balance between his subject and the environment.
distinguished by its bright blue bill and stiff tail feathers,
a male ruddy duck will hold its tail straight up.
a certain fluidity and implied motion in Mundy’s photographs,” Lloyd
fitting that the title
of the book is ‘Missouri
in Flight.’ It’s
representative of Mundy’s
says that Mundy’s
advice in the book will
help anyone aspiring
to be a wildlife photographer. “The
and natural history that
included with his pictures
makes it more interesting
than just a photo book
alone or just a field
he offers a number
of tips in the book, Mundy
says there are three that
are absolutely critical,
beginning with learning as
much as you can about your
“If you want
to photograph animals, learn about their behavior, natural history
and their habitat,” he says. “I don’t think
any mystery that
all of the well-known wildlife and nature photographers are either excellent
naturalists or they have a background in wildlife biology, forestry, ecology
or something to do with the natural world.”
He suggests learning
everything you can about
light, its limitations
when translated in photographs
and how you can use those limitations
to your advantage.
|The black-capped chickadee is one of the most familiar backyard
song birds in Missouri.
you understand about light, the better your photographs will be,” he
says. “Even if it looks good to
the human eye, the middle of the day is not the time to get a photo. Early
and late when the light is low is best.”
bit of advice for would-be shutterbugs is equipment-related. “Don’t
skimp on the
tripod,” he says. “These long, telephoto lenses require
Even the lightest breeze can cause vibrations that will tank all your
After he finishes
his doctoral dissertation
later this year, Mundy
will begin work on a second photo
book that will be released in late
“We don’t have a title for it yet, but this one will have
all of Missouri’s other critters — mammals, reptiles, amphibians,
be at least
one or two
“Missouri in Flight” is
available from University of Missouri Press. Order a copy by calling
1-800-828-1894. Mundy will give a presentation
and sign copies of his book at 7 p.m., July 20, at the Powder Valley
Conservation Nature Center in Kirkwood. Reservations, which are required,
can be made after July 5 by calling (314) 301-1500.