Mike Fuhr of Tulsa, OK, is our #SigmaSuperFan for November. This amateur photographer is the State Director for The Nature Conservancy for Oklahoma, and is passionate about wildlife, nature and outdoor photography!
Tell us about yourself
I was born in Chicago and raised in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, where I spent much of my younger years playing in nearby creeks, forests, and corn fields. It was these experiences along with time spent fishing at my grandmother’s house, that I developed a passion for the outdoors and nature. I followed this interest to the University of Illinois where I received a B.S. and a M.S. in Biology focusing on aquatic ecology. I currently reside in Tulsa, Oklahoma with my wife and four kids – three daughters and a son.
Is photography a passion or a career?
Photography is a passion of mine that started when I was about 11 or 12. I borrowed my uncle’s film camera and telephoto lens for a family trip to the Gulf Coast of Florida where I photographed egrets and herons. I was hooked. The opportunities for photography waned a bit in college and film was expensive so a shot fewer and fewer photos. However, when my wife and I moved to Arkansas – a beautiful and rugged state – for her new job, my interest in capturing the landscapes around me began to grow. In addition, I began working for The Nature Conservancy in a position that required me to inspect properties that might someday become nature preserves. Along with documenting the features of these places, I had countless photo opportunities to capture the amazing landscapes around me in photos. I was hooked once again, and began to delve into what was at the time the new world of digital photography.
What kind of images do you shoot?
I shoot images of nature – wildlife, insects, plants and landscapes. I’ve always thought I should narrow it down and focus on one aspect of nature, but I just cannot seem to limit myself. There are too many things in nature that inspire me. I try to capture that special moment of beauty I experienced so that perhaps when someone sees one of my images, they are also inspired to get out and experience the outdoors for themselves – something that’s happening less and less these days. I also hope they are inspired to help with local conservation efforts.
Your first Sigma lens
My first Sigma lens was the 100-300 F4 with a Nikon mount. After getting more serious about photography, I purchased my first DSLR camera body and a 2 basic kit lenses. Spurred on by my purchase, my good friend Danny followed suite with similar purchases. Soon after we began hitting the field, he purchased the 100-300 F4. When I saw the quality of images he was getting along with the extended reach, I knew I had to get one for myself if I wanted to get the images I desired. I made the purchase a few months later. I’ve had that lens for almost 10 years now, and it has been all the way to South America with me.
When was the moment you realized that Sigma products were special to you?
Soon after purchasing my first Sigma lens, I travelled to South America where I spent a week in Colombia. We drove from Bogota down the eastern side of the Andes to a remote prairie region of the country, called the Llanos. As we made the 5 hour trek across the grassland, the photo ops were everywhere. We had to constantly stop the vehicle to shoot photos of the amazing scenes and wildlife around us. At one point we came across a lone burrowing owl as the sun began to fall toward the horizon. This cooperative bird proved to be a good subject in beautiful light. As I was shooting, I could see not only the sharpness of my photos, but the wonderful bokeh that made the photos for me. I knew then and throughout the rest of the trip that I had made an excellent purchase that allowed me to get better pictures than I ever had before.
What differentiates Sigma from other manufacturers that you’ve used/worked with?
The biggest thing that differentiates Sigma lenses for me is their performance and reliability at a price I can afford. I don’t have the budget to spend $50,000 for camera equipment.
What is your most memorable day as a photographer
One of my most memorable days shooting pictures was an early morning trip I took while on St. Maarten. I left our hotel before sunrise and drove to an area on the eastern side of the island that has no development. I had to wade out to another small island in the dark and had never done it before – it was a bit intimidating, but I managed to take the route that kept me and my equipment above water. Once I arrived at my chosen spot, I was treated to a spectacular sunrise over a calm ocean. It was so beautiful, I almost forgot that I was there that morning to take pictures. It ended up being a productive morning that yielded some of my favorite landscape shots, although my tripod has never been the same thanks to the saltwater!
Dream shoot/dream equipment/dream photo
My dream shoot would be somewhere on the grasslands of Mongolia, one of the few remaining truly wild grasslands. Someone once said, “anyone can love a mountain, but it takes soul to love a prairie.” The beauty of grasslands is often very subtle which requires extra patience so that it is captured and effectively conveyed to the viewer. Although remote, these grasslands are changing – I’d like to capture their beauty so that more people are aware of their importance.
One atypical thing in your camera bag?
One atypical thing I carry in my bag: clothes pins. I use them to hold up my camouflage netting when I’m stalking some type of wildlife. They are very handy, especially when the wind is blowing, and help ensure that I’m not seen.
Who is your photo inspiration? Why?
Although it may seem cliché, Ansel Adams has always inspired me because of the way he used photography to successfully advance conservation. His pictures somehow touch that part of each of us that longs for those wild places.
What do you know for sure about Sigma?
One thing I know about Sigma is that the lenses will perform exceptionally well, helping me capture those images that I’m visualizing while exploring nature. You don’t usually get a second chance when it comes to nature.
What is your prize lens choice/Lens Mount?
I would like the 17-70 mm lens with a Nikon mount. It will fill a gap in range that I currently have, and will give me my first macro lens.