Stan Tekiela has got the natural world well-covered.
Based in the Twin Cities, the photographer, writer and naturalist has published more than 100 field guides and nature books, the topics from timber wolves in Minnesota to eagles in Alaska.
Tekiela’s striking wildlife and landscape photography is perhaps for what he is best known. Saying he has been fascinated with the inner workings of the natural world for as long as he can remember, Tekiela is one of the lucky few who has figured out how to blend passion with career. To be sure, in addition to his books, he does a radio show on the outdoors with “The Captain” Billy Hildebrand on KFAN (100.3-FM) on Saturday mornings, and serves as director of the Eden Prairie Outdoor Center. His said his goal is simple: Educating people to inspire a greater appreciation for the outdoors.
In a recent conversation, Tekiela, 55, discussed his lifelong interest in nature and how it has driven his prolific career.
On his deep interest
For some strange reason, when I was growing up I always wanted to write nature books. I don’t know why. As a teenager I’d take a three-ring binder and put in notes and do drawings and take pictures and glue them in there. My goal was to come up with a field guide to nature in your own backyard because I really felt like people had a lot of nature in their backyard, but didn’t have a clue what it was. That’s how it all started. Then, about 27 years ago, I had the chance to meet up with publisher who was just starting out, Adventure Publications out of Cambridge (Minn.), and they took me on as one of their earliest authors. So I got to fulfill my dream of writing a book, and no one has told me to stop since, so I just kept writing.
On nature photography
I have always photographed my entire life, it just progressed naturally. I never said, ‘You know what, I’m going to be a photographer.’ It was just always something that’s worked well to illustrate what I wanted to teach about. Understanding the animals ahead of time makes me a better photographer, too. I’m able to anticipate behaviors and know how not to disturb them. I often have something very specific in my head when I go out. I also enjoy watching as much as I do photographing. For me the experience of being there, learning those behaviors, hearing it, feeling it, smelling it, that’s where it really comes full circle. If you’re too focused on taking pictures, you can miss so much.
On the subjects he enjoys most
There was a time quite a few years ago when I concentrated on endangered species, for instance black-footed ferrets. I went and met with the scientists in South Dakota who were breeding them and releasing them. I also covered the California condor, the West Indian manatee, the whooping crane — all these species that were nearly wiped out. I’m fascinated with bears, too — black, brown and polar bears — I’m crazy about them. Some of my best adventures were when I went to a small island off the coast of British Columbia to photograph the “Spirit Bear,” which is the white black bear. It’s one of the most remote areas in all of North America and once you get there, you aren’t guaranteed to find the bears. That was really something.
On what makes Minnesota a great home base for a nature enthusiast
We’ve got it all here in Minnesota. I love the prairie, I love the deciduous forest we have that goes in a band from the southeast to the northwest, and then that conifer forest in the northeast. We’ve got big lakes, little lakes and rivers. The only thing we really don’t have are mountains. We really are very fortunate to have such a diverse ecosystem. When you go to other states, you don’t see the really well-defined three major biomes that you can explore and enjoy.
What motivates him to teach others about nature
My philosophy has always been the same and that is the more we know about nature and the more we know about what’s around us, the better educated we are and the better choices we make. I teach about nature and wildlife so that people can make those good decisions, whether it be as an individual, a community, a state or the federal government.
Mackenzie Lobby Havey is a freelance writer from Minneapolis.