By Agrippina Fadel
Capturing a bird in flight or a predator on the hunt are some of the hardest feats in wildlife photography, yet Parkland photographer Lee Sussman loves those shots the most.
A Parkland Golf and Country Club resident for the past 11 years, Lee grew up in New Jersey and moved to Florida 40 years ago. A former financial advisor, he is now retired, giving him more time to enjoy South Florida nature.
While photography is a relatively new hobby for him, his stunning shots of Florida birds are already winning contests, being recognized by top wildlife photography publications, and even being featured in British newspapers The Sun and The Daily Star.
Lee’s photo of a Red-Tailed Hawk he took in Colorado last spring recently made the front cover of the Highlander magazine, and two of his shots won the Audubon “Florida’s Natural Beauty” photo contest this year. A shot of an Osprey with a fish in its talons took first place, and the photo of three green herons came second.
“It is nice to be recognized,” said Lee. “I see how my work has progressed in the past years, and seeing it in magazines is very cool.”
Photography caught his attention in seventh grade, but he didn’t pursue it seriously until his wife Linda gave him a good camera a few years back.
Lee’s friend, Jim Donnelly, a fellow writer at Talk Media, “showed him the ropes” and taught him how to use the camera and what to look for when taking photos.
He uses both the Canon R6 and the Canon R7 for his photography shoots.
Lee’s subjects are mostly colorful birds and creatures: from songbirds and ibises to alligators and river otters. “I just love the wildlife and the outdoors. I do landscapes too. My wife says I do lousy people, so I got to stick to the animals.” he laughed.
During the winter, Lee photographs wildlife in and around Parkland and often ventures out to Green Cay Wetlands, Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, and Peaceful Waters Sanctuary. Some days, birds come to him: Lee has a bird feeder in the backyard.
The couple, who also own a home in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, spends a few months out of a year there, where Lee photographs different animals and birds. Bears and bald eagles soaring over the snow are regulars in his reel.
Still, Lee says Florida is one of the best places in the country to observe and photograph birds. The climate that allows the residents to enjoy the outdoors all year round, the incredible variety of native species, and all the migrating birds create a perfect environment for a curious and patient photographer.
“I love watching the birds and animals in nature. But it is a challenge, too. A lot of the pictures I take are not easy to get. Getting a bird perched on a tree is easy. Catching them in flight, attacking, or eating something is more difficult, and that is what I like most,” Lee said.
A few action shots show native birds as they hunt, which he is particularly proud of. Some examples include a hawk with a snake in its mouth, another, a hawk flying with a rabbit in its talons, and the recent shot of an egret struggling with a field mouse.
“A lot of it is luck and timing and being in the right place at the right moment,” Lee said.
Sometimes he captures animals in a funny or cute moment. His photo of two chipmunks shot in Colorado last summer, where one has its paw on the other’s head, makes it look like a chipmunk is “blessing” his friend. While photographing a bear trying to get into a garbage can, Lee realized the angle made it look like it was taking out the trash – hence another funny shot.
Lee hopes his photos of local wildlife can help bring nature closer to Parkland residents.
“People always ask me, “Where did you take this picture?” There are so many places in Parkland and around South Florida in a hundred-mile area that have amazing natural habitats,” he said.
Lee enjoys sharing the beauty of nature with others through his photographs.
“A lot of people don’t know about Green Cay or Loxahatchee, where you can see the birds and other wildlife. I like showing people what’s going on in nature around us that might be unseen to them otherwise,” he added.
When asked what the future holds, Lee said he will keep learning and improving his technique, always chasing that perfect shot. He is also working on a professional website.
After taking photos of most of the native wildlife in the area, Lee hopes one day to capture the elusive Florida panther. A huge fan of the Florida Panthers NHL team, that accomplishment would mean a lot to him for more reasons than one.
- Agrippina Fadel grew up in Siberia and received her master's in journalism from Tyumen State University. Agrippina is also a writer and editor at Draftsy.net. She has been a US resident for over ten years and speaks English and Russian.
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