Nature’s Laboratory

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You could say that Bryce Richter took one for the team, but that would be an understatement.

Photo: Bryce Richter

Fauna — including wild turkeys — and flora greeted photographer Bryce Richter during the many hours, days, and seasons he spent at the UW Arboretum. Photo: Bryce Richter

Richter, a University Communications photographer, weathered swarms of mosquitoes, sweltering heat, and subzero temperatures to capture the splendor of the UW Arboretum for our cover story. He was on the job during all four seasons, early in the morning to catch sunrises over Curtis Prairie, and after dark to capture the lights of traffic on the West Beltline Highway shining through the branches of Leopold Pines. When it was time to brave Gardner Marsh, he borrowed a pair of hip waders from the UW’s Center for Limnology.

Then there were the turkeys.

At first, Richter just saw them in passing. The wild birds seemed oblivious to him as they strolled along during some of his photo shoots. But things became a little more up-close-and-personal on the day he was photographing a controlled prairie burn. A turkey burst through the flaming grasses, heading right toward him. Based on his previous encounters, Richter thinks the bird was “running as fast as he could — for a turkey.”

When Richter started shooting images for our story in fall 2008, he had no idea (nor did we) that it would turn out to be the longest assignment of his career. He returned to the Arboretum again and again, and completed his work this summer, shooting about one thousand images and developing a deep appreciation along the way for the area’s beauty and ecological diversity. Now, he considers it a second home.

His favorite spot? Wingra Woods in the fall. When sunlight streams through the trees and yellow leaves rain down, he says, it’s “a fairy-tale kind of place.”

Published in the Fall 2009 issue

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