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La Crescent photographer has a passion for 'capturing' birds

La Crescent photographer has a passion for 'capturing' birds
Alan Stankevitz's award-winning photo of a tundra swan. "I wouldn't be doing it if it was not a passion of mine," he says of his photos. "It's an obsession."

LA CRESCENT — Here's a strong hint why Alan Stankevitz will lie in wet grass or spend hundreds of hours in a kayak with his camera: His Web page is iwishIcouldfly.com.

In his case, the URL is the message.

The rural La Crescent man can't join birds in flight so he uses his camera to soar with the birds by capturing them in crisp, award-winning photos.

Stankevitz won three honors in the 2010 Friends of the Upper Mississippi River Refuges photo contest. In the 2011 contest, he scored a first and third in birds, first in wildlife and plants, and third in scenic views. Winners were announced in January.

While he now lives amidst woods, wetlands and prairie, all of them splendid for birds, he grew up in the Chicago area. Even there, he found parks where he could see birds.


He began working in data communications, but he and his wife, Jo Stankevitz, also found time to drive around the Midwest. Those drives, especially along the Mississippi River, renewed his interest in birds, and they decided to retire in this area. While driving west of La Crescent they saw some land for sale that they thought would be perfect for their retirement home. Day Creek flowed through the property, which was near a wildlife management area and only a few miles from the Mississippi and its backwaters.

They bought the land, and he camped there in the spring of 1997.

"I couldn't believe all the birds I was hearing in the morning, it was just deafening," he said.

Stankevitz is now finishing, or at least trying to finish, a round house with sides made of cordwood and concrete and mostly powered by solar panels. But the urge to see and photograph birds keeps calling him away from that work.

He began photographing birds as a means to identify them. But when auto-focus technology improved and he could shoot a lot of shots digitally, he began to spread his wings and became an accomplished photographer of birds in flight.

Part of his skill goes back to his baseball-playing days, which helped with hand-eye coordination. And he shoots a lot. That's also critical. Learning to shoot flocks of gulls helped hone his skills for following and getting shots of other birds.

"I wouldn't be doing it if it was not a passion of mine, it's an obsession," he said.

He tries to put that passion in pictures. "The thing I'm looking for is the beauty, the most artistic approach to the hobby," he said.


Stankevitz has taken photos of hundreds of species of birds, but the one he'd love to get is the snowy owl in Barrow, Alaska.

He sells some of his work to help pay for gas and camera gear, but he can't make a living at it. That's too hard in the digital age.

He does want others to enjoy them, however, so he enters them in contests, and people can look at his Web page where Stankevitz, and his URL, advertises his passion for the birds.

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