MY PHOTOGRAPHY BACKGROUND
Welcome to my virtual home of Stephen Bruno Photography. I am a wildlife, nature, landscape, action, macro, travel, documentary and humanitarian, architecture, street, event, and photojournalist photographer living in the small charming mountain town of Cedaredge, Colorado.
I photograph to be surprised and delighted!
I have had several, mostly creative careers. I devoted this section solely to employment and experiences related specifically to my photography career. This website IS, after all, dedicated just to my photography. I share in this section, just a few events out of my countless adventures that shaped my perspective of photography and especially of the subjects that I photograph.
You may also notice some differences with my website (and photography) in contrast to other professional photographers. I do nature, landscape, action, macro, travel, documentary and humanitarian, architecture, street, event, and photojournalism equally rather than one area exclusively. One could make the argument that a photographer, who is dedicated to a single subject, will have greater expertise in their sole area of preference.
I believe that each field of photography requires different and often demanding (even counter-intuitive) skills and knowledge. When combined, I am a better photographer in any single field since I can access a wider range of practical skills and knowledge gained with this expansive approach.
Take the wildlife and human portraiture for example. There are certainly differences in tracking and photographing a Black-tailed Deer in the woods and an adult sitting for a casual photojournalistic portrait. However, consider photographing children for natural portraits outside as they play and well…behave like the children that they are. I can take effective action photographs of the children (and adults) at play that brings out the spirit and personality of each child (or adult) better than a more restrictive pose.
One essential element is spontaneity. My years of experience photographing large and small mammals or fast and unpredictable birds are wonderful training for capturing the essence of a child running across a field at a local park. Positioned in an unobtrusive way and being ready at the right place and in the right moment for that spontaneous photograph of children and adults is the same as photographing wildlife.
My Photography Philosophy I believe that artists, writers, and photographers are vigilant observers by inclination, background, and training. My life, which includes each of these professions, serves me well in developing and enhancing intuition, observational skills, focus, natural instinct, dedication, curiosity, compassion, and patience. People tell me that I photograph with an artist's eye. I believe that it comes from my naturalist's heart.
A few of my Favorite Photographers A few of my favorite photographers include Garry Winogrand, Annie Leibovitz, Paul Strand, Margaret Bourke-White, Eve Arnold, Richard Misrach, Edward Weston, Dorothea Lange, Robert Mapplethorpe, Alfred Stieglitz, Bruno Morandi, Irving Penn, Robert Frank, Steve McCurry, Elliott Erwitt, David Duchemin, Ami Vitale, Yousuf Karsh, Nan Goldin, and Manuel Alvarez Bravo.
Yosemite Fire Falls
I remember a special experience I had at Yosemite National Park in California when I was a child. It was around 9:00 P.M. during the summer and I heard a man at Camp Curry call to Glacier Point. "Hello, Glacier!" Then the man at Glacier Point called down with a faint echo, Hello, Camp Curry!" The man at Camp Curry then said, "Let the fire fall!" Then I barely heard, "The fire is falling!" I saw a glowing waterfall of sparks and fire start at the top of a distant mountain and watched as it fell for about 30 seconds. Later I learned that someone pushed a large bonfire of red fir bark evenly over the edge of the cliff, appearing as a waterfall of fire as it cascaded about 4,000 feet down the mountain. This was the tradition of the Yosemite Fire Fall. I was so into the fire fall that at first, I did not notice a girl about my age also standing alone beside a large tree watching the burning bonfire lighting up the mountain in the darkness. I cannot really explain how it happened but I found that when she and I apparently gravitated toward each other we were side by side, as the fire fall was nearing its end. We looked at each other speechless after such a wonderful experience and lightly kissed each other on the lips. Then we turned and each ran away as fast as we could in the opposite direction. I never saw the girl again but the combination of the incredible fire fall and my first kiss endeared me forever to the glorious power of nature.
Black Bear Family - Yosemite National Park, California
At the age of seven or eight, I experienced my first close encounter with bears in the wild, in Yosemite National Park, California.
One early morning. I hiked away from my single parent family’s canvas tent cabin at the Curry Village campground and walked down toward one of the many cold rapid moving rivers in the beautiful valley. After several timeless hours, I became lost in the splendor of the Giant Sequoia trees and the lush green meadows in the valley floor.
I can easily recall that when one adult female Black Bear (actually more cinnamon) weighing about 150 pounds and three feet high at the withers casually strolled by me with three 1 - 2-year-old cubs when I wandered off the path. I was so captivated that I completely forgot about being lost.
The bears were curious and friendly and remained comfortable in my presence. The cubs did a lot of sniffing all around me. It never occurred to me to be concerned about my safety, or theirs. Therefore, I naturally demonstrated non-threatening behavior and attitude. I maintained a normal expression on my face and talked softly. I kept my eyes toward the mother bear who seemed to look me over carefully. I talked quietly to each of the bears, watching their expressions as they responded with grunts. Once the mother bear seemed to feel I was not a threat she led her family along a well-worn path.
With excitement and curiosity, I followed them at a discrete distance. I watched the frequent Gray Squirrels running about and the occasional Mule Deer roaming near the riverbed of the roaring Merced River. We passed through countless blooming flowers and tall green grass. I watched as the cubs sometimes were wrestling, falling, and nipping each other.
They were very playful and seemed equally accepting about this small skinny being now included in their family. When the bears ate huckleberries, blueberries or other berries, I ate berries. When they rested, I rested. When they looked for other areas to forage at wet meadows along creeks and river, I walked along with them.
I knew that the mother bear accepted me when, If I was too slow she gave that impatient look and grunted and then briefly chomped teeth or lips until I caught up. While the mother bear ripped into rotting fallen logs with her claws grabbing ants and beetle larvae, I quenched my thirst at the creek or river. She also ate grasses and pine nuts. It all felt so natural to share this time with the bear family and I never felt threatened.
This was a time when the Yosemite rangers still encouraged contact with the bears, including feeding them. In fact, the National Park Service maintained several “bear pits” in the park where bears were fed garbage in an attempt to keep them out of park campgrounds and lodging areas and to provide visitor entertainment. I was fortunate that as darkness was settling in the moonlit valley their foray took us all back to the meadow near Curry Village where I could see the evening campfires and hear distant voices. Was it by accident or intention that the mother bear led me back to where I began my adventure?
With a sideways glance from the mother bear and a soft grunt, my adoptive bear family swiftly climbed the crest of the hill we had just descended and they disappeared over the horizon. Early the next morning, I found them at the meadow near Curry Village. Once again, I fell in line with my adoptive bear family and followed them as they were shredding and taking apart decaying snags and downed logs in order to reach insects.
They found and ate grasses and berries. The mom had a deliberate, slow walk, sometimes punctuated with pauses during which she stood on her hind limbs to get more information from her senses of smell, sight, and hearing. I tried to stand taller but could not see much. Again, just prior to nightfall, I was led back to the meadow near Curry Village.
The cubs scurried around me sometimes knocking me down on the incline in their rough play. I remember giggling and laughing out loud. Then, the mother bear grunted and the cubs scampered up the hill to her side. After what felt like several minutes of looking into each others’ eyes, she grunted, turned and my adoptive bear family slowly reached the crest of the hill and with a quick glance from all three bears, they descended the other side. Thus began my lifelong affinity with wildlife, Black Bears in particular, and nature in general.
Many people are moving into Black Bear habitat. The bears' future depends on how well we all understand and interact with them. Once the bears become overly habituated or begin to be seen as a threat, they may be unnecessarily relocated or even killed by the wildlife authorities. Movies and articles have unfortunately given Black Bears an unrealistically ferocious image, causing people to fear them excessively and kill them unnecessarily. I believe that one of the greatest misconceptions about Black Bears is that they are likely to attack people in defense of cubs. They are highly unlikely to do this. Research demonstrates that Black Bears are frequently captured with screaming cubs, resulting in only bluff-charging mothers and no attacks.
First Camera - Minolta 35mm
While a high school senior, my grandmother purchased my first camera—a Minolta 35mm as a pre-graduation gift. When she did, I immediately took to black and white photography including creative darkroom development. I also shot color photography. I answered an ad by the local large newspaper to take action photographs of area high school sporting events and write the captions. They hired me after looking at my portfolio. This was my first paying job and the first professional publication of my photography career.
I then became Editor-In-Chief of my Southern California high school paper, spending a lot of time in the darkroom and combining a love of photography and writing. In college, I became the Editor-In-Chief of the campus newspaper where I continued my love of photography and writing.
Vietnam Military Service
Drafted and eventually receiving orders to Vietnam, my Minolta traveled with me during my 14-month Army tour of duty where I photographed many powerful images that remain clear to me even today. Rather than drink alcohol or do drugs, I ran 10 miles daily whenever I could. I was awarded the Bronze Star Medal.
While in Vietnam, I raised many large Mantises to keep the Mosquitoes away and photographed the process. I continue to enjoy macro photography.
Return to the States
On my return to the States, I took numerous portraits to support the United Way’s annual fundraising campaign. I worked in the Public Relations department of a college in California where I was responsible for many PR photographs and all of the darkroom activities.
I also worked as a Marketing Manager for an international aerospace corporation utilizing my photography, writing and graphics skills.
I produced and edited a monthly 64-page art, literature and photography magazine. Contributing my own writing and photography, I also provided many photographers, artists, and writers with their first opportunity for publication. Some went on to prominent creative careers.
Mountain Lions Lake Powel, Arizona
One summer during a spiritual and personal growth houseboat retreat I was teaching at Lake Powell, Page, Arizona, I anchored a 50-foot houseboat near the sandy beach far into the lake at an isolated cove. Our group of 16 participants observed one very large pair of Mountain Lion paw prints about 4 inches wide. This is about the width of an adult hand. There were also two sets of small kitten prints embedded in the soft wet sand.
In the late afternoon, I was jogging alone at the top of a steep cliff and as I rounded a curve, I saw a large 100lb female Mountain Lion sitting at the top of a bluff. Her torso was a cinnamon buff-colored contrasted with a white belly. She had two kittens with brownish-black irregular spots on the body and dark rings on the short tail. I had read that they can jump as far as 40 feet in one leap and as high as 15 feet from the ground. I was only about 45 feet away below her. I figured one leap would bring us together.
I slowed to a fast walk and decided to pass in front rather than turning around as she maintained attentive eye contact. I did not know if I could continue around the bluff or would have to return the way that I came. I had not yet read that it was not wise to maintain eye contact with a Mountain Lion. I talked calmly and softly to her and behaved as non-threatening as I could. I became as tall as possible while moving.
Then, one eager kitten began bounding down the hill toward me as the other kitten cautiously moved near the mom. Without losing eye contact with me, the momma Mountain Lion crouched and gave a single loud, blood-curdling hair-raising cry that sounded like a woman screaming in pain. The kitten continued toward me with an over the shoulders look at mom. She then reluctantly turned around about 15 feet from me and scampered back up the hill.
The magnificent mother Mountain Lion cried a soft whistle and gently lay down as I moved safely out of sight and continued on a path that fortunately led down the other side of the cliff to the houseboat. I will never forget that experience and the eye-to-eye connection we shared. During my long jogs, deep in the Arizona forests, I occasionally observed Mountain Lions watching from large boulders high above me, and no more than 100 feet away. Each time I calmly connected eye-to-eye with the Mountain Lion and slowed to a brisk walk, and spoke softly to them which appeared to resolve any conflict.
After years of wildlife photography (unfortunately no Mountain Lion photographs in the wild), it may be the naturalist in me to establish a visual connection and softly talk to them as I make my way through their territory. Perhaps, the advice not to engage in direct eye contact with a Mountain Lion is an appropriate behavior and I support this if intuitively it makes sense.
Nonetheless, I believe that a responsible aware non-threatening compassionate connection with our animal neighbors is wise whenever possible.
Each year sports hunters, farmers, and vehicle accidents kill Mountain Lions. Several months ago a hit and run driver killed a young Mountain Lion on the main highway in Prescott, Arizona not far from Lynx Lake where I frequently hike and photograph. The effects of habitat loss are dramatic for increasing more opportunities for Mountain Lion and human encounters.
The images presented here are © 2004-2019 Stephen Bruno and may not be reproduced, copied or altered in any way, by use of a computer or other electronic means, without specific permission and payment of a fee. All photographs are protected under the United States and international copyright law. Any unauthorized use is a violation of copyright law. Warning: I vigorously protect my copyright interests. In the event that an infringement is discovered, you will be notified and invoiced the industry-standard TRIPLE-FEE for unauthorized usage and/or prosecuted for Copyright Infringement in US Federal Court where you will be subject to a fine of US $150,000 statutory damages as well as my court costs and attorneys' fees. Please contact me if you need more information email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.