Why yes, there is an amateur photographer in Campbell River who has over 21,000 followers on Facebook and over 11,000 followers on Instagram for her photos of the local crows. Thanks for asking.
Her name is Colleen Wilson.
But she’s better known as The Crowtographer.
Her love of her inquisitive, playful feathered friends started early in life, but her photography of them certainly didn’t.
“My family’s from up in Northern Manitoba, and there’s lots of ravens and crows up there,” she says, watching the black shadowy figures dart around the tree branches at Robert Ostler Park downtown. “They were always fascinating to me because of their playfulness and their distinct personalities.
“Fast forward all these years later, I was working in Burnaby and I decided I needed to get into some kind of hobby,” she continues, “so I chose photography, bought a DSLR camera and thought, ‘now how am I going to learn to use this thing?’”
Well, she thought, crows are everywhere. Why not practice on those?
Then she met Dave.
Dave is a crow, by the way.
“Dave and I met every weekend for shoots,” she says. “He’d bring his offspring to meet me when he had them. It got to the point where they’d meet me at the train station and fly me home after work.”
She started posting her photos on social media and making friends with other crow enthusiasts, and soon started to amass quite a following.
“They get such a bad rap,” she says. “I like to try to shine a little light on them, because they are absolutely fascinating creatures.”
She ended up in Campbell River, as she says, “by winning life’s lottery. It was pure luck.”
When the contract expired for the company she worked for in the Lower Mainland, her partner – who had been wanting to move to the Island for years, Wilson says – took it as the shove that was needed.
They landed in Nanaimo, and she spent a year looking for work down there without getting much traction. Suddenly she came across an ad for a job at the North Island Employment Foundations Society.
“It’s an amazing organization,” she says, “and the team in there is just exceptional.”
These days she gets out with her camera every weekend – usually down at Frank James Park in Willow Point – and will head out once in a while after work on weeknights, as well.
But despite her moniker, she doesn’t only shoot crows.
“I love when we get the orcas coming through town, and I love going up to the Quinsam (River) when the bears are out,” she says.
She’s still working out a system for selling her work up here, but for now, she’s taken an interesting approach when people approach her wanting to buy her work.
“What I’ve been for the last year is offer high-res digital copies of my work in return for proof of donation to an organization addressing social justice, food security or COVID-19 impacts,” she says. “I’m happy to provide people with a digital copy of my work if they show me they did something good for another human. Or animal, actually. I’m not picky.”
Or you can email her at email@example.com
More than anything else, however, she just wants people to take a few more moments here and there to interact with the natural world.
“So many people are struggling with isolation and lack of connection,” she says, “but we can actually find it in other species when we can’t find it in each other. We just need to expand our parameters a little bit. You’d be surprised what you can find if you look into the eyes of a crow.”