THROUGH THE LENS
Oklahoma is a diverse state with many beautiful places to explore and photograph.
With that in mind, I asked some photographers I know about their favorite places in the state for nature and wildlife photography.
Michael Duncan is an attorney and former journalist in Norman whose photographs have been featured in galleries in Oklahoma, New Mexico, Oregon, Minnesota, Colorado and Vermont.
If you are Facebook friends with Mike, you know he frequently travels across Oklahoma with his camera, posting beautiful images of the Sooner State. The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge tops his list of most scenic places in Oklahoma to photograph.
“It has magnificent vistas, water and rocks and the occasional wildlife,” Duncan said in an email. “I've photographed there literally hundreds of times and it always produces something new for me.
“Second is Winding Stair Mountains — including Cedar Lake and the upper Kiamichi River east of Big Cedar and the little known and secluded Beech Creek National Scenic Area.
“I could add to the list with Robbers Cave, Mountain Fork River at Beavers Bend, the Nature Conservancy Tallgrass Prairie (but very difficult to capture photographically), Rock Creek at the Chickasaw National Recreation Area and anywhere along the Illinois River from near Siloam Springs to Tahlequah.”
Kim Baker, who lives near Meeker, is an Oklahoma-based freelance photographer who has focused her camera on the Oklahoma landscape for more than 25 years.
Baker is a regular contributor to Oklahoma tourism publications. Her love for the Oklahoma landscape led her to focus on Oklahoma rivers as part of her conservation photography mission to use her camera to help raise awareness for the need to protect Oklahoma's natural resources.
You can see more of her work at www.oklahomaphotography.com.
“My favorite places to photograph are in eastern Oklahoma where the rivers run clear and swift through pine-covered mountains and the Black Mesa region at the top of Oklahoma where mesas rise above the high desert like sentinels to ancient history,” Baker said in an email.
“The Illinois River, an officially designated Oklahoma Scenic River, is one of my favorite rivers. The story of this river and its continuing rebound from environmental degradation from excess nutrients and all the hardworking people dedicated to protecting this river together with its lush and verdant natural beauty continue to inspire me as a conservation and nature photographer.
“I also love photographing in the Black Mesa region in far northwestern Oklahoma. The rugged and stark beauty of the mesas and the extreme environs of this region stir my photographic imagination unlike any other place in Oklahoma.”
Finally, I would be remiss to not mention the work of the award-winning staff of The Oklahoman, who have provided many of the photos published on the Outdoor pages over the years.
The Oklahoman's Paul Hellstern is a fan of the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma for wildlife photography.
“I've been to all the national wildlife refuges in Oklahoma and my best luck by far came at Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge,” he said. “Most places have one primary type of habitat that attracts a certain type of wildlife, but Salt Plains has several different kinds of habitat, including the salt flats that attract large numbers of shorebirds that you don't find anywhere else.
“It is also the only place that I have seen bald eagles in large numbers within 30 to 40 yards during cold snaps in the winter near the lake's spillway. Every time I've been there I have seen numerous deer in the mornings and evenings. There are some good walking trails that pass through the various habitats.”
The Oklahoman's Steve Gooch also recommends the Wichita Mountains and Salt Plains Wildlife Refuges, but says any lake or pond can offer great photo opportunities for wildlife.
"Sometimes the best place to look is in your own backyard," Gooch said.