P. Brian Machanic: The patience to capture visions of beauty

P. Brian Machanic

P. Brian Machanic spent youthful summers in Marshfield and the Groton State Forest where he learned to appreciate wildlife. That love led to a bachelor’s degree in zoology but from there, Machanic took what he refers to as a “professional detour” with a career in medicine. Although his job as an ophthalmologist included some photographic imaging, that wasn’t quite enough to satisfy him so he continued to spend his spare time photographing flora and fauna.

In addition to his idyllic childhood summers, Machanic credits his self-described “darker years” as a hunter with helping him understand wildlife. “I haven’t carried a gun for 30 years,” he said. “I only carry a camera and I wish I had made that transition earlier.” When a bad back forced him to give up the surgical part of his practice, Machanic began to sell his photographs at craft shows and then retail outlets. In 1990, he opened Nature’s Eye studio and five years later, with the help of one of his children, he started a website with the same name. These days he does more business through his page on the Etsy site which has a larger collection of his scenic and wildlife photos. His work has been published in local and national periodicals and he has received numerous awards.

Machanic’s passion is wildlife but he also enjoys capturing landscapes, admitting that if he had to choose between the two he’d opt for scenery since those photos are easier to take. “It can be really humbling being a wildlife photographer,” he said. “You can wait for days for the right shot but sometimes those hours of frustration can be rewarded by moments of success.” Machanic described positioning himself in a portable igloo blind near the Grand Isle Ferry last winter in the bitter cold and biting wind in the hope of getting a photo of a harlequin duck which had been spotted. “It goes with the job description,” he said. “Either you do it or you don’t get the pictures you really want.” Machanic also described getting up silently in the total darkness to creep into a blind to catch a ruffled grouse drumming. “You hope and pray you haven’t disturbed the bird,” he said “and when you pull it off you get a personal sense of satisfaction.”

One of the benefits of being a wildlife photographer is getting to travel and Machanic has visited locations as diverse as Africa and Churchill, Manitoba. “In order to remain somewhat competitive you have to have a potpourri of pictures,” he said “and there aren’t many polar bears here.” Nevertheless, the ten-year resident of Charlotte enjoys the fact that he can also take wildlife photos close to home, from wild turkeys off Spear Street Extension to bald eagles at the ferry crossing and small birds on his own 15-acre spread.

In 2013, Machanic published This Book is for the Birds, a 40-page coffee table book of bird photographs paired with anecdotal comments about the breeds. Machanic cautions that the book is written in a somewhat jocular manner and is not intended to be a field guide. He has done a number of lectures based on the book and enjoys doing so for local audiences. Machanic doesn’t regret his “professional detour” but he’s happy to be free to spend more time with his camera. “It keeps me busy,” he said. “It’s almost occupational therapy and it’s very enjoyable.”