Dale Monette has lived within a stone’s throw of the picturesque Quabbin Reservoir for most of his life.
With a keen eye, incredible patience, and a deep knowledge of his subjects’ behavior, Monette captures the magic of the Quabbin and its wildlife through the lens of his camera.
Producer Dave Fraser joined Monette recently at the reservoir and shares his story.
Hear Dale Monette talk about his role in reintroducing the bald eagle to the Quabbin in a digital exclusive clip.
Read the full transcript:
Dave Fraser, Connecting Point: On a recent January morning, New Salem resident, Dale Monette, is doing what he does most mornings: heading down to the shores of the Quabbin Reservoir, with a tripod and a backpack loaded with camera gear, looking for the next great wildlife image.
Dale Monette, Wildlife Photographer/Author: It’s in my blood, so to speak, because my great grandparents had to sell their land and move out of North Prescott when they built the reservoir in the thirties.
So it’s always been a big, big part of my life.
Dave Fraser: The Quabbin Reservoir is the largest inland body of water in Massachusetts. When full, it holds approximately 412 billion gallons of water, and supplies Boston as well as several other communities, mostly in the eastern part of the state, with drinking water.
Dale Monette: When I was young, my father used to bring my younger brother and I down here and we’d go out in the boat, and I was always amazed at how big it was and how clear the water was.
Dave Fraser: Monette was 63 years old when he says he discovered his life’s passion. He was two years shy of a 30-year career with the State Department of Conservation and Recreation, when he realized he wanted to document the exquisite wildlife that had been his neighbor since he was a boy.
Dale Monette: So, I started taking pictures, and after a year, and a year and a half, I had all these pictures and I started selling the photos at craft shows. And it was just a natural to put a put a book together.
Dave Fraser: The book contains images of landscapes, loons, moose, bald eagles, and coyotes. The latter prompted a story that Monette shared.
Dale Monette: There was a coyote that I had been seeing. I see it three or four years in a row in the same place. And this one particular time it was coming down the shoreline about 67 yards away from me. It spotted me and it stood there and look — and it looked at me and it sat right down. And it looked right at me. And it stood up, and it heard something, and it jumped, and it caught a mouse. And just as it went into the woods, it turned around and it looked at me with the mouse hanging out of its mouth.
Sometimes I’m just — I’m just totally blown away when stuff like that happens and that’s what keeps me coming out here.
Dave Fraser: Since that first book, Monette has produced two more “Voyagers, Visitors, and Home” and “Genius of the Swamp: the Great Blue Heron.” Each book a result of hours of time spent out in nature, waiting for that special moment.
Dale Monette: You have to have a lot of patience. You have to know the habitats of what you’re looking for, and you have to be familiar with what you’re – what you’re going to go after to, to photograph.
I don’t like to get close to birds. That’s where these telephoto lenses come in really, really good. And it just — it depends on a lot on the light.
But mainly I just have to be ready. I shoot, in for the photographers, I shoot in manual mode. So, I don’t — I set everything up more or less. I look at the light and I look at the distance and that sort of thing. So, I’m pretty well set before I get there.
If I wake up in the morning and I think to myself, “Oh geez, I don’t think I really want to go out this morning.” And then I start thinking, “Well, that coyote that I saw with the mouse, if I’m laying in bed, that’s not going to magically appear in my camera.”
So, how would I come? It’s just my default place to go where it’s quiet. And on days like this, you hardly see any people down here. It’s just a great, great place to go.