Standing among the brittle, ice-crusted remnants of an Indiana cornfield in January, Gary Morrison waits with his camera.
He has scoped out the perfect location to see sand hill cranes as they feed their way through southern Indiana.
“You get these beautiful birds doing fantastic things. You spend a few hours standing in a cornfield in 20-degree weather, in two or three inches of water after you’ve fallen through the ice. There’s something pleasing about capturing these beautiful creatures,” he said.
Morrison bought his first camera when he was 10 years old. He had saved his money from his job delivering the Indianapolis News in his hometown of Bedford, and when he had enough, he went to a Hook’s Drug Store and bought a knock-off of the famed Brownie Hawkeye camera.
His family moved to Greenwood, and leading into his senior year at Greenwood High School, he earned the chance to spend some time at a journalism camp at Indiana University. While there, he met photographer Will Counts, famous for his shots of integrated schools in Little Rock, Arkansas.
“That really got me started in photography,” he said. “So I’ve really had this lifelong love for it.”
After working in different areas throughout his career, Morrison discovered a passion for landscape photography about 15 years ago. With the rise of digital cameras, he could go out and capture endless shots without worrying about wasting film.
Since that point, he has focused on southern Indiana landscapes as well as wildlife, such as the great blue heron, migratory ducks and sandhill cranes.
The sandhills, in particular, are one of his favorites.
“They’ll be in these cornfields, and you park by the side of the road and just watch them. They’re amazing,” he said.
Morrison has learned to do his research when searching for the landscape that will result in an ideal photograph. He consults books of Indiana wildlife and terrain, search for out-of-the-way places online and look for images about them, and then drives to scout the locations himself.
Often, he goes back and forth multiple times to a spot before he’s done shooting it.
“It’s not unusual for me to put 300 miles on my car in a day,” he said.
But Morrison has found that the best resource is other people. When he’s doing his scouting, chatting with the people living near a spot or driving by often leads to a landscape even better than he could have imagined.
“People will see me out on the gravel roads or back roads, and stop to talk. Once they figure out I’m not a bad guy, they’re very helpful,” he said.
Focus: Landscapes and wildlife, particularly birds, in Indiana and elsewhere