A humbling experience in the woods nearly 50 years ago made Paul Lischeid realize he’d rather hunt with a camera than a rifle.
The turning point in his life came during a hunting trip with his brother-in-law near Cle Elum in the 1960s. Jim Norman had just scared some deer toward Lischeid, who had begun walking up a hill.
Suddenly, five deer charged over the hill. Lischeid froze.
“They ran right by me,” Lischeid said. “I said, ‘I can’t shoot this thing.’ I said, ‘I’d rather shoot them with a camera.’”
Nowadays, Lischeid, 64, is seen all over Whidbey Island, aiming his camera at wildlife and scenic landscapes.
His passion is shooting birds and he will go to great lengths to get the right image. No matter how long it takes.
“If he didn’t have to work, he’d be out there all the time,” his wife, Gail Lischeid said. “So many of our vacations we plan around the migration of the birds. I just go along and get a lot of reading done. Once a year, we try to have a ‘Gail’ vacation.”
Paul readily jokes about his “obsession” with shooting birds. He takes great joy in capturing unique moments. He and his wife used to run a travel agency and their travels led to a growing interest in shooting scenery and wildlife all over the country, Central and South America.
“You see all this nature and landscapes and you say to people, ‘You should see these things,’” Paul said. “If you get a picture of it, then you can show them a photograph.”
Pretty soon, just a picture wasn’t enough. Paul invested in better gear and bigger lenses. Getting as close as possible without disturbing the target is critical. His massive 500 millimeter lens allows him leeway.
“It’s an obsession,” Paul said. “My wife says I’m obsessed. You never can have a big enough lens. People say, ‘When are you going to stop?’”
That’s something he doesn’t see on the horizon, nor does his wife want him to.
“He takes great joy in it,” she said.
Since the Lischeids moved from Everett to Clinton in 1991, Paul has found Whidbey Island to be an ideal setting for his passion. Particularly when it comes to birds. He’s constantly staking out blue herons, eagles, hawks, osprey, even owls.
“I enjoy birds,” Paul said. “There’s such a variety here of birds. I try to get some kind of composition of them doing something unique.”
Sometimes, that includes long standoffs. Such as the time he waited for a heron to budge from a piling near the ferry terminal in Coupeville.
“I sat there for three hours,” he said. “Then it started shaking its feathers. It was all fluffed up. It was a chance to get something different.”
Gail doesn’t even ask anymore when her husband leaves for work several hours early. A retired millworker, Paul works at The Home Depot in Oak Harbor. He often stops at Crockett Lake near the Coupeville ferry terminal on his way to work to see what the eagles and herons are up to.
“It’s something different. It’s a funny hobby,” Paul said. “I wish I could do it full-time.”
Paul recently began selling his photographs. His work can be seen on a website at www.pbase.com/plischeid.
A collection of Paul’s photography also is displayed at Oak Harbor City Hall through the end of April.
Gail and Paul will be married 37 years in May. She knows her husband well.
“He’ll say, ‘How about if I take you to the casino today?’” she said. “I say, ‘That’d be nice.’”
Then on the way there, Gail catches on.
“He’ll say, ‘Just a minute, I want to go look down at this field’ or ‘I want to go down to the river,’” Gail said. “There’s always an ulterior motive.”
Contact Whidbey News-Times staff reporter Ron Newberry at email@example.com