Islander 'shoots' birds

"For at least one island resident, the birds of Whidbey are a way to make a living.Greenbank's Bart Rulon is a full-time wildlife photographer and painter. He's published two books. One of his books, Painting Birds Step by Step, uses dozens of photos of Whidbey Island birds.This is a great place for bird photography, says Rulon, who grew up in Kentucky and graduated from the University of Kentucky in 1990 before settling on Whidbey.Rulon turned to wildlife photography to give him images to paint from, but over time he's found photography to be a fulfilling art form in itself.It's such a challenge, he says. It's the perfect way to study wildlife. You're basically hunting with a camera.That hunting can go to great lengths, including a floating contraption Rulon has built from the innertubes used by fishermen. He drapes his canopy with local vegetation, then floats among the birds.It's amazing how close the birds let you get, he says. I've had birds land right on top, or come right up to me. They treat it like a big clump of grass.Rulon uses a 400 millimeter lens for most of his bird photography, and almost always uses a tripod. Even his floating canopy features a platform on which he can stabilize his camera in order to get clear pictures.Rulon just got back from a weekend of trying to photograph black bears on the Olympic Peninsula. He is currently working on two more books, and says he's settled into his career as a wildlife photographer and painter on Whidbey Island.It seems to grow a little each year. It keeps me busy, he says. "

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