William Brewster

Notes from William Brewster: Trials in Wildlife Photography

This post is part of a series on the collection of ornithologist William Brewster (1851-1919) at the Ernst Mayr Library, written by Elizabeth Meyer, Library Project Assistant.

In the mid-1890s, Brewster’s journals increasingly reference using new methods of data collection. Though he continued to collect specimens on a smaller scale, with focus shifted from birds to their nests and eggs, his journals show that he began to use his gun more for securing dinner than for data collection. He started to bring field glasses (binoculars) and a boxy Kodak camera on his excursions.

Setting up photographs in the field was challenging. Sometimes a bit of prep work helped, such as thinning the foliage in backcountry areas: “I spent the day ashore taking a walk through the wood road in the forenoon with camera & hatchet selecting & cutting out spots for photographing later.” (Sunshine, Deer Island, Maine. June 26, 1896.)

Opportunistic shots of live animals were even trickier, but once in a while he managed to get some good shots. 

Porcupine

Sepia-toned photo of a porcupine on a tree branch.