Owls and woodpeckers: Photographer Paul Bannick has show at Whatcom Museum

Seattle photographer Paul Bannick says his passion has always been conservation. He admits he’s always been a naturalist and a nature lover.

A graduate of the University of Washington, Bannick worked for 15 years in the computer software industry and was a senior manager at Microsoft.

“There came a point when I felt I needed to put my creativity and energy toward my greatest passion, no matter the financial rewards of being in the computer industry,” he says. “The wild places and wildlife need more advocates.”

Bannick currently serves as the major-gifts director for Bellingham-based Conservation Northwest, which works to protect and connect wild areas from the Pacific Coast to the Canadian Rockies.

And he loves photography.

His photography exhibit, “The Owl & the Woodpecker,” opens Saturday, May 9, at Whatcom Museum’s Old City Hall, 121 Prospect St. The exhibit, organized by Seattle’s Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, is based on Bannick’s book of the same name.

The 25 large-format, framed color prints his text descriptions of each bird, as well as panels that describe conservation issues affecting owl and woodpecker habitats in North America.

“I try to capture photos that surprise and intrigue,” says Bannick, who has an almost-childlike and infectious zeal for what can only be called the circle of life.

Bannick will give a presentation about his photographs at 7 p.m. Aug. 11 in the Old City Hall’s Rotunda Room, and there will be several bird-related programs during the run of the exhibit, which shows through Aug. 30.

Old City Hall is next to Syre Education Center, home to Whatcom Museum’s collection of more than 500 mounted birds, including 12 species of owls and six species of woodpeckers. Syre Education Center will be open to the public concurrently from May 9 to the end of the month.

Audio-naturalist Martyn Stewart provides recordings of the calls and drumming sounds of the birds shown in the photographs in the exhibit.

Bannick’s photograph of a snowy owl at Ocean Shores, “Arctic Emissary,” won the International Conservation Photography’s Canon Award in 2012. His photos, he says, depict a compelling engagement with wildlife that makes people want to learn more.

In an interview in July 2013 on KUOW, Bannick said “It is difficult working with conservation every day, because you are always in a position of trying to protect, and feeling the species you protected being whittled away.”

But in the past few years, he has noticed that such animals as the wolverine, the lynx and the wolf are returning to the wild.

“We are the stewards of more than just our backyard,” Bannick says. “When you are actually building resiliency into the system, it’s like you’re creating something eternal — and that has a degree of hope.”

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