Sunday, June 16, 2024

Where the Wild Things Are: Exhibit by wildlife photographer Larry Master

Bird in tree

By Betty Spence

If you have ever wondered who might be living among us in the wild Adirondacks and have yet to wander the woods to see for yourself, the place for wonder and discovery this summer is Elizabethtown’s Adirondack History Museum exhibit by wildlife photographer Larry Master. You’ll be greeted by birds large and small, including a saw-whet owl whose eyes fill nearly the entire frame, and a soaring great grey owl that would strike terror in the heart of the red squirrel on the adjacent wall. On one wall, a sizeable black bear stalks, while a brilliant blue bird, wings spread, shimmers from another. There are otters and warblers and bobcats, oh my.

When Master was growing up in Haverford, PA, his laissez-faire mother would open the door and shoo him out. He would ramble through field and woods with his box camera to photograph the critters whose paths he crossed – snakes, mammals, birds – spending hours observing them. At Haverford School, science drew him in; but outside, he developed the bird identification skills that today dazzle anyone fortunate to be outside with him.

Master’s love affair with the Adirondacks began during summer visits to his grandfather’s Lake Placid camp and increased during college years at St. Lawrence, whose campus he escaped on weekends to ski Whiteface and hike the High Peaks. He returned full time when he retired, while also traveling to the ends of the earth to photograph some of our globe’s other wild things: polar bears hunting in Svalbard, birds of paradise strutting in New Guinea, grizzlies fishing in Alaska’s Katmai National Park, jaguars crunching caimans in Brazil’s Pantanal, and the stunning and curious young cheetah that this year climbed onto his vehicle in Tanzania for her close up.

Common Loon and babies
 Common loon. Lower St. Regis

With a B.S. in biology and Ph.D. plus post-doctoral studies in biology from the University of Michigan, Master served as Chief Zoologist for The Nature Conservancy that included creating central zoological databases for the Natural Heritage Network, along with advanced
methodologies for tracking, mapping, and assessing the conservation status of elements of biodiversity. In 2000, he moved with TNC’s science division – now NatureServe, the source for biodiversity data in North America.

Northern saw-whet owl
Northern saw-whet owl- 2 year old male
Great Blue Heron
Great blue heron

But one of his proudest achievements is here in the Adirondacks: the gorgeous 135-acre nature preserve called Intervale Lowlands along the west branch of the Ausable River, where he has monitored the biotic effects of climate change on its 1,000+ species, including 175 bird species.

This summer, people can take a short walk on the wild side — bug-free — at the Elizabethtown museum. It is open until October 6 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, and from noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays. Master will speak about his photos at a special gallery celebration July 12 from 4 to 6 p.m., and he will offer a lecture on conservation photography July 25 from 7 to 8 p.m.

The Adirondack History Museum is located at 7590 Court Street, Elizabethtown, NY 12932.

Photo at top: Baltimore oriole- adult female. Photo by Larry Master. All photos courtesy of Master Images.

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The Adirondack Almanack publishes occasional guest essays from Adirondack residents, visitors, and those with an interest in the Adirondack Park. Submissions should be directed to Almanack editor Melissa Hart at

One Response

  1. Kathy W says:

    I want to thank Larry for his beautiful hummingbird calendars. They not only have his characteristic beautiful photographs but also include environment-focused “holidays” noted like National Black Bear Day and partial lunar eclipses. Thank you!

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