By BRANDON BUTLER
Matt Miles has produced a masterpiece.
Missouri Wild and Wonderful is a coffee table book of photography captured over the course of 20 years. Detailed descriptions accompany some of the more remarkable shots.
Perhaps nearly as impressive as the photography is the diversity of locations where the treasures were taken. Counties are represented from every region of the state among the book’s 142 images.
“The purpose of the book is to help highlight the natural resources of our state – some of the most interesting and unique things we are blessed with here,” Miles said.
An environmental consultant primarily working with electric utilities, Miles resides just outside of Springfield. He and his wife have three daughters.
“If someone would have told me years ago that taking pictures would cut into my fishing time, I would have never believed them,” he said.
He claims his photography is still a hobby, but the work begs to differ. This is as professional as photography books come. The quality of the book, and especially the thick stock paper sets this work apart.
Miles says that after just being outside and witnessing so many neat experiences as a sportsman, he decided to buy a camera and capture future opportunities. Now he uses his trail cameras to monitor places to shoot photography.
“A common misconception about wildlife photography is that you sit in the woods for long periods of time, waiting and hoping for something to come by,” he said. “It’s actually much more reliant on your knowledge of the species you are pursuing and using that knowledge to create an opportunity that allows you to get close. It’s very much like hunting.”
When pressed to disclose his favorite image, Miles wasn’t quick to answer. You could tell all the shots are special to him, and I think he’s hesitant to influence the perception of those who flip through the pages. Every photograph should begin on equal footing, but he answered.
“My encounters with the mammals were special,” he said. “Any predator situation is memorable. But it’s the bears. They are unique, and we are blessed to have bears in our state. Now the numbers are growing. So, yeah, one of two bears is my favorite.”
My personal favorites are multiple landscapes of Shannon County, including the cover photo of the sun rising over the Ozark Mountains with Current River coursing through the heart of the valley. Fog rises in the distance above a colorful canopy of leaves changing. It’s fall, and a new day is born.
Another photo I find incredible is of three hornyhead chubs harassing a ringed crayfish. The water clarity of Taney County’s Swan Creek provides crystal clarity. The expressions of the three little fish are hilarious. I sat and studied their faces. The crayfish, perched on the edge of a rock with one claw raised for battle, reminds me of David standing before Goliath.
What else? Owls, a bobcat kitten, landscapes, sky scapes, the moon, birds, waterfalls, native flowers, a coyote’s piercing yellow eyes, a dogwood in bloom, hummingbirds in flight, a river frozen, butterfly pollinating, bald cypress swamps and so much more.
This book is the sort of treasure you want to give to others who you hope appreciate the wildlife and wild places of Missouri as you do – the sort of people who are moved by the sight of a pileated woodpecker soaring through towering shortleaf pines, the aqua blue of a deep spring, snow crusted crop fields full of migrating geese, whitetail bucks and wild turkeys.
It truly showcases why Missouri is so special, and why we are the lucky ones.
For more information about Matt Miles’ photography and to learn more about his new book, Missouri Wild and Wonderful, go online to MattMilesPhotography.com.