An eye for the wild ones: Local wildlife photographer gains regional recognition

News-Argus Staff

A common redpoll sits in the snow on the deck outside Manley’s home. Birdfeeders and hours of sitting outside allowed Manley to get close enough to get this shot.

Photo by Kristine Manley




Self-taught photographer Kristine Manley has an eye for wildlife. Along with her patience, commitment, and professional equipment, it creates the perfect storm. Her photography has been admired by almost everyone who has the privilege to see it, and has inspired her to continue.

It all started for Manley when she was 7 years old, living in Minnesota and visiting her grandfather Manley’s place. Her grandfather had a subscription to “National Geographic,” and had many current and old issues lying around. Her fascination with the photography was undeniable, she said. She also watched the TV show, “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” with her dad. The one particular episode she vividly remembers was a video shoot of a pride of lions. For Manley, that’s all it took; she was hooked.

Manley and her family moved to Montana in 1978, where they became business owners.

The first camera she owned was a “basic point and shoot. I neither had the camera nor the patience for the really good shots,” Manley said. 

Then life happened and she grew up, got married and had kids. Most of her photography during that period was with a basic digital camera. Her children and family were the primary focus of her photographic efforts at this time. 

“ I didn’t have the time for much else,” she said. 

As her children grew and left the nest, she found herself on her own and wanting to pursue her passion. However she became frustrated.

 “I just didn’t have the equipment to get the shots I wanted; they weren’t like the magazines. In March of 2015, I was east of Lewistown and there was a porcupine in broad daylight, so I took a picture of it with my zoom, point and shoot camera. I took one look at the shot and said, ‘that’s it,’ and I bought my first professional camera.” Manley said.

She hasn’t looked back since.

As with any photographer worth their salt, Manley said it might take 500-1,000 snaps of her camera to get one perfect image. When she finds that perfect picture, she saves it and post-processes it to her computer, adding her name and copyright information so the image can be printed out whenever it is needed.  Those lucky enough to be friends with Manley on Facebook have had the privilege to see a lot of her perfect captures. She has also had numerous images printed in the News-Argus publications.

Unlike people, who can be posed, animals can’t. Patience is key. They move fast and most are not comfortable with humans.

 Manley said, “I have learned to be patient if I want that perfect image.” 

Hours of sitting in a field, waiting for a ground den of burrowing owls to be comfortable enough with her presence to relax and be themselves so she can get the shots she wants is not unusual. Manley has been to Slippery Ann for elk pictures, the Teton Mountains for moose and the Breaks near Winifred for bighorn sheep, just to mention a few sites.

The local area around Lewistown has enough wildlife and domestic animals to satisfy her passion most of the time. This winter Manley has captured some images of house finches and common  red polls right outside of her door, where she placed bird feeders.

 “When I first started walking out on the deck, all the birds would fly away, so I started spending a lot of time out there so they would get used to me.” Manley said. 

 Even with the bitter cold weather, she persevered. Her patience paid off, and eventually the birds became comfortable enough to come to the feeders while she was sitting on the deck. It was below zero but she had waited weeks for a good shot. As she watched, a little common red poll perched on the edge of her lens, followed by another. 

“It was one of my top experiences as a wildlife photographer,” said Manley. 

Her very top experience happened earlier in her career.

“In April of 2016 I had gone to Winifred to film sharp tail grouse. I got up before daylight one cold morning and sat in the middle of a lek (mating site for the birds). As the sun came up, birds started coming to the lek, performing their mating dances all around me. There were approximately 200 birds. It was the highlight of my photographic career,” she said.

Manley received the opportunity dreams are made of when she submitted a photo of an elk calf she captured in July of 2017 near Gardiner, Montana to “Montana Outdoors” magazine. It was accepted and printed in the Jan./Feb. 2018 edition.

Manley feels it is important for people to know she was self taught. She said, “You don’t need to take a class or lessons to learn how to take pictures -- be curious, research and read, read, read, then practice.”

 It is clearly her recipe for success. 



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