Soaring images

Photographer captures falcons over Port

Tom Forsterling (inset) and a photo he took of peregrine falcons mating outside the Port Washington Power plant.
Ozaukee Press staff

Like any photographer, Tom Forsterling knows he has to be in the right place at the right time to capture that special shot.

Also like any photographer, he doesn’t ever know when or where that will be.

That’s why the Random Lake resident and his wife come to the Port Washington lakefront every weekend.

“There are great photo opportunities,” he said.

This time of year is especially appealing because so much waterfowl is passing through.

“You’ll have a lot of different ducks in the harbor area,” he said.

Common feathered friends are the peregrine falcons that hang around their nesting box at the power plant. Forsterling pointed his lens in that direction. What could have been a routine shot turned into an amazing photo of peregrine falcons mating.

“I was taking a picture of the female by herself and the male flew into the scene,” Forsterling said.

He kept his finger on the shutter of his camera and took 200 shots in 30 seconds.

“It all just happened so fast. It was pretty lucky to get everything in focus,” he said.

Forsterling was aided by the speed of his camera, Canon’s latest model, a 1 DX Mark II.

“The neat thing about it which helped me in this event is it takes 14 images in one second. That’s what allowed me to get all these pictures in flight like that,” he said.

Forsterling has a 400-millimeter lens and a teleconverter that brings the image 1.4 times closer.

More free time has allowed Forsterling to focus more on his hobby the past couple of years. He owned an industrial paint business called Classic Coatings in Sheboygan for a decade, putting in 14 to 16-hour days that didn’t allow pursuit of other passions.

Now as a powder coating technical sales manager for Watry Industries in Sheboygan, Forsterling’s 10-hour days make for more photography time, as well as opportunities to travel with his wife.

During their latest excursion to Costa Rica, Forsterling took photos of 62 different birds.

“And I didn’t have a clue what birds I was taking pictures of,” he said.

One was a resplendent quetzal, which has a unique head and long tail. It’s the most sought-after bird in the country and a rare sight, usually found in certain elevations with difficult terrain.

He never heard of the bird before he got to Costa Rica, and it was a stroke of luck that a guide he booked before he left for the trip knew where to find one. Forsterling took photos of a quetzal for 20 minutes.

He captured a bigger beast on a guided tour during a trip to Alaska 18 months ago. Forsterling’s close-ups of a grizzly bear were taken from at least 100 yards away with his 600mm lens.

“It looks like you’re right there but you actually aren’t,” he said.

Forsterling grew up in Sheboygan and caught the photography bug when he was about 12. His first camera was a Kodak that printed out photos that required shaking to show the images.

“I was never really serious, but I was the one that ended up taking pictures of everybody at all the events,” he said.

He remembers the days of bringing film to Walgreens and picking up photos a week later.

“You had no idea what you got,” he said, as opposed modern cameras with screens. “You look right in your camera today.”

Forsterling had another passion while growing up. Despite his high school not offering baseball, he earned a full-ride scholarship to the University of Wisconsin-Parkside to pitch. He later played at Arizona Mesa Community College before being cut, and then came home to finish school at Lakeland.

Forsterling played for the semi-pro Sheboygan’ A’s and recently was inducted into the team’s hall of fame.

Once his attention turned to photography, Forsterling knew he had to make an investment.

“I didn’t want the lack of good equipment holding me back. It’s a very expensive hobby,” he said.

Since photographers don’t often tell their secrets, Forsterling said he is mostly self-taught through YouTube.

Forsterling does weddings, senior photos and has followed race car drivers Brian and James French at Road America, but he likes nature the best.

“Every time you go out you never know what to expect,” he said.

Just like when he captured those peregrine falcons.

“They don’t come out much. It just makes you want to go out again and again because you never know what’s going to happen. That’s what I think makes it the most interesting,” he said.

Regardless of where he goes, Forsterling is prepared.

“Wherever I go, the camera’s in the back seat,” he said.

Forsterling said he is looking for business in Port to display and sell some of his work.

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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
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