Patience is one of those things you either have or you don’t.
While some of us have problems with the length of time it takes for that first morning coffee to finish brewing or a stoplight to change, Don Gutoski is one of those for whom patience is a gift.
A doctor by trade for the last 35 years, Gutoski is also an accomplished photographer with a keen eye and love of nature. Just as comfortable on the velds of Botswana or the Arctic tundra as he is in the urgent care department of St. Joseph’s Health Care, his patience comes in handy when dealing with everything from scrapes and pains, to shooting animals through the lens of his camera.
On a trip to Churchill, Man., last year, that patience paid off in spades. There to photograph polar bears as part of a photo expedition, Gutoski noticed a red fox chasing something off in the distance. As it got closer, that prey turned out to be a now dead Arctic fox. Shooting almost 2,000 images over a period of close to three hours in sub-zero temperatures, one of those frames would earn him the prestigious title of 2015 Wildlife Photographer of the Year, awarded by the Natural History Museum in London, UK.
Gutoski got his start in photography while still a teenager in high school. Swept up by his studies to become a doctor and then facing the realities of life, his hobby remained largely on the back burner until the ‘90s.
Gutoski’s love of nature, particularly wildlife, has filled his viewfinder ever since.
The walls of the home he shares with his wife Mary Jane are proof enough of that, literally filled with images of everything from cheetahs to grizzly bears he has photographed. A selection of his work also adorns the walls of the urgent care centre at St. Joseph’s as well.
Heading out two or three times a year, on what Mary Jane has come to call, “fur and feather trips,” the pair has travelled around the world in pursuit of that elusive shot.
“The big predators are kind of what attracts most nature photographers and they are the most exciting,” explained Gutoski, who added it isn’t always what you go looking for that turns out to be what you come home with.
He laughed when asked if he had a “photographic bucket list” of animals he’d like to shoot.
“You do but you don’t because you go for something and you almost never get what you had perceived as being the shot, but you get lots of other stuff.”
Pointing to the image of the two foxes that won him the title, he added, “It’s always a surprise what stands out. I saw a red fox where I never expected to and got the winning shot.”
Does he envision a day where he will hang up his stethoscope and pick up a tripod full time? Cradling his camera, Gutoski looks out across the pond and at the woods that surround it and their home in the countryside outside London. A smile comes across his face as he answers.
“Well, I will hang up the stethoscope, but I don’t ever think I will do this as a business, but definitely as a more serious hobby. … I just want to enjoy it.”