A photographer tells his story at the Red River Wildlife Refuge

By HENRIETTA WILDSMITH, Shreveport Times

BOSSIER CITY, La. (AP) — When people enter the Red River National Wildlife Refuge, they are greeted by large, colorful screens filled with photos of the animals that can be seen at the refuge. On the side of the photos, in very small print, is the name of the photographer. The majority of them say Ronnie Maum.

Long before the paved bike paths were laid or the information plaques were put up, or even before the visitor center was built in 2012, Maum, 62, was walking and taking pictures at the refuge. It all started when he read an article in The Times about an upcoming bird walk on the property, organized by the group (now called) Friends of Red River National Wildlife Refuge.

This walk changed photography for Maum.

“I always liked taking pictures, but I wasn’t very focused,” he said.

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He was given direction and the people he met gave him the encouragement he needed to grow. He was granted a “special use” permit to take photos on the property whenever he wanted, on the condition that he share the footage with the shelter.

He was delighted. “I was in pork heaven, how could I ask for anything more?”

That’s how it all started, but it also made him realize he still had more to learn. “I discovered that there are so many things that I don’t know.”

Over the years he no longer needed a license to photograph, his equipment was upgraded to a Canon 5D Mark IV and he expanded his knowledge of what he photographed. What has become the advice he gives to other budding photographers: Learn about what you are photographing, “You will go further” he said.

“Ronnie always gives a lot of information with a picture,” said Friends of Red River National Wildlife Refuge group president Zac Burson, who credits Maum as a major part of the refuge’s outreach efforts.

Burson noted that it is not just the general public that benefits from Maum’s work, but also the scientific community. “He has become very well respected, as a photographer, he helps inform scientists about the insects of this region. He is so observant.

In Maum’s observation of life at the shelter, he is able to pay homage to the moments that happen in a split second. It can be the moment an otter catches a fish, when the ebony jewel damsel balances on a leaf, or when the great egret feeds her young.

However, it is not only the moments that make a good photo but also the light.

Maum learned to use light to his advantage. The morning sun hitting the mist on Lake Caroline, the golden sunset among the trees, or the night sky turning black so the moon could light up all set the scene for his photos.

“We really appreciate Ronnie taking the time to introduce the refuge,” said ranger Terri Jacobson. “There are so many plants and animals that you might not know they were there unless it was documented.”

Back at the visitor center, the macro view of Maum’s life is on display. It was the first time his work was shown to the public. He was amazed at how it turned out. “It feels good to be able to contribute to the shelter.”

Jacobson knows that when people see Maum’s work on their social media pages, it encourages them to visit the shelter. “They’re excited and then they want to come see it,” he said.

“Ronnie’s work creates a window into the natural world so people of all ages can appreciate it more,” Burson said.

You can learn more about Maum’s work when he gives the presentation, “A Year at the Refuge – A Photo Journey,” at the visitor center during the Friends of Red River National Wildlife Refuge group meeting on Thursday, August 18.

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