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This week’s edition!

Schooner Estates chef an avid bird photographer

Guest Column

By Rachel Morin

AUBURN – The residents at Schooner Estates Senior Living Community in Auburn, learned early on, that Todd Hopkins, Assistant Director of Food Service, and well-known photographer of birds and wildlife would narrate his presentation on the beautiful birds he photographed on his many trips.

It was welcome news for the pandemic-wearied folks at Schooner Estates! They already knew of Todd’s love for birds, animals and all forms of nature. They also knew about his many photography collections.

 Bird watchers assembled early to hear accounts of all the birds Todd photographed near the Schooner Campus and beyond. They knew he would be able to give many details on each bird as the photos were viewed.

Todd Hopkins, Assistant Director Food Service at Schooner Estates in Auburn, is an avid bird photographer throughout the southern Maine area. He recently presented a selection of his photos of the colorful birds in their natural environment to residents at Schooner Estates. (Rachel Morin Photo)

And as each beautiful brightly colored bird photo rolled by, Todd would stop and tell us where he took the photo, the time of year, the bird’s habitat, food, and interesting details. The many dedicated birders in the audience enjoyed adding a few comments of their own.

It was a happy time, hearing and seeing something different rather than the latest news on the Corona Virus and guidelines on television and the statistics on nation and worldwide happenings and how things were in the world.

I spoke with Todd a few days later to learn more about his fascination with birds, nature, photography, and how it all started.

I knew about his culinary skills already, since, as a chef as he prepared a family dinner for my family a couple years ago. To illustrate how skillful he is at meal preparation, we were given a menu and each person could select what he/she wanted—chicken, fish or beef and turn the menu in a few days ahead of time.

 And so we did, chicken, fish or beef a mixture for us eight family members. Everyone enjoyed the delicious meal, cooked to perfection. We were all very impressed.

 At the end of the meal, Karen, who was our quiet, friendly and meticulous server, asked if we would like to speak with the Chef. Would we? Could we? We would be thrilled! And so out came Todd and we had a great conversation with him. He was delighted we enjoyed our meals so much.

So imagine my surprise when I heard about his interests in birds and nature as everyone in our family is a bird watcher, nature lover and a fairly good cook on our own.

Green Heron. This photo was shot at the confluence of Bobbin Mill Stream and the Androscoggin River, right near Schooner Estates in Auburn. Photographer Todd Hopkins is the Assistant Director of Food Service at the facility. (Todd Hopkins Photo)

And so after the excellent Bird photos and very interesting narration. I wanted to connect with him on how he got started, which led to his other special interest, as you might have already suspected: photography! Birdwatching leads to photography. You want to keep the birds with you to enjoy them time and time again.

“My love for photography was born out of love for nature.” Todd related and continued that when he was in middle school, friends invited him on a canoe trip with their family down the Allagash River. “It was nature as I had never experienced before and I loved it.” The same family brought him to Baxter State Park, Mt. Abram, Sunday River, Sugarloaf and Bigelow Mountain Range, as well as many more trips down the St. John River and the Allagash.

Todd tells me he dabbled with a 4 megapixel Fuji film digital camera that his parents bought him for his 13th birthday. Many of the images he tried to photograph were out of range, or just blurry, or not the way he wanted the image to look.

He knew, by then, he needed a more advanced camera and more education before he was going to be satisfied with the end result. That was expensive. Photography would have to wait.

Todd wrapped up his last class requirement at the University of Southern Maine and completed in Argentina. He knew it would be a primo opportunity to get his older and tech savvy brother, Matt, to negotiate with their parents to buy a digital SLR Nikon camera as an early graduation gift. Matt would pick it up. The parents would be pleased. Todd would have no idea what to expect.

Eastern Bluebird- This photo was taken at the intersection of Stetson and the River Road in Auburn by Photographer Todd Hopkins. the Assistant Director of Food Service at the facility.. (Todd Hopkins Photo)

Todd got his early surprise graduation gift, a digital SLR Nikon camera, two lenses, a new hobby and as he likes to say, “Love was born.”

Todd tells me that was in 2009. He has been growing in photography ever since. He recounts his activities since 2009. “I have shot weddings, portraits, interior design, landscapes, seascapes, birds, wildlife and more. I have continued to educate myself through youtube, books, magazines, and working with mentors and other talented working professional photographers.”

Todd says the goal has always been to get to a point where he could afford a lens long enough to be able to get even closer to wildlife and birds, his main interest.

This is what he does, especially before and after work. He travels the same routes and has learned the territory of many different birds. “But, you never really know what might pop up one day in one of my regular spots,” he said. He has been pleasantly surprised many times!

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