October 10th, 2007
I’m John Van Den Brandt, a Sr. National Account Manager at 4imprint. I’m also the photographer behind 4imprint’s exclusive 2008 wildlife calendar. Wildlife photography is one of my passions and I’m proud of the images contained in this year’s calendar and excited about the response we’ve gotten from our customers. Besides the photos, one of the calendar’s most popular features is my brief comments included with each month’s image, explaining how I got the shot or why I like the image. I thought you might enjoy hearing a more in-depth story of how I captured the first shot on the calendar – the tiny elf owl. The adventure began with an e mail from Bruce in Arizona that read like a coded message in a spy novel, “The elf owls are waiting.” The news was anything but mysterious to me. Bruce is recently retired from Arizona Game and Fish and had been scouting the desert for the secretive elf owl.
Among the world’s smallest owls at only five inches, elf owls are strictly nocturnal, but with Bruce’s help, I hoped to find and photograph this tiny creature for the 2008 wildlife calendar being produced by 4imprint. I met up with Bruce on the edge of the desert outside Phoenix as the evening sun melted into the horizon. We were only driving a short time before he pulled off the road and into the desert itself. No road – just a rock strewn washout choked with cactus. We violently bounced and swayed several miles to our destination. We set off on foot with no paths anywhere and thick scrub brush in all directions. Full darkness had settled over the desert and only the stars gave definition to the towering cacti rising out of the brush. Bruce produced a series of soft barks and squawks – elf owl talk for “Hello, come over and introduce yourself.” Silence. He repeated the call frequently as we slowly edged through the desert. Suddenly his call was met by several unmistakable yaps in reply. My pulse quickened as I realized that our prey was nearby, concealed high atop a huge saguaro cactus. We slowly traced our headlamps over the cactus, scanning the orderly rows of needles. Near the top, a small hole broke the pattern and a pair of yellow eyes shown down on us. An elf owl, no larger than a child’s fist, squawked inquisitively as my flash softly popped, capturing his image. As we lingered for a moment, staring up at his lofty perch, I shook my head in wonder and said aloud “Who gets to wander the desert in the dead of night and see things like this!?” Bruce smiled and replied, “Tonight John – you do.” I hope you enjoy the 2008 4imprint Wildlife Calendar and choose it as a great gift for friends, employees and customers! -John