Navy veteran finds peace in photography

Our country’s heroes are all around us and with November as National Veterans and Military Families Month, we’re introducing a veteran who used to forecast the weather for the U.S. Navy, and is now finding peace through photography. 

Photographing birds is a fairly new hobby for Navy veteran Michael French, a man with a very analytical mind which works for an eye for photography, but was also perfect for his former job.

“We don’t use percents. It’s not a ‘10% chance of rain today’. It’s not a ‘I think this’ or ‘I think that’. It’s, ‘It’s going to rain’ or ‘it’s going to rain at this time, the wind is gonna be out of this direction, it’s gonna be at this speed,’” he said.

Michael says the role came with a lot of stress, needing to know conditions in the air, on the ground and in the water, without much help from computers at that time, but he says it was rewarding.

“We gave briefings to pilots every single day, numerous briefings,” Michael said. “This group might be going somewhere and this group might be going somewhere else. This ship is here but it might be here when you get back. Everything had to come together.”

That data-driven mindset is what led him to pick up a camera about two years ago.

“I just wanted to know how cameras worked, the actual mechanism inside; how to capture an image,” he said.

Michael’s interest became a pastime and then about eight months ago, he took on the challenge of bird photography. But it’s not just Michael and his camera creating stunning images. Michael’s wife, Jennifer, and their dog, Lucy, are by his side as he travels around CNY to take pictures.

It’s a team effort, as Jennifer helps Michael edit.

“We like to take off and not only find some spots that have we not only heard of them, but we’ve never been there before, so it’s a lot of fun going around to all the places that there are to see,” Jennifer said.

“Everyday, you learn something new, and you get a little better and better,” Michael said.

Michael spent nine years in the Navy, and now works at Hannaford Supermarket. He’s grateful for what photography brings to his and his family’s lives.

“When I started this, all of a sudden my world slowed down because I was taking the time to look around with the goal of capturing something beautiful to the best of my ability,” he said.

While he didn’t have a camera during his time in the service, Michael says he is making the most of it now with his family by his side. Michael plans to make a book of his bird photos for his new granddaughter.

You can see Michael’s photography work on his Instagram page.

Kenneth Proto

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