I was born and raised in Des Moines Iowa, and from an early age it was clear that I had a strong affinity for all things wild and free. My parents helped fuel my curiosity about the natural world by taking me fishing and camping, and letting me watch every nature related TV show and movie in which I showed interest. My childhood bookshelf was filled with field guides, wildlife themed art volumes and wildlife and wilderness related fiction and non-fiction. When I wasn't pouring over books, I could keep myself entertained for hours just by exploring the yard and looking under every rock, branch and leaf for signs of animal life.
Before I was old enough to read, my two favorite books were "Red Tag Comes Back" by Fred Phleger and "Blueberries for Sal" by Robert McCloskey. The former recounts the journey of a tagged salmon from stream to sea and back, and the latter tells the story of a little girl named Sal who has a close encounter with a bear on a blueberry picking trip. My parents read these two books to me over and over and I never grew tired of them. The stories must have become deeply ingrained in my subconscious because when it came time for me to decide where in the world to call home, I chose a place that had an abundance of both bears and salmon. To this day I can't see a salmon swimming upstream without thinking of Red Tag, and I can't see a bear in the wild or eat a blueberry (or huckleberry) without thinking of Sal.
Throughout my school years my interest in the natural world never waned. After graduating from high school I enrolled in the Fisheries and Wildlife Biology program at Iowa State University. During my sophomore year at Iowa State I began volunteering at a small wildlife rehabilitation center that was attached to the ISU College of Veterinary Medicine. I found that I enjoyed helping to care for the animals that were undergoing rehabilitation, so I began to look for other opportunities in this field.
In 1993 I entered a three month internship program at a large wildlife rehabilitation center in Washington State. The variety of species to which I was exposed immediately grabbed me, and the ethics of the organization and its respect for each animal's inherent "wildness" resonated with me. When I graduated with a B.S. in Fisheries and Wildlife Biology in 1995, I returned to the northwest and took a seasonal postion at the wildlife center at which I had interned. I am still employed there today as the center's Naturalist in charge of the wildlife release program.
About my Photography
I have always had a strong interest in photographing wild animals, but this interest grew throughout my early years of wildlife rehabilitation work. I have also always been interested in educating others about wildlife, and I felt a strong compulsion to tell the stories of the individual wild animals that I was helping to heal and release. I was asked to write a periodic e-newsletter for my organization in which I included photographs taken both by myself and co-workers. From reader responses to the newsletter, it was clear that compelling photographs played an integral roll in effectively communicating my messages. I purchased a digital SLR camera and set about the task of improving my photography skills.
As my skills improved, my focus of interest shifted to photographing healthy animals in the wild. Working with badly damaged wild animals for 40 hours a week takes an emotional toll. It was therapeutic to get outside as often as possible to see animals that were not in need of any help. I began to compile a fairly large number of photos. When I began to learn how to use web site creation software, I decided to create a photo web site just as a practice exercise. I chose to name the site after Goat Island Mountain, which is the first place I went backcountry camping after moving to Washington State. I remember the feeling of wonder I had on that mountain, and the feeling of peace and connection that I only find when immersed in nature. It is this sense of wonder, and these feelings of peace and connection that I most wish to encourage in others.
The Future of Goat Island Images
Like the animals featured in its pages, Goat Island Images will continue to evolve. I hope to add new content on a weekly, if not daily basis and I have an enormous number of ideas floating around inside my head that will likely become reality on this site in the not too distant future. I hope you enjoy browsing the images and articles that you find here, and I hope you will feel free to contact me with any questions, feedback or general comments that you may have.
Kevin D. Mack,