Paul Staniszewski: A local wild elk photographer

Paul Staniszewski: A local wild elk photographer

Clearfield County | I-80 Frontier of the Pennsylvania Wilds

By LaKeshia Knarr

“I got into this accidentally,” said Paul Staniszewski, a Pittsburgh native who is known around the Pennsylvania Wilds for his elk photography.

The retired technology instructor said he bought a camera about eight years ago when he and his wife retired to Troutville. They chose the Clearfield County community to be closer to their families and further from the hustle and bustle they’d been accustomed to while teaching for decades in northern New Jersey. 

“You just never know what turn your life is going to take…. Until ten years ago, I never owned a camera. I traveled all over the world and wasn’t interested in photography,” he said. 

That all changed when a student from Carlow College in Pittsburgh was doing a study on how insect diversity and quantity may determine quality of waterways. She was investigating the water near his home, and she asked him to take some pictures to help.

“I was fascinated by all the detail you could see in these insects,” Staniszewski said.

The next photography project was more personal to him. The Staniszewskis were set on being surrounded by nature in their new home, but soon came to realize that when winter struck, the lush greens and colorful flowers were replaced with more muted tones and snowy white.

“The house is all windows. It was great seeing all the greenery, and we planted flowers all around the house,” he said, adding that those flowers soon became the focus of his newfound hobby. “I began photographing the flowers around our house to decorate the interior, with the idea to have more color inside in the wintertime.”

That was just the beginning. He was encouraged by friends and artisans in his area to continue building his portfolio.

It wasn’t long before his images were winning contests at the Clarion Autumn Leaf Festival. He became a resident fine artist at the Winkler Gallery of Fine Art in DuBois and a juried artisan in what was then the PA Wilds Artisan Trail, today the Wilds Cooperative of Pennsylvania.

The Elk Country Visitor Center encouraged PA Wilds artisans to submit images, and Staniszewski’s floral photos were accepted. It wasn’t long before he turned his attention to the unique wildlife nearby.

While elk once roamed freely in Pennsylvania, hunting and habitat exploitation caused the elk to disappear by 1867. Beginning in 1913, elk were reintroduced to Pennsylvania. Today the herd is approaching 1,000.

“I went out and I ended up teaching myself how to photograph the elk,” he shared. “I almost exclusively photograph elk today, and I try to capture the personality of each animal I’m photographing.”

His images of elk can now also be found at the Elk County Council on the Arts in Ridgway and Fair Lady & Company in Punxsutawney, and they’ve been purchased by a local hotel for interior decor. Staniszewski has also been featured in magazines, newspapers and TV programs, but he notes that his passion for photography has grown to include two priorities.

“I have two goals. I’m aiming to protect and promote elk herd as a unique natural resource and a state and national treasure to be enjoyed by present and future generations, and to elevate elk photography as an accepted art form,” he said.

Over the years, Staniszewski has devoted much time to honing his skills and learning about the local wild elk herd. He makes the 40-mile trip up to Elk Country quite regularly — often going three times a week during the fall rut, or mating season, and two to three times per month otherwise.

“I put over 5,000 miles on my vehicle related to photographing the elk last year,” Staniszewski said. “I like to be up there at first light, so I’ll often leave home around 4:30 in the morning to get there by 5:30.”

He noted there are certainly challenges with wildlife photography, but the trips to Elk Country never get old.

See the full article – which includes tips for photographing wild elk – here!

*Photo of elk taken by Paul Staniszewski. Photos of Paul were taken by Katie Weidenboerner-Deppen as part of the Creative Makers of the Pennsylvania Wilds – A Traveling Public Art Show, which was partly funded by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.


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