Editor's Note: Some days you head down one path and suddenly, you come out in an entirely different place. It all started when I saw a photo essay on Facebook with 68 remarkable photographs by wildlife photographer William (Bill) Straite.
Remarkable in two ways: few photographers capture the post–mating Osprey subject; and few photographers then post 68 photographs, each spectacular in its own right.
Like any editor seeing a story, I asked the author to email me. He did, and from there, I started down my standard path, asking the usual questions: When did you get interested in photography? Tell me about being a wildlife photographer; and, do you sell your work?
He suggested I look at his webpage, and sure enough, I found my answers. But then, a few emails later, I was stopped dead in my tracks, for Bill Straite has a very different story to tell – one I think you will appreciate.
Solution to Anger and Fear
Susan, the real story is not about my photographs. The real human-interest story is how and why do thousands upon thousands of people even know about my photographs.
You see, there is a second person in this story, who got the ball rolling that now allows so many people to enjoy my photography and read the articles that we create together. It's sad to me that everyone knows Bill and Bill gets the credit, but the guy who works with me and believed in me enough to take a chance of posting my work never gets a mention.
Prior to January 14th, 2021, I had about 45-50 people who were Facebook friends and followed my photos; that was the extent of it. On December 23rd, 2020, we got a rather large snowstorm, and we were pretty much snowed in! The political firestorm was at its worse, and folks were dropping from a disease that you could catch by taking a single breath. Times were the toughest that I had ever seen in 61 years of life, and we were all about to face our first "isolated Christmas", without family and loved ones. It was an historical low point for so many, the worst in their lives.
So, on December 23rd, I was listening to "Tad and Polly in the Morning" on Big Frog 104 Radio in Utica, NY. They said to send in our snow pictures from today. They were doing it to take people's minds off how bad things had really gotten. So, I sent them several photographs of Eagles fighting for food in the snow. They never mentioned the photos that I sent in at all.
Enter Tadpole McAdams
On January 14th, I got an email from Tadpole McAdams, a DJ and part of Tad and Polly in the Morning, and the Brand Manager for Big Frog 104. Tad said he would like to do a whole story about my photography and me and asked if I would call him.
We talked about a lot during that conversation, and it was clear that we felt the same way about many things. We were both in dismay with the political "crap" and raw hatred that took up about half of all news and social media. We were both unhappy with the fact that hatred and division were at a level never seen before and that we could not stand the pure and raw hatred that people seemed to have. Not only that, these same people often could not even explain what or why they hated. Hatred was now dished out and without reason. It was bad. You could not turn on the TV, not pick up a newspaper, or turn on social media without hatred and division.
If that was not bad enough, we talked about how many people were sick and dying from a disease that one could get from simply taking a breath. We talked about families being torn apart; the sick who could not be visited; the dead who could not have a decent funeral; and families being robbed of saying goodbye. Our kids were not going to go back to school or having a graduation; we talked about how the economy was being crushed by Covid. We also talked about the first "isolated Christmas" . . .
Tadpole McAdams and I basically agreed on everything. At that point, we came to an understanding. We were not going to buy into any of it, and we were going to try to give people something other than horror to see on social media or in the news.
Tad wrote an article about the Eagles and me and posted it on Big Frog 104's webpage as well as on their Facebook Page. Damned if we didn't get 2,100 likes, comments, and shares . . . we were flabbergasted, to say the least!
Next thing I know, out of all of those shares from Big Frog 104, my photos are being shared to closed groups with 30 and 40 thousand followers, and folks on those groups were also sharing our article and photos. That's when we truly understood the term "going viral."
Next thing I know, I have thousands upon thousands of likes and comments on my own Facebook page and people thanking us for giving them a bright moment away from the daily horrors of the deadly disease.
Tad was following the stats on Big Frogs Webpage and how well the articles went over, and he reached out to let me know. We kind of got the hint that, if only for a brief moment, we were giving people enough of a break from the horrors of life that we gave them a smile. For that, they were thanking us.
From that moment on, Tad and I realized that we still could make a difference for people, no matter how small. Suddenly, Bill became Big Frogs' Wildlife Photographer and that was the start of many articles, stories, and photos that Bill and Tad did as a team, and as a result, tens of thousands see our stories and share them like wildfire. I get so many comments, messages, and shares on Facebook, that it takes me hours to go through them with every post.
Not to sound like I am bragging, but because two guys decided not to buy into the hatred and had agreed to give people a reason to smile, while their families were being destroyed and killed by a deadly virus, we created at least a partial solution to hate and fear.
A media relations company did a study and I was amazed when I got the results. My photos and our articles are now being viewed in six countries, with hundreds of thousands of folks asking for more photos and posts.
All this because two guys refused to buy into hatred of any form, and we refused to sit back and let Covid beat our spirit . . .
Editor's Note Continues
William (Bill) Straite says that he was inspired by his Industrial Arts Teacher, David Allen. His passion for photography began with equipment such as an old Yashica-Mat 124 "box" camera and an unused bathroom fashioned into a darkroom.
With 32 years in law enforcement and 36 years part time as a Paramedic, today Bill is known as a wildlife photographer. He said he is blessed with five local areas where he watches between 10 - 50 of his favorite Birds of Prey, The Ultimate Raptor, the Bald Eagle, etc. "Yes, I can watch a feeding frenzy on almost a daily basis that most will never see . . . amazing to watch. Living in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains, we are rich in wildlife and breathtaking scenery. I must be getting old and antiquated, because I browse through photo contests and see far more computer graphics and manipulation than the art of photography . . ."
As I close this article, I want our TI Life readers to know, as Bill says emphatically, that none of this would have been possible if it were not for Tadpole McAdams at Big Frog 104, #1 Country Music Station in Central NY (Utica).
It took 30 seconds to google Tadpole and his partner Pollywog and discover that in 2014, the New York State Senate recognized these two with a special J5060: LEGISLATIVE RESOLUTION honoring Bill and Stacey McAdams of Big Frog 104 WFRG-FM upon the occasion of their designation for special recognition by the Oneida County Office for Aging and Continuing Care.
I also tuned in to 104 on the morning. I enjoyed their radio news, banter, but most of all, the knowledge that without Tadpole McAdams, we would not have the pleasure nor amazement of viewing these photographs. Thanks Tadpole and Bill – you are giving us visible reminders that there is so much more in life than expressing anger and living in fear.
Bill Straite is “always willing to travel, and if people have land that they will allow me to shoot photos on, please let me know.” And by the way, Bill refuses to charge for any of his photographs and often allows people to download prints, use his photos for painting, drawings, and other artistic formats.
Susan W. Smith, Editor, TI Life
P.S. Small World Story
We have another link to the Thousand Islands. When William (Bill) Straite, wrote this article you will see that he owes his reputation to a radio DJ in Utica, NY, Tadpole McAdams, Big Frog 104. Wanting to learn more about Tadpole and his partner Polly, I did some google sleuthing and, as the kids say, "was blown away" when I discovered that Polly McAdams comes from a small Canadian town - Gananoque, ON.
"Yes, as I picked myself off the floor, I learned that Stacey McAdams indeed came from Gananoque. She went to Gananoque Secondary School, and Loyalist College in Belleville. Her parents ran Tony Nash Decorating in Gananoque, and as Stacey says, "my father painted most of the homes in the area." In fact, Stacey helped and painted the windows in the Thousand Islands History Museum, down by the water in Gananoque. ( Once the border is open we want to see Bill, Tad & Polly visit!)
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