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Intrepid Local Photographer & Veterinarian Prefers Walking on the Wild Side for Unforgettable Images

Wayne, IL veterinarian and accomplished wildlife photographer, Sheila Newenham, poses surrounded by the natural beauty of Glacier National Park in Montana. Scroll down for her wildlife images...

Just back from a recent trip to Alaska, practicing veterinarian and accomplished wildlife photographer, Sheila Newenham, is definitely not your average tourist. You wouldn’t suspect that such a mild-mannered, Wayne, IL resident, would be in hot pursuit of large (and scary!) animals to photograph– like bears or wild cats -- in their natural habitat, but she is, and remains completely unfazed about it.

Whether she’s seated on a log along a remote gravel riverbed with her tripod nearby, or hiking deep into an untamed forest, she bravely pursues her “prey” for just the right shot. Gnats, mosquitoes or other nuisances don’t break her focus.

Her favorite subjects to photograph are definitely bears despite having had a few dicey encounters when they quickly changed their minds about charging her. Evidently, bear aggression is often more about sending a message than coming to physical blows. Good thing!

“Bear-viewing trips are big business in Alaska,” Sheila explains. “Once you arrive, you’re accompanied by a knowledgeable guide. You can get very close to watch them dig for clams, catch salmon on the fly, playing with each other, and nurse their cubs. It was interesting for me to see that mother bears don’t always share their fish with their cubs, until the cubs wail for food, and then she’ll feed them.”

So, how does Sheila and her husband get there from here? Basically, the trip is a version of “Trains, Planes & Automobiles” concluding aboard a 6-seater, float plane for the final 45-minute flight to the native tribal land portion of the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge. In that area, no hunting is allowed. Their accommodations were in a small lodge situated on a 20-acre island in Karluk Lake.

Yearly, Sheila may take anywhere from four to six photographic trips both near and far. Using her Nikon d7500 camera, she’ll return with several thousand photos to choose from and edit.

Her interest in wildlife photography stretches back to 2002 when she and her mother were preparing to go on a Safari together. Sheila purchased a film Nikon SLR camera to document their trip. Once home, she discovered the Mayslake Nature Study & Photography Club in Oak Brook, IL, and basically, the rest if history. She had found her niche.

When not traveling to exotic locales, Sheila’s backyard provides plenty of photographic inspiration.

“We live next to Pratt Wayne Woods where there’s lots of wildlife to enjoy like deer, raccoons, possum, coyotes, and even squirrels," Sheila notes. "We’ve created a refuge in our backyard using native prairie plantings that attract caterpillars, butterflies and even Tussock moths.”

Her passion for wildlife photography perfectly combines her lifelong love of animals with her interest in conservation.

“My photography is a way for people to connect to nature and wildlife without any of the downsides," Sheila says. "It’s also a way to teach that wildlife is not an adversary – they are sentient beings just trying to make a living finding food, having families, and seeking shelter just like we do.”

Learn more about Sheila’s photography, dedication to conservation, and wildlife education at her website:

BASKING BOBCAT 16" x 20" gallery-wrapped canvas $150...Sheila says: "After looking for bobcats in Point Reyes National Seashore, California, for a couple of days, I was rewarded by being able to spend some time with this beautiful big tomcat basking in the late day sun."

HALLO BAY SETTING SUN, 24" X 36" CANVAS $295; Sheila says: "With the setting sun behind him, a large male brown bear ambles through the meadow in front of Hallo Glacier highlighting all of the grandeur of Alaska. Katmai National Park, Alaska."

GRAZING, in Lake Clark National Park, Alaska. Lustre prints sizes 8: x 10: through 16: x 20:, $25-$65; Sheila says: "A brown bear cub was grazing with her sibling and mother on the other side of a small creek from where I stood. She popped up over the tall sedges to get a better look at me."

DREAMING FOX New Orleans, LA; available in lustre prints 8: x 10: through 16: x 20:; $25-$65; Sheila says: I liked the contrast of the fox's orange fur with the smooth green palm fronds in the background."

Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar, available in lustre prints sizes 8: x 10: through 16: x 20: $25-$65; Sheila says: The spicebush swallowtail caterpillar uses mimicry as a defense. This comical half-in-long caterpillar has big, black, fake eyes resembling a green snake that will scare off birds. I made this image in my Wayne backyard."

LOON STRETCH 12" x 18" gallery-wrapped canvas $85; Sheila says: "Common loons are ubiquitous in the Wisconsin Northwoods. Using a fishing boat as a blind, I was able to get close to this loon for this image. I'm drawn to their striking stripes and spots."


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