Meet Phil McGrew: Bay Photographer

Phil McGrew is a friend of Save The Bay who shares his love of the Bay through his incredible photographs. As you’ll see when you receive our 2014 Save The Bay calendar, Phil has a knack for capturing particularly magical moments of the Bay and its wildlife. We are honored to feature Phil’s stunning photographs in this year’s calendar because they help to remind us every day of the specialness of the Bay we are working to save. Here is a glimpse into the life of the man behind the camera…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

How did you get started doing nature photography?
I simply enjoy the natural world more than other types of photography. To me, nature is more real and raw. Animals don’t perform for our enjoyment, they are looking to mate, eat, and not be eaten. Animals don’t care if their hair looks good and their shoulders are straight. To be able to capture and share a moment in their day brings me great satisfaction.

Why is the Bay a special area of interest for you?
Since moving to San Francisco three years ago, I have never lived and worked more than 3 blocks from the Bay. I am staring at the blue water as I write this. The Bay is small enough to see across but big enough to be an immense body of water. The amount of wildlife it supports is overwhelming.

Do you have a favorite site along the Bay?
I am still discovering areas but I very much enjoy Coyote Hills. There’s a great diversity of wildlife there.

If you could be one Bay plant or animal, what would it be and why?
I am fascinated by pelicans. Having grown up in a landlocked state, I didn’t see pelicans. They are huge birds, they are graceful in flight, and are efficient hunters. They hang out with friends and love cruising at sunset.

You take incredible photos of Bay birds and animals. Describe the process of getting those shots.
The first step is knowing where wildlife hang out and find food. Wildlife tend to forage in the morning and evening and be less active mid-day. It is sheer coincidence that photographers tend to keep a similar schedule since the light is better at those times. But, the key element is patience. It can take a significant amount of time to spot wildlife and to see it in action. I spent three days trying to photograph a pelican swallowing a fish earlier this year. It also helps to always have your camera with you.

What other activities or hobbies do you enjoy?
At the risk of sounding uninteresting, I mostly either photograph wildlife/landscapes or I’m processing those photos. I do have a pilot’s license but I’ve been a little intimidated by the mountains, wind, and fog around here.

Who is your environmental hero?
I really think the heroes are the grassroots organizations—right down to the individuals out there picking up trash. This literally happened to me today: I was walking by AT&T Park before the San Francisco Giants game and there was a small army of people picking up trash. Ignoring my mom’s advice not to talk to strangers, I asked them who they were. They were from a local biotech firm and had volunteered to pick up trash for the day. People who pick up trash along the shoreline really represent the last line of defense between land and sea.

What is one thing you do each day to protect the environment?
I recycle as much as possible. On most days, I have the opportunity to walk along the waterfront and I pick up trash when I see it.

What is your favorite Bay memory or experience?
I have two really. One is old and the other much more recent. I was in the Navy and stationed onboard a submarine. We sailed into the Bay and docked in Alameda. And while it was all work and no play, I knew I wanted to return to the Bay Area when the opportunity presented itself. My more recent memory is of one of the most brilliant sunrises I have ever seen. There was no one else around me. It was just me and a couple hundred ducks and they were completely silent and were all facing east as well. It’s as if they knew it was an incredibly rare and serene moment.

Thank you to Phil for capturing such beautiful images of the Bay, and sharing them with us in the 2014 calendar. We hope they’ll remind you of what we’ve accomplished together, and how important it is to save and restore the beauty of the Bay.

All current Save The Bay members receive their own beautiful 2014 Save The Bay calendar, featuring Phil’s stunning photographs. If you’d like your own calendar, join us today and we’ll send you one so you can enjoy incredible photographs like Phil’s throughout 2014!