Bob Esbensen of Palatine always knew he wanted to care for animals, and with that purpose, he became a veterinarian. But later in life, that interest in animals led him down another path -- to develop his photography skills and become a wildlife photographer.
Esbensen wanted to be a veterinarian from the time he was a kid. He had a kennel job at Palatine Animal Hospital when he was in high school, which nurtured his interest in caring for animals.
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"I always wanted to help animals and that is how I got into veterinarian medicine," Esbensen said.
He graduated from the University of Illinois in 1981 with a degree in veterinary medicine. At veterinarian school, Esbensen met his wife, Gloria, and together they opened the Arlington Cat Clinic in Arlington Heights in 1988. The animal hospital specializes in the care of cats including surgery, ultrasound and endoscopy.
Shortly after he graduated from college, Esbensen got his first camera, a Minolta Maxxum SLR camera, and he started using it during fishing trips.
But it wasn't until Gloria took him into a shop in Galena that Bob's interest in nature photography took a major turn.
"She said 'I've got to show you this one shop. You'll be really interested in this.' and she takes me into Images of Nature, Thomas Mangelsen's shop, and there were just these incredible pictures," Esbensen said. A short time later, he got a digital camera, a Nikon D70S, and a 300 mm lens to capture animals in the wild.
He sought to improve his skills by taking classes with one of the Nikon-sponsored workshops, nature photographer John Shaw's workshop and the Yosemite Photography Workshop with Phil Hawkins, focusing on landscape photography.
"I just enjoy being outside and getting into nature, especially with the animals and the wildlife," Esbensen said as he walked around Lake Arlington Park. "Sometimes they can be here for just a fleeting instant and you have just a very short period of time to get your shot. I like the challenge of that."
His interest in taking pictures of wildlife has taken him to Alaska, California, Wyoming and South Dakota in search of capturing more unusual animals, such as bears, antelope, and bison.
And on the weekends, he can be found walking the woods with his camera at a summer home in western Illinois waiting for that fleeting moment when a hummingbird or a bullfrog makes an appearance.