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DL boy has keen eye for birds

Connor Yamane has been taking photos since he was 4 years old. At 11, he's now published in national magazine, Birds & Blooms.1 / 5
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At age 4, Connor Yamane was learning to shoot photos of birds. By age 8, he had moved on to digital photography, and now at age 11, he's a published photographer in a national magazine.

"He started teaching me about birds and that sort of stuff," Connor, Detroit Lakes, said of his grandfather, Rod Anton.

Anton, Lake Park, a published and award-winning photographer himself, has specialized in underwater photography, but enjoyed bird photography as well and decided to pass it on to his grandson.

"He knows his birds. I ask him (about them) now," he said with a laugh. "He watches a lot of documentaries on TV, too."

Most of the time, the two take photos at Itasca State Park or Tamarac Wildlife Refuge or simply on Anton's land on Leaf Lake. They built a bird feeding area to attract more birds, too.

"He's very sharp. I've had a lot of fun teaching him," Anton said of Connor. So, he decided to approach "Birds and Blooms" magazine about profiling his grandson in one of their issues.

The latest issue includes the "Behind the Lens" profile, which features several photos by Connor and a short story on his background and his photography tips.

"We sat down and did it together," Anton said of the writing portion.

For the story portion, Anton would ask his grandson questions and then write what Connor told him. He'd then read back the content and edit it as Connor said.

"I packaged it up and sent it," Anton said of the pictures and information on Connor.

Normally, he said, "Birds and Blooms" doesn't profile children, but then they saw his work.

"They were so impressed with his photography, they decided to (profile him)," Anton said.

Though he has taken plenty of shots of area birds, there are others Connor would still like to shoot, including some out of the country. He lists water birds, the black-crowned night heron and a South American toucan as some he'd like to photograph.

He'd also like to travel to New Zealand for a variety of birds, and to Madagascar. The bee-eater in Australia would also be a nice find.

Connor said he wouldn't mind having Jeff Corwin's job as a wildlife biologist. Corwin can be seen on Animal Planet.

"I've learned a lot about birds I never knew I would," Connor's mother, Kari, said with a laugh.

Anton said he has been working on the aesthetics portion of photography with Connor, so "we're slowly working into the technical side, the numbers."

Connor, though, said he's not as interested in the technical side, but instead likes learning tips that improve his photography -- such as focusing on the eye of the bird.

"He's always been thirsty to learn," Kari said.

"I've always told him, do the best you can because there's always someone better. Being humble is good," Anton said.