Mark Harlow, of Breezy Point, has traveled all over the country in his Toyota Tacoma, photographing wildlife and scenery. The truck currently has 602,000 miles on it — evidence of his adventures.
Mark works hard to create impactful images of nature. His work includes photos of grizzlies, wild horses, bald eagles and more, all in wild situations — never staged and never with animals in captivity or fabricated locations.
Mark strives to capture intensity and emotion in his subjects, which has often required close calls with wild horses and grizzly bears across the country.
He wasn’t always taking trips to photograph wildlife, though. Before becoming a full-time photographer, Mark trained to be a scanner operator for high-end images. He attended North Hennepin Tech to learn the color separation process for printing, a very specialized degree.
In 1985 he began his training on a scanner, but only 10 days later was nearly killed in a car accident. He was out for a year and a half.
Mark started his own print management company in the Twin Cities and did some commercial photography here and there. Most of his business was in print and packaging.
A business acquaintance in Walker became a friend, and Mark was introduced to the lakes area, which he came to love. It was in Walker that something clicked with Mark and wildlife photography.
In 2004 he walked out on Leech Lake at Shingobee Bay to do some ice fishing. He noticed swans swimming in an opening of water, and Mark was so struck by the scene that he went to tear his brand-new digital camera from the packaging.
Mark had to read the manual to figure out how to work the camera — memory stick? What’s that? He’d only shot film before that point.
Mark went back out on the ice and sat for an hour and a half before the swans got into place. His very first shot hangs on the wall of his living room.
Mark calls the photo an “epiphany moment.” He said every thrill he’d had for photography from a very young age came rushing back.
Tragedy hit Mark’s life when his mother fell ill. Mark had shown her his swan photo and said she simply loved it. Diagnosed with cancer, she sat Mark down just three days before she died.
“She gave me the mom talk, and that’s all I’m going to say,” Mark said.
In 2005 Mark began to ease into nature photography. Then, 2007 was his first full year of nature photography, and in April of 2008 he went officially into full-time nature work.
Just five months later the housing crash happened, and the tanking economy hit Mark hard.
“My stuff’s high-end discretionary,” Mark said. “It’s just been a battle.”
Though he hit some hard times, Mark’s slowly been building his business back up, and he moved to Breezy Point last July. He has a private, by-appointment gallery in his home and sells his photos on his website, markjharlow.com.
He’s won national awards and is perhaps most well-known for his action shots of bald eagles. One such photo is the new logo for the National Eagle Center.
“The split-second eagle stuff is probably the hardest. But that’s what I like,” Mark said.
Mark performs little digital editing on his images and never takes images with continuous shooting, where the camera takes image after image in a short period of time. Rather, he shoots in single-shot mode, waiting until the desired moment to capture an image.
He says it takes more skill to do single-shot photography, and he enjoys the challenge.
Mark said he’s had a lot to accomplish over the past five years, and he’s proud of his body of work. He doesn’t currently have any photography trips planned, but is focusing on continuing to build his business.
His photos are all centered around one thing: nature. While Mark has the equipment and knowledge to perform commercial photo shoots, he prefers the scenic views and wild animals.
“I am a true, true diehard lover of nature,” he said.