It’s not often one gets to share office space with a mountain man. No, not Jeremiah Johnson – Packy Savvenas, renowned wildlife photographer and more recently, web developer for Russell Herder.
His Instagram handle is @greekmountainman, and his feed is replete with photos of owls, bears, and most of all, moose. They are dramatically photogenic animals that are also uncommon and secretive, which makes them difficult for all but the most dedicated photographers to go after.
Packy was born in Paducah, Kentucky, and raised in Springfield, Missouri, an upbringing that is still evident in his endearing drawl. He ventured out west to satisfy an obsession he had since childhood, an obsession fueled by photos of Yellowstone National Park he saw on a burgeoning internet.
It wasn’t until he actually moved there that he discovered the best opportunities for spotting moose are not in Yellowstone, but in fact, Grand Teton National Park. He became acquainted with the local moose herds, communing with them as Jane Goodall bonded with apes or Jacques Cousteau befriended the creatures of the sea. He got really, really good at shooting them with a camera, despite the dangers that accompany the pursuit of huge, powerful animals. As Savvenas recounts on his own blog, he once ran afoul of a mother grizzly bear and her cubs. Hiking in a remote area of Grand Teton, he stumbled onto a sow and two young ones, and accidentally made enough noise for them to notice him. His calm demeanor and adherence to the park rule of 100 yard distance from the bears meant he came out all right, though.
The mandatory distance is 25 yards for moose, so Packy had to keep his distance when photographing his favorite animals. He formed a bond with one large male, who was the subject of some of his most cherished photos.
“I didn’t like, go up and pet them or anything … but they could sense when I was around,” he says.
The moose recognize him as a non-threat, and he knows them so well he can anticipate their behavior and get better shots because of it.
The corporate world intruded on his family’s idyll out west when his wife lost her job. They opted to move to Minnesota as a nice compromise between making a living, and living outdoors.
“We really love it here,” Packy says.
Web developing might seem the polar opposite of wildlife photography, but Packy already trained his brain to switch between creative and mathematical within the realm of web development. As a developer, he must change mindsets between web design and web coding – both the architectural blueprints of a website and the hardhat work of actually building it.
“I’ve learned to switch that on and off, on both sides of my brain,” Packy says. “People have asked me that in the past, ‘How do you do both?’ I don’t know why, but I have this ability of turning off my analytical side.”
Wildlife photography and website development also share a commonality in that they both require extreme persistence for someone to do well, he says. Whether it’s venturing out into the park each day no matter the weather, or writing and rewriting lines of code until a program works, it takes tenacity.
Packy has spent the four months he’s worked at Russell Herder to build our new website. The page now looks sleek and stately, like a bull moose on a cold morning in Wyoming. Be sure to visit Packy’s photography website and learn more about what web development services he can bring to your business.