Meet the Oklahoma wildlife photographer behind that CBS video of Beavers Bend

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If you watch CBS Sunday Morning, you know the news program has a long-running tradition of ending each week’s broadcast with a few serene minutes of nature footage, shot at various locations around the country. And if you watched the Dec. 17 broadcast, you probably saw something super cool: McCurtain County’s own Beavers Bend State Park was the featured location for that episode’s moment of nature.

 

Naturally, we were thrilled to see our beautiful little corner of Oklahoma pop up on one of the most watched news programs in the world. We wanted to know the backstory of how this came to be, so we tracked down the videographer responsible for the footage.

 

Roy Neher is a Norman-based photographer and videographer who, over four decades, has built a career out of shooting wildlife. His passion is birding, and much of his work focuses on capturing the many species of winged creatures found in the Midwest, often as marketing material for companies that sell birdfeeders and birdfeeder products.

 

We spoke with Neher over the phone to find out how he got his start, the origin of the CBS gig, and why he loves visiting and shooting the Beavers Bend.

Cardinals – Photo by Roy Neher

How did you choose Beavers Bend as a shooting location, and what attracted you to this area?

NEHER: I’ve always been attracted to the Beavers Bend area. The Southeast part of Oklahoma is just beautiful—the dense forests, it’s mountainous, there’s lots of rivers and streams and lakes, it’s just beautiful down there. People think of Oklahoma as flat, but you and I know—it may be like that in the northwest corner of the state, but there’s a lot of forests and mountains elsewhere. It’s the reason I’m still here (in Norman).

 

We decided to go down to Beavers Bend and shoot a couple of days and it worked out really well. We got some nice shots, everything was cooperative. So we made CBS that video, and they liked it and ran it.

Baltimore Oriole – Photo by Roy Neher

Tell us about how you first got into photography and videography.

NEHER: I got into photography by accident. I’d always been into birds. [My wife and I] bought this property in Norman 40 years ago and dug a little pond, and after it was filled, almost immediately, all these birds started coming in. Even though I knew a lot about birds, they were coming in so fast, the kind that I wasn’t familiar with, so I decided to get a camera just so I could review it later and see what I was seeing. I enjoyed that so much, I just continued to shoot out there. I sat out there virtually every day for two years, amassed a vast library of this footage and ended up putting together a videotape, which progressed into a television show. I sent it out, it was aired in Oklahoma and Kansas, and I did pretty well with it.

 

So, there I was, a professional videographer. I got a still camera, started shooting stills. My main business now is companies who manufacture bird feeders and bird feeder products. They send me their products and then I shoot all their advertising for them.

 

I started branching out—of course, one always sees how many places they can sell themselves. I always liked the moments of nature on the CBS Sunday Morning News. I approached them, and they’d been looking for someone to cover the center of the United States. That was a matter of timing, I ran into that. I sent them stuff, they liked it and aired it so I started shooting for them occasionally.

 

So you’ve shot for CBS multiple times. When did you first approach them?

NEHER: The first time was probably five years ago. Since then they’ve probably aired a dozen of my videos from around Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Kansas.

Tiger Swallowtail – Photo by Roy Neher

What’s your favorite location you’ve ever shot in Oklahoma?

NEHER: Well, Beavers Bend is certainly one of them. Around Mt. Scott in the southwest, that has the western look to it. The buffalo and the prairie dogs—that was also on CBS.

 

How do you determine where to shoot in Beavers Bend? What do you look for when you set out to shoot something like this?   

NEHER: For CBS it’s all nature, there can’t be any man-made objects in it. So, I shot the most natural environment I could find. It’s not built up down there, so that worked out for us.

 

We ran into water birds. We didn’t have a lot of time to set up and wait for song birds and whatnot, but there were some great water birds. Many we didn’t get. It’s a matter of time, how much time CBS has allotted for that segment is what they’re going to use. I saw eagles but we didn’t get a chance to get any on video.

Painted Bunting – Photo by Roy Neher

It was beautiful footage, very peaceful and relaxing, and it was kind of overcast outside.

NEHER: We lucked out with light. It was mainly cloudy. I like those cloudy days. There was no stark lighting on anything, which helped me.

White-tailed Buck – Photo by Roy Neher

When you shoot for CBS, is it usually just you and a camera?

NEHER: My wife and I, and our dog. (laughs) My wife shot a lot of the Beavers Bend footage this time. She’s learning. Just a small little crew I have here.

 

See more of Roy Neher’s work at rnwphoto.net.

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