Battle of the Binoculars on Harrowsmith Mag

Battle of the Binoculars

Two Bruce County, Ontario, birders show off the feathers in their caps. By Ethan Meleg and Arni Stinnissen

Introducing Ethan Meleg

I grew up near world famous birding hot spot Point Pelee National Park and the legendary migrations inspired my love of birds since I was knee-high to a sparrow. My mom used to let me skip classes to go birding, which is pretty awesome parenting. After receiving a hand-me-down camera for my 19th birthday, I became instantly addicted to bird photography. Birds, photography and travel (mostly to photograph birds) have been a driving force in my life ever since.

I first met Arni Stinnissen at Awenda Provincial Park, when he came out to watch a presentation I was doing about photography. We hit it off instantly and thus began our bird-nerd bromance. We share a common philosophy and approach to photography, as Arni’s just as keen a nature lover as I and he takes the time to learn about the species he’s photographing. Over the years, Arni and I have spent many days out together chasing birds with our cameras. We have a lot of fun and are always competitive, trying to one-up each other with our photos. We both have monstrous telephoto lenses for bird photography, although Arni, admittedly, has a bigger one. As I always say, “Arni, it’s not the size of your lens, it’s how you use it!”.

I live near Lion’s Head on the Bruce Peninsula with my girlfriend and two young stepsons. We have an awesome little haven in the woods; it’s a fantastic spot for bird life. A couple of years ago, we helped to convince Arni and his wife to relocate over to this area. They ended up building a house just down the road from us. Now Arni and I can share a glass of wine or beer anytime, and of course we are always in competition for whose yard has the best birds. Some nights I sneak over in the dark and empty his bird feeders to make sure all the good birds end up at my place J.

Introducing Arni Stinnissen

As a birder/naturalist/conservationist, I started film photography in the mid-80’s and found my passion was taking pictures of birds. I collected many “how-to photograph bird books”, which I still have, but also around that time we started to raise our family so the photography hobby took a back seat for a number of years. Upon retirement a few years ago, I resumed photography only this time with a digital camera. With the advent of the Internet, I was able to learn so much more about the art and it’s masters.

In August 2013, we were camping in Awenda Provincial Park near Midland. As luck would have it one of those bird-photography masters, Ethan Meleg, was presenting in the evening at the park outdoor theatre. I went earlier to make sure I got a seat and met Ethan as he was setting up and he bravely asked me to take some candid pictures of him presenting. We must have hit it off as we started exchanging emails about different secret locales of elusive birds, a true sign of trust.

Since then Ethan and I travel a few times each year to different parts of Ontario always having a few laughs and trying to get a better picture of a species we already have hundreds images of. We had many reasons to move to the Bruce Peninsula and there have been some great surprises here as well including living closer to Ethan and his family. Instead of planning our trips sometimes weeks in advance, all it takes now is a spontaneous text or call.

Ethan and I not only share birding as a passion but also the organizations that study them for the benefit of everyone including the Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory. I am now a Director on the board and Ethan was a founding member. The Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory (BPBO) relies on volunteer fundraising efforts to maintain vital research and bird migration monitoring programs. The BPBO is a non-profit, charitable organization dedicated to documenting wild bird populations and patterns in Ontario’s biodiverse Bruce Peninsula. There is currently a Go Fund Me campaign to raise much-needed funds to maintain the cottages that are the primary source of income.

Be sure to follow the mad birders on Facebook @Ethan Meleg Outdoor Photography and @ArniWorks Nature Photography. for more info on the Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory’s Go Fund Me Campaign, visit

Ethan Meleg & Arni Stinnissen
Ethan Meleg & Arni Stinnissen

Ethan Meleg is a freelance outdoor photographer from Ontario. He is a popular keynote speaker, workshop leader and magazine columnist. Ethan lives on the Bruce Peninsula near Lion’s Head, Ontario. His greatest passion in life is exploring the natural world through his camera, whether on exciting trips or in his own backyard. Visit Ethan’s webpage or follow his adventures on Facebook @Ethan Meleg Outdoor Photography.

Arni Stinnissen is an award-winning photographer, naturalist and conservationist. He is pleased to have had his images published in conservation-themed, international journals including the prestigious Birdlife Australia, Wild Seed Project in Maine, National Audubon Society and Canadian Geographic. Arni prides himself on creating works of art conveying emotion and personality rather than being a typical postcard photo. The final compositions have the ability to capture a fleeting moment, one that portrays the beauty, simplicity and fragility of nature. Follow Arni on Facebook @ArniWorksPhotography.

Posted on Tuesday, May 18th, 2021
Filed under Environment | Nature

Read More

An Off-Grid Muskoka Cottage Built from Scratch

An Off-Grid Muskoka Cottage Built from Scratch

and By: Fran Smelko This fall, we received an excited email from a new subscriber, Fran Smelko. We love fan mail from our community and the stories that readers share with us about how Harrowsmith inspired projects big and small. Whether you attempt Signe Langford’s...

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This
Skip to content