In Shadow’s shadow

In April, 2014, we collected a group of dark check squeakers in Don’s loft and shot a quick group photo of them. Little did we know what kind of results they would collect during their young bird season! They are 4th and 5th generation down from Shadow.

 

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Makin’ It has made it to Kastle Loft

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A perfect compliment to our breeding loft is this handsome, accomplished cock line bred to the Perfect Pair. He is a registered AU Champion flown by John Marles in the Gulfcoast Homing Club and is a son of his best pair – The Magic Pair.

 

A Tale of Two Hens and Two Wins

Mark Evans holds GHC 6067 at the loft in Spring Hill, Fl., on Friday, November 22, 2013. Photo by David Stephenson

Mark Evans holds GHC 6067 at the loft in Brooksville, Fl., on Friday, November 22, 2013.

12 GHC 13003 BC hen, from John Marles

12 GHC 13003 BC hen, now at the loft of Don Campbell, bred and flown by John Marles.

By David Stephenson
Kastle Loft

Nearly a year had passed when a prophetic promise made in Florida in 2013 came true. As I stitch together the pieces of this story, it is only two days after the Ohio Classic Race (OCR), one of the biggest futurity races in Northern Ohio.

The story begins, however, 11 months prior and nearly 700 miles further south in Brooksville Florida. It was at the 2014 AU Convention held in conjunction with the Gulfcoast Homing Club that I had the good fortune of spending the day at the partner lofts of John Marles and Mark Evans.

Over the last couple of years, I have slowly been transitioning my loft to the Gaby Vandenabeele birds of M&D Evans of the UK. My goal at the AU convention was simply to meet John Marles and listen to a panel discussion that included Mark Evans. There was also to be an auction of birds that included the best of what Myrtle Lofts had to offer. It was all too much to resist.

For a little more than a year, I had also been getting to know Don Campbell, of Cleveland, who was handling birds for me in his races with the Independent Homing Club and their featured race, the Ohio Classic Race (OCR). We fly with the same family of birds and have shared great conversations over the phone but had never met until our trip to Florida.

On the Friday of the convention, I was invited to tag along with Don to visit John Marles’ loft in Brooksville. Not only did I get to meet Don and John and listen to Mark speak, now I was spending the day with them and other fine flyers. We toured the beautiful lofts, we talked birds, held some beautiful specimens, and had the pleasure to preview the auction birds – under lock and key – that were to be sold the next day. For weeks I had been researching the list and setting my limits and now I had a chance to look at them in person prior to the auction.

I came with the intention of buying one of Mark Evans’ birds at the auction, which was also being broadcast via iPigeon. The pre-bidding on iPigeon and the hype at the convention made it clear to me that this set of birds would quickly extend beyond my financial reach. Standing there among some of the most beautiful and experienced racing pigeons I had ever personally seen, I quickly changed my plan and asked John and Mark if they would pick out a hen for me to purchase that day.

Anyone would be more than happy to have any bird on that property. But I quietly told myself I wasn’t going to take the first bird they picked out. Instead, I picked the second.

John brought to me a blue bar hen, AU 13 GHC 6067. She was a medium sized bird with the softest of feathers and would look at you through incredibly piercing eyes. She had spirit. What was equally perfect was her breeding. Her four grand parents are world-class flyers and breeders who have made an impact for many lofts over many countries for many generations. On the top side, 6067’s grandparents are Pre-Olympic and Lady of the Rings. On the dam’s side, her grand parents are Lord of the Rings and Davina. With that combination, we have some of the most exceptional racing and breeding that Europe has seen in recent years, coupled with line breeding to some of the blood I already carry in my loft (Shadow).

John Marles holds GHC 6067 at his loft with Joe Ferreira in Spring Hill, Fl., on Friday, November 22, 2013. Photo by David Stephenson

John Marles holds GHC 6067 at his loft with Joe Ferreira in Spring Hill, Fl., on Friday, November 22, 2013. Photo by David Stephenson

On this day, too, Don Campbell was on the hunt for a hen to add to his loft. When he saw what John Marles was holding and showing me, he asked who this hen was. When I glanced at him I thought for a moment I saw him salivating. I jokingly told him the hen was “need to know” information and that this hen was coming home with me. (She has since been referred to as the “Need to Know Hen”). We took some photos of her, passed her around, and struck the deal.

Don and John quickly settled on another hen that Don could add to his stock loft. Also carrying the Shadow blood, Don’s hen is AU 12 GHC 13003. She is a product of two of John’s best sets of birds known as the Emerald Pair and the Pyramid Pair. Her ancestors include the greats such as Westkapelle, Eisenhower, Joint Venture, and more. Both pairs are responsible for win after win for John Marles in the competitive Gulfcoast Homing Club.

At the end of the day, as we sat around a table snacking and grilling John and Mark about their birds and methods, I remember leaning over to Don and telling him that he needed to win us the OCR race to help pay for these birds we just bought. I was joking, of course. But Don’s response was quite serious. “Don’t you worry,” he said, reflecting both confidence and a personal challenge. “Consider it done.” This, coming from a 4-time winner in the past 6 OCR’s he has flown.

Kastle 1424 as a weanling just before heading north to Cleveland where he would race for Don Campbell.

Kastle 1424 as a weanling just before heading north to Cleveland where he would race for Don Campbell.

Fast-forward to the spring when the breeding season is well underway. Decisions have to be made about which birds will be sent out. Of the four birds that I wanted to send Don to race for me, I sent a set of nest mates, Kastle 1423 and Kastle 1424. They were both dark checks, and as it turns out, both cocks. They were children of GHC 6067 – now known as Sylvan Danica Need to Know. Her mate is Wicked Strong who is, well, wicked strong. This dark check cock, 12 IHC 5776 gets his color from his grandfather, Shadow, who appears in his pedigree two other times as well. This cock was bred by John Froelich of Cleveland and from a full brother to the well-known Perfect Cock. It was the first year breeding for both of these birds.

Almost exactly 7 months from the day they were hatched, these nest mates were sent 337 miles to the south west of Cleveland along with 537 other birds for the 31st Ohio Classic Race. Don had them prepared. They had already seen the race basket a number of times and had finished well. In fact, Kastle 1423 outright won a 1st place in a club 200 miles race a few weeks earlier. The nest mates earned equal firsts in another races, too.

Hen 13003 perches on the shoulder of John Marles as he looks over the hens in the stock loft with Mark Evans.

Hen 13003 perches on the shoulder of John Marles as he looks over the hens in the stock loft with Mark Evans. The hen would soon be shipped to her new home in Cleveland at the loft of Don Campbell.

The babies from Don’s hen, who was mated to a grandson of Rolls Royce, were also showing their promise. He described these young birds as strong, intelligent and very alert. Don was racing three babies from this pair. Prior to the OCR race, they had already racked up 2 or 3 equal firsts EACH. They only got better as the distances increased.

Hopes were high, and the east wind was on the birds’ noses for the lofts in Cleveland. While some flyers groaned at the headwind conditions, Don could only smile, knowing that these Gaby’s would shine. Late on Thursday afternoon of the race, Don called and left a message saying “you need to call me”.

Under a crystal blue sky at 4:40 p.m. and after more than 7 and a half hours on the wing, two birds folded their wings and dropped from the sky to land on their loft. The first bird to trap was AU 14 OCR 11, a blue check cock. Three seconds later, a dark check cock AU 14 Kastle 1424 entered the loft. And at that moment, Don’s prophetic promise from nearly a year prior had come true. The two hens purchased that sunny Florida day in November had bred themselves the first two winners of the Ohio Classic Race.

GHC 6067, aka Sylvan Danica Need to Know, keeps a close eye on me from her nest.

GHC 6067, aka Sylvan Danica Need to Know, keeps a close eye on me from her nest.

Results:

In 2014, her first year breeding, Don’s GHC 13003 hen’s babies earned the following:

• AU 14 OCR 11 BCC:
1st place Ohio Classic Race (OCR), 338 miles, 537b.
Eq. 1st, 100 miles
Eq. 1st, 100 miles

• AU 14 OCR 19 BCH:
Eq. 1st, 100 miles
Eq. 1st, 100 miles
Eq. 1st, 200 miles

• AU 14 OCR 25 BBC:
Eq. 1st, 173 miles
Eq. 1st, 200 miles

In 2014, her first year breeding, my GHC 6067 hen’s babies earned the following:

• AU 14 Kastle 1421 DCH:
Eq. 1st at 200 miles
9th at 150 miles

• AU 14 Kastle 1423 DCC (flown by Don Campbell):
1st place at 200 miles
14th place Ohio Classic Race (OCR)
AU Ace Pigeon 9th Ohio
Eq. 1st at 100 miles
Eq. 1st at 100 miles

• AU 14 Kastle 1424 DCC (flown by Don Campbell):
2nd place (Eq. 1st) Ohio Classic Race (OCR) 338 miles, 537b.
Eq. 1st at 100 miles
Eq. 1st at 100 miles

• AU 14 Kastle 1425 BBH:
8th at 150 miles
Eq. 1 at 200 miles
9th at 100 miles

• AU 14 Kastle 1426 BBH:
7th at 150 miles
Eq. 1st at 200 miles

• AU 14 Kastle 1427 DCH:
Eq. 1st at 200 miles
7th at 100 miles

• AU 14 Kastle 1428 BBC:
1st at 85 miles
Eq. 1st at 200 miles
4th at 100 miles
11th at 150 miles

2014 OCR Kastle

The 2014 Ohio Classic Race Results top 14 positions.

John Marles, Don Campbell, Mark Evans, Joe Ferreira and David Stephenson in Spring Hill, Fl., on Friday, November 22, 2013.

John Marles, Don Campbell, Mark Evans, Joe Ferreira and David Stephenson in Spring Hill, Fl., on Friday, November 22, 2013.

2014 Old Bird Season wrap-up

Another old bird season has passed and we had another enjoyable season flying with our friends. We had some very good races and most everyone had good returns all season long.

Not only did we land the #1 Champion Bird position, but also the 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 10th positions as well. Most of our birds flew and clocked in most of the races, but our Champion Bird, “Cinco” (12 AU Kastle 05), flew and clocked in every race including the 400 and 500.  “Cinco” is bred from a pair of birds gifted to me from a great northern flyer Ron Woloszyn.

Kastle Loft also earned two 1st place diplomas, two 2nd place diplomas, and three 3rd place diplomas. Complete results can be seen here.

“Mr. Kastle” scores for Don Campbell

AU 13 Kastle 1396, who I bred and sent to Don Campbell to fly for me in the 2013 OCR, has finished up a superb season as an old bird for Don. I want to express my gratitude to Don for being such a wonderful handler.

Mr. Kastle, as Don calls him, ended up 4th ACE bird in the ABC Combine AND the Ohio-Penn Federation in addition to being the 6th AU ACE bird of Ohio in the Middle Distance category. He did this while flying in only 4 races. Mr. Kastle is a son of Eisenhower and Lucy in the Sky.

Kastle M&D Evans Racing Pigeon

AU 13 Kastle 1396, aka Mr. Kastle, held by his human, Don Campbell of Cleveland.

Hens

Meet some of the homing pigeons in Kastle Loft that are the basis for our breeding and race team. Click on a photo to see a pedigree if one is available. 2013 brings a seismic shift in our breeding program that will impact us for years to come. We have introduced ten new birds from the M & D Evans Vandenabeeles.  Among them is a direct son of the world-famous Eisenhower, the #1 breeder for Myrtle Lofts of England. We will be breeding from multiple line bred grandchildren of Shadow and all of our birds will be influenced by the great Wittenbuik. Other greats in our birds will be Rolls Royce, Jester & Carrie, Benetton, Saffron, Devon, Nationaal Fideel & Belle, and The Perfect Pair.


M & D Evans Vandenabeele Hens

2012-GHC-1947_012A_1200

Lucy in the Sky – AU 2012 GHC 1947 – Destined to be a foundation hen for Kastle Loft, this is a hen bred and flown by John Weeks of the Gulf Coast Homing Club. In her first year breeding for us, she had an Ace bird and multiple equal firsts against as many as 500 birds. Lucy finished 6th FSI band race vs. 432 birds and 119th vs. 2051 birds GHC Classic. Four 2012 siblings scored and lasted the season for Weeks, and a sister, #2, was 14th Champion YB GHC club and 9th in the FSI band race. Pure performance and down from Golden Gaby, Queen of Diamonds, Carrie, Wittenbuik, Limoges and Shadow (via The Perfect Pair).

2013 GHC 6067 and Mark Evans

Silvan Danica Need to Know – Mark Evans holds 2013 GHC 6067 at the loft in Spring Hill, Florida where he and John Marles selected this beautiful hen for Kastle Loft. She is a grand daughter of Pre-Olympic x Lady of the Rings and Lord of the Rings x Davina, four elite champions of breeders of champions.

2012-IHC-5734_019A_1200

Lovely Rita – 2012 AU IHC 5734 – 100% M & D Evans. Grand daughter of Benetton, Lady Eisen, Rolls Royce and Super Girl 310. Great grand daughter of Champion Shadow and Wittenbuik. She raised 7 babies with two cocks in her first year and every one has shown tough grit to get home when others have not. She is destined to be a foundation hen for Kastle Loft.

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Michelle My Belle – 2012 IHC 5772 – Inbred to the famous super-couple Nationaal Fideel and Belle. This darling little hen is a granddaughter of the world-famous Rolls Royce, and her sire is a full brother to Rolls Royce. Her first babies will race for us in 2014.

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Dear Prudence – 2013 Dblj 17 – This is a beautiful recessive opal hen who is down from the greats: Eisenhower, Shadow and Jester and Carrie on both sides. Her sire is a multiple diploma and money winner in the Up North Combine flying for the Valente & Marles lofts. Her dam is a grand daughter of the famous Jester and Carrie. Dear Prudence will have babies racing for Kastle Loft in 2014 and we hope her beautiful color will show again in some of her babies.

 


Double Black Widow x Aviator

2011 AU TCL 20 – This is Widow’s 20, my double grand daughter of Black Widow and Aviator from Timber Creek Lofts. She is a beautiful, streamlined bird who, when crossed with my son of Kannibaal’s Gold in 2012, produced my biggest win of the year: A top 10% money winner in the Gulf Coast Classic. Flying in old birds, Kastle 11 finished at impressive 2nd place for handler Jim Combs in a 150-mile race 1084 birds.


Cocks

Meet some of the homing pigeons in Kastle Loft that are the basis for our breeding and race team. Click on a photo to see a pedigree if one is available. 2013 brings a seismic shift in our breeding program that will impact us for years to come. We have introduced ten new birds from the M & D Evans Vandenabeeles.  Among them is a direct son of the world-famous Eisenhower, the #1 breeder for Myrtle Lofts of England. We will be breeding from multiple line bred grandchildren of Shadow and all of our birds will be influenced by the great Wittenbuik. Other greats in our birds will be Rolls Royce, Jester & Carrie, Benetton, Saffron, Devon, Nationaal Fideel & Belle, and The Perfect Pair.

Check back soon for updated photos of our other new additions of M & D Evans’ stock including a triple grandson of Shadow and two grandsons of Benetton, Lady Eisen and Rolls Royce.


Blue Check Racing Pigeon

Einstein 2012 GB C 39756: Direct from world-famous #1 breeder Eisenhower and Joint Venture of M&D Evans’s Myrtle Lofts. He is a full brother to 3rd place 2011 SCMDPR for Myrtle Lofts. Grandchild of Champion Shadow. 2012 was the last year that Myrtle Lofts sold any children off Eisenhower to the public. In Einstein’s first year breeding he bred an AU Ace Bird, race winners, diplomas, eq. 1sts with two different lofts and as many as 500 birds. In 2014, his children began breeding winners, too, including 2nd Ohio ACE young bird, (29th National ACE), proving again that the Evans blood is potent.

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In his first year, Wicked Strong bred the 2nd place (Eq. 1st) OCR winner along with the nest mate who was 14th place. His babies also earned multiple 1sts, Eq. 1sts, and were consistently on the first drops. A grandson of Shadow and very inbred to him, who shows in this pedigree three times. This guy is an ox. Super strong in the hand. Medium sized bird and likes to fight on the floor with other cocks.

M&D Evans Gaby Vandenabeele Blue Bar Pigeon

AU 2012 IHC 5733 – Mr. Kite – This handsome Blue Bar Cock, who also graced the cover of our 2014 Photo Calendar, is a grandson of Benetton, Lady Eisen, Rolls Royce and Super Girl 310. He is also a full brother to one of our best hens, Lovely Rita. As a racer, he finished in the top 10% twice in the competitive IHC club (Cleveland) before being stocked.

A brand-new addition to Kastle Loft for 2015 is Makin It, a registered AU Champion bred and flown by John Marles. This cock is not only an accomplished racer in some of the toughest competition around, but he is also line bred to the Perfect Pair (Shadow), which fits perfectly in my breeding program.

A brand-new addition to Kastle Loft for 2015 is Makin It, a registered AU Champion bred and flown by John Marles. This cock is not only an accomplished racer in some of the toughest competition around, but he is also line bred to the Perfect Pair (Shadow), which fits perfectly in my breeding program.

Grandson of the Perfect Cock

This cock was bred by the exception Cleveland flyer Don Campbell and was donated as the prize for the 2012 Pigeon Talk Classic race. I didn’t win the race, but I did manage to come out a winner after acquiring this fellow. In his first year of breeding, I sent one of his babies to the Pigeon Talk Classic – a real “survivor” series – and his daughter finished 3rd. He is a grandson of the famous Perfect Cock (Shadow) and he is a son of Don’s exceptional 11-flight hen, also down from the M & D Evans blood.

Sylvan Danica Need to Know: New M & D Evans addition to Kastle Loft

During my trip to Florida for the AU convention and GHC Auction, I spent a day at the partner loft of John Marles and Mark Evans of Myrtle Lofts. I asked them to help me pick out a hen to add to my breeding loft. Any and every hen on that property would have been an excellent addition. I asked to look at birds with Shadow in their blood in order to further compliment what I already have in my loft.

After looking at and handling a couple of beautiful hens, John took a moment to retrieve a hen from a different loft. He handed me a medium sized blue bar who was so strong I struggled with her for a few moments. She is a beautiful bird who I trust will make equally beautiful (and fast!) birds. When Don Campbell looked over and saw her and anxiously asked who she is out of, I laughingly told him that information was “need to know”. That’s also what I plan to tell my wife when she asks me what I paid for her.

I have plans to mate her with a cock who is a triple grandson of Shadow and also my Eisenhower cock (also a grandson to Shadow). The Lord and Lady of the Rings are nest mates who were fabulous racers and breeders and are down from Shadow via Solitaire. Pre-Olympic is a top performance pigeon and quickly turning into a world-class breeder for Mark Evans and his children commanded a steep price at the GHC auction, the top one pricing out at $9,100. A double-grand child of Pre-Olympic sold for $8,000 (Pre-Olympic x Davina / Pre-Olympic x Lady of the Rings). As you can see, I feel very fortunate to have a very similarly bred pigeon in “Need to Know”.

See the photos below of “Sylvan Danica Need to Know” 13 GHC 6067, a grand daughter of (Pre-Olympic x Lady of the Rings) / (Lord of the Rings x Davina)

John Marles holds GHC 6067 at his loft with Joe Ferreira in Spring Hill, Fl., on Friday, November 22, 2013. Photo by David Stephenson

John Marles holds GHC 6067 at his loft with Joe Ferreira in Spring Hill, Fl., on Friday, November 22, 2013. Photo by David Stephenson

Mark Evans holds GHC 6067 at the loft in Spring Hill, Fl., on Friday, November 22, 2013. Photo by David Stephenson

Mark Evans holds GHC 6067 at the loft in Spring Hill, Fl., on Friday, November 22, 2013. Photo by David Stephenson

Mark Evans holds GHC 6067 at the loft in Spring Hill, Fl., on Friday, November 22, 2013. Photo by David Stephenson

Mark Evans holds GHC 6067 at the loft in Spring Hill, Fl., on Friday, November 22, 2013. Photo by David Stephenson

John Marles holds GHC 6067 at the loft in Spring Hill, Fl., on Friday, November 22, 2013. Photo by David Stephenson

John Marles holds GHC 6067 at the loft in Spring Hill, Fl., on Friday, November 22, 2013. Photo by David Stephenson

Mark Evans, John Marles and Joe Ferreira with David Stephenson, right, look at a selection of their racing pigeons in the loft in Spring Hill, Fl., on Friday, November 22, 2013. Photo by David Stephenson

Mark Evans, John Marles and Joe Ferreira with David Stephenson, right, at the Marles and Evans loft in Spring Hill, Fl., on Friday, November 22, 2013. Photo by David Stephenson

Photos from the 2013 AU Convention and GHC Auction

John Marles, Don Campbell, Mark Evans, Joe Ferreira and David Stephenson in Spring Hill, Fl., on Friday, November 22, 2013.

John Marles, Don Campbell, Mark Evans, Joe Ferreira and David Stephenson in Spring Hill, Fl., on Friday, November 22, 2013.

At the 2013 AU Convention in Tampa, I had the pleasure of meeting some of the best pigeon racers in our country and a small handful from outside of the U.S. I have never attended a convention but I made a point of coming to this one to meet and listen to Mark Evans of Myrtle Lofts and his North American partner John Marles. I’ve been acquiring birds down from this world-famous stock and I knew this would be a rare chance to meet him them person. I also had the pleasure of meeting another Evans aficionado Kenny King of Kings View Lofts. This is a man who has made a significant “buy in” to this family of birds and will surely soon be hitting the top of the sheet in races around the globe.

The weekend did not disappoint, as I had the very good fortune of spending the majority of Friday at the John Marles & Mark Evans partnership loft in Spring Hill. Also there was the exceptional flyer Don Campbell from Ohio and Marles’ Canadian partner, Joe Ferreira. We spent the day looking at and handling birds and I went a little nuts taking photos. I knew it was a moment that would not soon be repeated. The birds were stunning, of course, but I was particularly struck at how John Marles moved through his loft and how his pigeons reacted to him. You can see in the photos how much he cares for the birds and how much they care for him.

Check out the two galleries below for pictures from the convention, including photos from the historic auction which garnered more than $164,000 for 78 birds from Jos Thone, Nikolaas Gyselbrecht and the Pipa Elite Breeding Center, Big Andy, and of course Mark Evans’ Myrtle Lofts.


The Loft of Marles and Evans – Images by David Stephenson



AU Convention and Auction 2013 – Images by David Stephenson

Featured in the Racing Pigeon Digest

The Pigeon Photographer was featured in the November 1, 2013 edition of the Racing Pigeon Digest. The story was written by a good friend and former Herald-Leader colleague, Maryjean Wall. Below you can see the pages as they appeared in The Digest.


Racing-Pigeon-Digest-Pigeon-Photographer-cover

The cover of the Nov. 1, 2013 edition of the Racing Pigeon Digest

By Maryjean Wall

In the slipstream of a crush of rushing wings, the camera clicks. It’s going to be a good day. David Stephenson has caught the perfect light as he releases pigeons for a training flight.

You could call Stephenson a two-fisted pigeon guy. From the one hand he releases his birds, sending them along their way towards the rising sun. In the other hand he holds his photo gear du jour: today this might be a remote shutter release triggering a camera on a tripod. On another day his gear might be as simple as a camera phone.

Stephenson, 43, of Lexington, Ky., is a professional photographer who also races birds. When he combines his two pursuits, the results can be spectacular. He recently organized his best work on a new website, ThePigeonPhotographer.com, and began offering a photo wall calendar in October.

Among his reasons for creating the web site was to help people find his pictures better and allow anyone to license images of racing pigeons in an affordable – and legitimate – way. He also hopes it will deter people from taking photos without permission off the internet.

In the bigger picture, “I want to create a new way of seeing our racing pigeons,” he said. “I’m not excited by seeing the same type of photos over and over. They’re often not particularly flattering and the birds all start to look the same. I like to see beauty and character in my birds. We in the sport know our pigeons are beautiful. I hope others, by seeing my photos, may begin to see that beauty, too.”

Stephenson has stamped this site with the same creativity and energy that has brought him multiple awards for his photography – and for the racing pigeons that he, his wife, Angie, and daughter, Tory, raise at his Kastle Loft.

“David is turning the flight of the pigeon into art,” said Charles Bertram, chief photographer for the Lexington Herald-Leader. “He is seeing pigeons in a way the naked eye would never see. Of every photo of a pigeon ever taken, his work is going to be up there at the top.”

Five years ago, when Stephenson was well established in his photojournalism career, he returned after a long hiatus to pigeon racing. He had never really lost interest in birds throughout that time; he just never felt that any of the places he lived were suitable for building a loft.

He recalls his initial interest in birds. He acquired his first birds – doves – when in junior high school because a neighbor kept doves. Then he discovered that still another neighbor kept racing pigeons. Stephenson took to the pigeons right away. “I was enamored with fact that you could let pigeons out and they would come back,” he said.

Stephenson’s family moved from Lexington to Berea, Ky. (home of Berea College) when he began high school. His late father, John Stephenson, was president of the college and so David was able to build a small loft behind the President’s House. “I worked and paid for my birds and loft,” he said, citing the late Loftus Green of Lexington as his pigeon source. Following high school in Berea, a baccalaureate from Western Kentucky University, and stints as either a photographer or photo editor in Connecticut, Wyoming, Chicago, and finally, as a staff photographer for the Lexington Herald-Leader, Stephenson returned to the racing pigeon world.

Once again, 25 years later, he acquired some pigeons from his original source, Loftus Green, a lifetime member of the Lexington Racing Pigeon Club.

“What happened was I took my daughter to a children’s movie called Valiant,” he said. “The movie was about homing pigeons and their effort to deliver life-saving messages during World War II. That totally reignited my interest.”

He built a starter loft in his back yard. Two years later he replaced it with a larger loft, measuring 8×15 feet with 3 sections. He flies with two families: Koopman’s and the Wittenbuik and Shadow lines of M & D Evans Vandenabeele’s. Among his most recent awards are a club Champion Bird and the club’s Average Speed for both the 2013 Old Bird and Young Bird seasons. One of his birds finished second in a Gulf Coast Homing Club 150-mile race while handled by Jim Combs. The same bird was in the money in last year’s Gulf Coast Classic. He has a new son of M & D Evans’ Eisenhower he has high hopes for and is already seeing great results and in more than one loft. He has nine pairs of breeders and raises 30-40 young birds. He sends six to 10 birds annually to out-of-area races. Stephenson is now the President of the Lexington Racing Pigeon Club and designed and manages the club’s website, www.lexingtonracingpigeonclub.org.

In 2009 Stephenson left his staff position at the Lexington Herald-Leader to pursue freelance photography and take the position of Photojournalism Adviser for the University of Kentucky’s student newspaper, the Kentucky Kernel. Since then, he has expanded his range of photography and multimedia work. This has complimented his innovations in bird photography.

He has constructed a mobile studio for photography inside lofts. His Facebook page reached more than 2,000 “likes” in just a few weeks, and his Twitter and Instagram accounts likewise are becoming substantial, allowing him to share his work across the globe. He organized his work “to help people find me and the pictures easier” and “hopefully to make a little money to help pay for feed.” His work paid off quickly, when Audubon magazine published one of his pigeon photos in the March-April 2013 magazine. He also had a photo selected for the popular NBCnews.com Week in Pictures slideshow. He’s had university researchers and book publishers also license his photos.

Stephenson’s increasing presence on the Web, whether it is his own work or designing sites for other pigeon flyers, is taking his own pigeon ownership into a new dimension. Every time he goes to his loft he now has some kind of camera with him, even if it is only a camera phone. He always has a professional camera on hand when he releases his pigeons to train. Most recently he is shooting slow-motion video of his birds with a Go Pro.

As Bertram said, “His work transcends pigeon photography and becomes art.”

The pigeons bring their wings together in Stephenson’s photos and you can almost hear the clap.

You can find David’s photos and 2014 Pigeon Calendar on the web at The PigeonPhotographer.com. If you want to follow him on social media, you have many choices, including Facebook (The Pigeon Photographer), Instagram (@thepigeonphotographer) and Twitter (@ThePigeonPhotog). His website for his racing loft and birds is KastleLoft.com.


Photo Tips

Here are David Stephenson’s tips for photographing your pigeons on a training flight: There are two good options for getting photos: One is upon release and the other is of the birds flying overhead. Set up your camera on a tripod with a remote shutter control release.

Anticipate where your birds will fly upon release and prefocus on that spot. Set the shutter speed on a fast setting, at least 1,000 or more, which will be necessary to freeze the motion in the image. The fast shutter speed will require a lot of light, which means the f-stop will be set at a low number, 2.8 or 4.5. After the birds leave the baskets, you will need a zoom lens, because the birds won’t fly close to you for very long. Follow the birds and hope they cross into a spot with a good background. And practice, practice, practice.

If tripods and remote shutter releases aren’t in the cards, you can still get good photos even with a cell phone. Try to anticipate where the birds will be going and put yourself at the best angle to capture it. Get low to the ground and have an interesting, clean background. Get closer.

“Shoot a lot,” Stephenson said. “I’ve shot hundreds of photos (on a single training flight), liking only a few. Take your camera every time you train. If you don’t like what you get one day, try it from a different angle next time. I change perspectives all the time, often lying on the ground. I rarely get it on the first try. Some sunrise silhouettes I shot for an entire season before I got one or two I liked.”

Also, spend some time outside the loft with the birds. That is when they will show their true character and in a more natural setting. The light is almost always better and stronger outside the loft, too. A longer lens helps in this setting.

Stephenson is often asked in emails about the type of camera he uses. Stephenson uses professional models of Canon camera bodies but he said any DSLR will work, as long as you have enough light. He currently uses two Canon 5D Mark III’s. The lens range he works with is from 14 mm to 600 mm. If you don’t have a DSLR, a camera phone will work in the right circumstances, he said. You just need good light, good timing and a willingness to learn from your mistakes.


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