BAKER CITY — Father Julian Cassar calls his camera the wife he never had.
“She’s always with me, sitting in my passenger seat or hanging around my neck,” said the pastor of St. Francis de Sales Cathedral here. The camera is always within reach when the priest drives to his mission churches on weekends, where he catches the unexpected, from blue herons to elk and geese with their goslings.
Coming from the small Mediterranean island of Malta with limited photo opportunities, Father Cassar didn’t take long to fall in love with nature photography when he moved to the United States 30 years ago. He lived in New York for 22 years, and has spent the last eight years in Eastern Oregon capturing landscapes and wildlife. In 2006, the priest bought his first digital camera.
“When people see some of my photos, they always have the same remark ‘You must have a great camera, Father,’ to which my response is always unequivocally the same,” Father Cassar said. “It’s the photographer who takes the photo, although it’s God who creates the opportunity and gives me the subject to shoot.”
Over the years, the priest has learned a few tricks. When he finds a group of deer grazing, he beeps the car horn so they look up to face him as he takes the picture. Bald eagles are also cooperative subjects, usually more interested in their prey than a priest behind a camera.
In June, Father Cassar photographs the blooming wild lupines bloom on the hills of Halfway. Every summer he takes a five-day trip to explore the Pacific Northwest, usually returning with 1,000 photos.
“As much as I miss the red and orange foliage from upstate New York and the beautiful sea and churches in Malta, nothing can replace the snow capped mountains we have here, or the tulips I saw at Monitor, close to Mount Angel, or even the rocky beaches on the Oregon coast,” he said.
“All this thanks to God Almighty, our creator and nature’s best artist,” the priest added.