MADISON, CT – In 1986, Madison resident Frank Bartlett was painting his home when the ladder slipped from under him, and he dropped straight down, crushing his L1 Vertebrae and compressing his spinal cord.
After his injury, doctors told Bartlett he wouldn’t walk again.
“My first thought was that I’d never be able to pitch a baseball to my young son or dance the first dance at my daughter’s wedding someday,” he said.
However, Bartlett never gave up hope, and several months later after his accident, he was able to go home. Bartlett said it was Christmas Eve when he took his first steps.
“My parents said it was the best gift they ever received. It was mine also,” Bartlett said. “I’m walking further now than I have since 1986.”
Many people might have seen Bartlett’s photographs on their Facebook feed when scrolling through the social media app. (Click here to see Bartlett’s Facebook photography page).
“The vast majority are shot in Guilford and Madison. We live on the line between the two towns, but I get more opportunities in Guilford. We are so fortunate to live where we do,” he said.
Bartlett said he loves to share the photographs he takes because he wants to share the beauty of nature with those who may be in the same situation as he was and aren’t able to go out and walk in nature.
“My grandmother piqued my interest in nature at a very young age,” he said. “When I was younger, I wanted to capture interesting things I’d see in nature on film, not caring about the quality of the photo. In the last several years, I’ve concentrated on improving my photography. It’s truly a challenge and thrilling when all the stars align for you, which is rare for me.”
Bartlett said getting a good photo opportunity takes many hours of sitting in uncomfortable positions in poor weather.
“One winter, I sat in my car behind some abandoned buildings quite a ways from the nearby house for many hours, days and weeks,” he said. “It was where I had seen a bobcat passing in the past.”
Bartlett said he’s always loved to walk in the woods, but in his journey, he’s learned to slow down and appreciate the beauty of nature.
“I’ve noticed that most people go through life with blinders on when it comes to the amazing things around us. Most people are focused on getting from one place to another,” he said. “People don’t see things because animals and even birds go quiet when a human or possible predator approaches or passes by. If you go into any place with cover for the animals or birds and sit quietly without moving, within a very short time, you will be shocked at how much wildlife is around you. I’ve had mice walk across my shoe. I’ve had chickadees sit on my lens. Now that’s cool.”
While on a photo shoot, Bartlett said he’s had many memorable moments, from photographing foxes in their den in South Guilford to taking photographs of Ducklings.
However, his most exciting moment was taking a photo of a bobcat.
“As many know, I’ve spent countless hours searching for a better picture of these beautiful creatures. I drove to Southbury countless times; I went to Derby daily for two weeks because people said a pair walked past them while they sat on a park bench. I went in the dark of night in deep snow before the plows came to track a bobcat in Clinton. I found the tracks in the new snow but not the cat. So I tracked one from the center of Guilford to Madison without seeing it,” he said.
One day Bartlett got a call that someone had seen a bobcat in his neighborhood while he was in Glastonbury with two snake experts looking for rattlesnakes. On his way home, he saw a small deer cross the back road in front of his car, but as he got close, he noticed it was a big bobcat.
“I pulled over and took many shots. Years ago, I was given a tip: “ If an animal is walking away, make a kissing sound, and it will stop and look right at you,” he said. “I did it, and it worked. I was so excited when I saw that the picture on the back of the camera came out okay. The photo is now on our wall as you enter our home.”
As Bartlett continues to share his photography through social media, he’s received many comments, but one stands out.
“One fellow in Guilford was so kind to give me the location where a bobcat has been spotted, and While I was slowly driving through the area the gentleman gave me, I met the extraordinary man; he was in a wheelchair,” he said. “The comment that touched my heart later came from him. “you’re my view into a world that is impossible for me ever to see.” That deeply touched me. How close I was to being right next to him in a wheelchair. It’s comments like that that get me up before dawn to try to get a better photo almost daily.”