How a Northwoods Photographer Uses Images to Spread Positivity

A layer of frost crystallized on Bob Kovar’s winter coat as he lay face down on a snowy riverbank. Camera in hand, he waited for the first rays of sun to show up on the horizon and be reflected on the mirror of icy water stretched out in front of him.

But when he looked up from his perch on the riverbank, he couldn’t find the sun.

Instead, he found himself staring at a wolf.

“This wolf came and pounced around the corner,” Kovar recalled. “We’ve heard wolves howl here, but I’ve never seen one here. He just stood there, and I thought, ‘that’s why I’m here.’

Kovar barely left his bed of blankets that morning to brave the sub-zero temperature on his daily pre-sunrise hike to Wild Rice Lake. But he followed this ritual for years, rising early before the summer sun and sleeping later in the dark winters to photograph the sunrise.

This morning, like the hundreds of mornings before it, Kovar found the hike worthwhile.

“There are things waiting for us to find,” he says. “You can only find them if you are there.”

It is an experience that fills Kovar with wonder, awe, peace and appreciation. When COVID-19 hit, these were the feelings Kovar knew the world needed more of.

Studio Bob Kovar
Bob Kovar stands outside his studio at Manitowish Waters.

“When the pandemic started, I challenged myself to start writing with my images and posting something positive every morning on Facebook,” Kovar says.

The practice added an element of intentional gratitude to his mornings.

“I’m a cross-country skier and cyclist, so I know how to train my body to stay in shape,” he explains. “But those pathways for positive and negative thinking, not so much. When I started writing it took me a while, but I wanted to be positive because the world was so negative.

Soon Kovar’s Facebook page was more complete than his one-room studio.

A recent photo on her virtual wall shows the sun setting over a sea of ​​floating cranberries. Another shows a smiling moon burst through a tree with faded yellow leaves.

Some of Kovar’s positive messages are poetic. Others are more disjointed.

He compiled them all into one book.
“The book is separated into these different mood sections, so wonder and joy and things like that,” he says.

The book is called Under the eagle tree, referring to Kovar’s sunrise perch by the river.

We walk there together now, crunching a path of fallen leaves.

Kovar points to the eagle’s nest and, closer to the river, finds the spot where he saw the lone wolf.

“I was laying there by the dock,” he said. “He came around that point and wanted to play.”

There are no wolves today, but against the backdrop of gray skies, a trio of swans floats by.

“Before the sun comes up and lights up the whole sky, it’s beautiful,” Kovar says. “But it’s its brevity that really amazes me. It is this ephemeral beauty. If you are not there, often the clouds come and it looks like a gray day. But it started out absolutely wonderful.

“It’s enough to make you have a gray day sometimes.”

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