East Hampton second-grade teacher Joe Gowac never imagined that his side hustle—nature photography—would put him in the national spotlight. But that’s exactly what happened when his sunset photo of the Arrigoni Bridge—with its twin steel arches connecting Middletown and Portland—caught the eye of an art director at the United States Postal Service. The image, uploaded to Gowac’s Instagram account, @joegophotos, is featured on a first-class postage stamp released this fall.
“It’s such a great feeling,” he says.
Using traditional and drone cameras, Gowac spends countless early mornings and weekends capturing extraordinary images of snowy owls, bald eagles, glossy ibises, kingfishers, and more.
“Wild animals are most active around sunrise or before sunset,” he says, “and because I prefer sunrise, that requires me to get up very early.” Getting a good shot takes tremendous patience too. “I’ve actually stayed in one spot for 12 hours to avoid missing anything,” Gowac says.
Weather can be a challenge too, with conditions ranging from extreme heat and humidity to 20-degree days with the winds whipping off the ocean. Long days and long drives often end with long hours editing thousands of images.
Gowac often shares his wildlife photographs in weekly newsletters to parents or in units his class is doing on owls or other wildlife.
“I hope I can be part of the reason students wake up each day excited to come to school,” he says, adding that few things compare to seeing his students’ faces light up when they learn something new.
“When teaching gets tough, that’s what keeps me going,” he says. “Every year brings new challenges, but many of those challenges make us better teachers, and I always look forward to 21 new faces eager to have an amazing year.”
The collector’s edition of Gowac’s stamp may be ordered at Stamp Fulfillment Services, 816-545-1110.