Before most people have had their first cup of coffee, Jerry Goldner can be found hauling his Canon camera, 600mm lens and tripod, weighing a total of 20 pounds, to Montrose Bird Sanctuary or one of Illinois’ forest preserves.
For 37 years Goldner has been a broker in commercial real estate. He got his start in high school as a janitor for apartment buildings at his family’s company Arthur Goldner & Associates. After attending Southern Illinois University, he continued to work for his family as a property manager and then a broker until 2005. Goldner moved on to Jameson Commercial and then Sperry Van Ness where he closed the largest transaction in the company’s history—a condominium tower known as Walton on the Park.
Goldner recently started at Coldwell Banker Commercial NRT where he will be a senior investment advisor. In what he calls the last leg of his career, 59-year-old Goldner is thrilled to add an international element for his clients.
“Coldwell Banker Commercial has a global presence. I’ll be turning 60 years old in July and I’m really excited to end my career working at this high a level,” he said.
Goldner is grateful for his long career in real estate because it allows him to finance his interest in wildlife photography. And it was actually real estate that put a camera into Goldner’s hands for the first time. While he was working for his brother, he started taking photos of the company’s apartment buildings, even going up in a helicopter to get better shots.
Goldner kept his camera close, he brought it with him on his lunch breaks to photograph egrets and other critters at the Skokie lagoons near his office. He loved the process of teaching himself how to use a camera and figuring out how to get the best photos. Goldner bought a 600mm lens, so that he could get close-up shots from far away, when he decided to take a trip to Yellowstone National Park.
Goldner mostly photographs birds and thinks he’s seen at least 250 to 300 different species of birds since he started photographing. The first pictures Goldner had published were of Peregrine Falcons that had stopped in one of the 25 nests the Field Museum had set up around Chicago. While he was photographing, the editor of Chicago Wilderness Magazine, Don Parker, asked him which news outlet he was with. Goldner laughed and told Parker that he was just taking pictures for himself.
The magazine, which shut down in 2008, ended up publishing five of the photos he took that day and more over the years. Parker introduced Goldner to the folks at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. He worked with them to put together an exhibit of his photographs of all 9 owl species. His photographs, along with others he curated, are also featured in two permanent exhibits at the nature museum. His photos are on display at Lurie Children’s Hospital, too.
A few years back Chicago was inundated with snowy owls—a rare event. When WTTW, a TV station in Chicago, was in need of photos they were connected with Goldner. He shared his images of the snowy owls and reconnected with a high school friend who was also a producer at WTTW, Jay Shefsky. Goldner is now a regular contributor on the network and now tries to help bring on other aspiring nature photographers as well.
One of Goldner’s favorite things is letting other nature enthusiasts share in the joy of photography. There is a lot of competition between photographers and birders, Goldner said, but he comes from a different point of view. Sometimes it can get ugly when photographers try to excite the animals in order to get a good shot and that’s something Goldner avoids doing.
“I’m a lover of nature and its not ego driven for me,” he said. “I’ll share my camera with anyone who is interested, I’ll let them put their own memory card in my camera, so they can experience what its like.”
It’s hard for Goldner to pick a favorite memory—from having a family of grizzly bears run towards him in Yellowstone to experiencing the core-shaking sound of 30,000 sandhill cranes lift off at once—there’s just too many. He loves spending time at Montrose Bird Sanctuary especially during migration season in the spring and fall. The forest preserves, especially the Palos Park Forest Preserves in southeastern suburban Chicago.
“People don’t realize how beautiful their own back yard is, Illinois is another world where magic can happen—in some places you can see 150 species in just one day.”
Goldner plans to start working on videos and venturing into documentary work. It doesn’t look like he’ll be putting down the camera any time soon.
See more of Goldner’s photography on his website.