Skip to main content
Arts & Entertainment

Meet the photographer capturing Marin wildlife eye to eye

A female bobcat stares into Demitri Penuelas’s lens. | Courtesy Demitri Penuelas

Most hikers are lucky if they catch a glimpse of something’s tail disappearing into a bush.

Demitri Penuelas spends entire afternoons with bobcats.

“I was able to spend four hours with this female bobcat,” Penuelas said on Instagram, posting a dramatic head-on photo of a gorgeous cat and thanking a fellow wildlife photographer for tips on how to best capture the felines. “I watched as she hunt, groomed and walked along residential fences.”

Demitri Penuelas is an amateur wildlife photographer based in Marin County. | Courtesy Demitri Penuelas

The San Rafael amateur photographer has a way with wildlife—and a camera, as well. His NatGeo-level photo skills are gaining him fans around Marin County on Nextdoor and around the world on Instagram.

After realizing the cell phone photos he was taking while hiking weren’t that great, Penuelas bought his first camera kit in 2014 and has been adding gear over the last few years. 

A burrowing owl wakes at sunrise. | Courtesy Demitri Penuelas

Penuelas’s interest in wildlife began in second grade when his teacher taught the class about praying mantis. He set off to find one and after he did, he kept searching for bugs, snakes, lizards, other reptiles and amphibians. Today, as evidenced by his work, he says he’s in his “second year of being a birder.”

“As the sunlight began to fade, a barn owl emerged from a tree. I heard her as she screeched and flew over my children to begin hunting in the grass nearby. [...] It’s a memory I will cherish with my kids.” | Courtesy Demitri Penuelas

Even a passing glance at Penuelas’s photos on Instagram reveals his skill in connecting to his subjects through their eyes. Getting these up-close-and-personal wildlife shots requires time—hours invested in researching a species’s behavior and then waiting for or sitting near the animal or bird, according to Penuelas.

“Cormorants are truly a unique looking bird. Their eyes often get referred to as looking like jewels.” | Courtesy Demitri Penuelas

“A lot of wildlife are creatures of habit. They’ll have a routine, typically inhabiting the same territory or hunting grounds,” Penuelas says. “Often, you can typically go out and see the same animal again, and as long as you don’t disturb it, you can keep going there for months.

There’s one creature that has thus far eluded him. 

“I’d really be excited to photograph a long-tailed weasel,” says Penuelas. “I’ve seen them but never when I had my camera.” 

A striped shore crab poses in the sand. | Courtesy Demitri Penuelas

Nature enthusiasts should head north of the city to improve their chances of seeing creatures in the wild.

“The best place in the Bay Area to see wildlife is the Point Reyes National Seashore,” Penuelas says. “You have a chance to see eagles, elk, otter, deer, owls—you don’t even need to get out of your car to see wildlife there sometimes.” 

A Black-crowned night heron catches a fish. | Courtesy Demitri Penuelas

Penuelas heads out with his camera whenever he finds time—sunrise, golden hour or even midday.

“I see it as therapeutic, getting out in nature and hearing the sounds, smelling the smells,” Penuelas says. “It’s nice to pull back from society and see what gets overlooked very often.”

“I checked on some badger burrows at sunset and came across this cooperative black-tailed jackrabbit.” | Courtesy Demitri Penuelas