Faces in the Crowd: Roger Hagerman

March 23, 2020

Roger Hagerman
Roger Hagerman taking photos of the birds on the Mill Pond

Roger Hagerman loves shooting birds.

And his weapon of choice is the Canon EOS 1D Mark II 600mm camera with 1.4 extender.

Roger’s a photographer. Although he spent 34 years at the Evart Dairy, his true passion has always been photography.

Sports photos. Weddings. Senior pictures. And birds.

As a member of the “birding” community, Roger enjoys traveling the state looking to photograph the birds of Michigan.

But there’s more to Roger than just the photos. Along with his wife Denise, the Hagerman’s raised their two kids, Kristin, a 2006 Marion graduate, and Ryan, a 2010 NMC grad, from their Marion home.

Although Roger grew up in the Carson City area, he now calls Marion home.

We caught up with Roger recently where we learned a lot about photography. We also learned that Roger Hagerman is much more than just another face in the crowd.

Marion Press: How did you make your way to Marion?
Roger: My wife went to college at Ferris, and then she got a job here in town, in 83 or 84. I started at the Evart Dairy in ’79, when she was already in college.

MP: Where were you born and raised? What kept you busy growing up?
Roger: I was born in Alma but lived in the Carson City/Crystal area. I started doing sports in 10th grade; I ran track and cross country, under Don Baese – he was one of the top cross-country coaches in the state. They had gone to state several years.

MP: So you had a good cross country team?
Roger: Until I got there!

MP: How long did you work for the Evart Dairy?
Roger: 34 years. I was one of the last ones to leave. There were only 3 or 4 of us left before they shut the place down. I worked a number of different jobs there, but for 12 years I was the janitor there, working 8 hours a day and getting the weekends off. It was a huge operation for a long time.

MP: You got into photography back in the ‘70s. What was that like?
Roger: Back then, you didn’t know what you were doing. It was all film, so I taught myself. Self-taught. I still have my first camera: Canon TX – I bought a 100 to 200 zoom lens – that was pretty big back then. It was all manual – there was no auto whatsoever on that.

MP: How did your photography career get started?
Roger: When I was working at the dairy, the diary hired me a lot. So a lot of my pictures were used all over the country. They used my pictures to promote Meijers and stuff like that.
[Later] I got into sports with Jim Blevins at the Marion Press. I took some pictures into Jim, and he said, “Hey, why don’t you come help me out.” That was in ’99-2000. In 2001 [the basketball team] went to the Breslin Center.

MP: These days you do sports photos, weddings, senior pictures – what else keeps you busy?
Roger: Birds are my main subject. I’m big in the birding community. A friend of mine goes with me, and he’s really good.

A year ago, we found the Whooping Crane up here north of town. Once that got out into the e-bird community, everybody came up here to see the Whooping Crane.

We found one of the rarest birds in the United States – the Sharp-Tailed Sandpiper. We found that, and within an hour or so we had about 10 people there. We sent pictures in right away, so we could confirm it.

We found that bird, and then a few weeks later he called me up and we found a Western Kingbird – which isn’t quite as rare, but it’s rare for Michigan. So there were three birds that we found that are pretty rare.

The most recent one, just north of town on state land, I got pictures of the Short-Eared owl – which is another rare bird.

MP: How often do you search for birds?
Roger: Every day. You drive around and look for birds, basically. The thing about birding versus deer: Birds can’t smell, so there’s scent to worry about. They don’t worry about color. Whereas deer, they won’t come back [if you spook them].

MP: And sports photos are a big part of your photography as well…
Roger: [After working with Jim Blevins] I started to venture off on my own, and by that time digital starting coming in – right around 2003, 2004. From taking two or three rolls of 36, I don’t think nothing of it to shoot 300 to 2000 pictures anymore.

So I’ll set up a schedule, and it could be eight to ten different schools or sports. In the spring I’ll do softball, baseball, soccer, track. It depends on who hires me. Parents will hire me. I’ll shoot for Marion football, girls basketball, boys basketball, jr. high basketball. My schedule depends on who hires me for that season.

MP: What have been some of your highlights in photography?
Roger: I got to go on top of the Mackinaw Bridge – as high as you could go. NMC has a fundraiser, and Scott VanPolen and I went together and we outbid everybody for that opportunity. It was quite the experience. That was probably one of my biggest highlights.

MP: You’ve been taking photos since the ‘70s. What are some of the biggest changes since then?
Roger: Anybody can do it now. The camera’s have gotten easier and easier to use. I could sit down and show you the first camera, the second camera, the third camera… and how much they’ve changed. About every four to six years I’ll buy a new camera, and they keep getting more and more expensive.

The newest one I’ve got is a top-of-the-line Canon. It has everything on it, GPS, all this stuff. It’s so advanced that I spent two weeks learning about how to set it up. It’s so advanced. It has a level on the viewfinder; tracking systems – so I can follow someone running. 1D X Mark II.

MP: For someone who’s looking to get into photography, what advice would you offer?
Roger: Practicing. Look at your own photos. What can I do to make these better? A lot of it is that you’ve got to have the right equipment for the right game. Your phone will do a wonderful job, but it’s not going to tell a story. The best thing you can do is look at your own pictures, and they’ll tell you what you’re doing wrong. You’ve just got to keep practicing, and that never ends. The lighting is different everywhere you go. What works in [one place] may not work in the other.
Photography is fun and if you want to make money, it’s there. But it’s hard to make money in it. You’ve got to look to do the best you can and enjoy it. It’s not always all about the money.

MP: What were your first impressions of this community?
Roger: In the beginning, I didn’t do much here in Marion, because I worked in Evart. Here in Marion, nobody knew who I was because I was always in Evart. It’s slowly changed over the years. I helped Greg Mikulich in track for three years, and that’s when people started getting to know me. Maria Mikulich and I coached cross country together for a year, I believe in 2007.

MP: What kept the Hagerman family busy?
Roger: We hiked. We did a lot of hiking in Glacier National Park. There was always a camera on site!
One of my memories that stood out was during Kristin’s senior year. We were at the conference track meet, and we needed one point to win the conference. And Kristin needed to score one point in the two-mile race to win the meet. All she had to do was finish third or fourth and we’d win. And she wasn’t the fastest, but she got it done. And with Greg Mikulich out there, it was probably the most exciting two-mile race in history!

MP: Who have been some of your role models over the years?
Roger: My father-in-law Lloyd Mayes. One of my role models would be Greg Mikulich. I loved the way he handled his situation when he was in school. He treated everyone fair. He taught me a lot of stuff. He probably doesn’t even know that, but he did. Some of my high school teachers. My wife, definitely. She keeps me on the right track! Some of my ideas get a little far-fetched. We’ve been married for 40 years this spring. She’s a good role model and a good person to go to for advice.

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