a strong need to share his experiences with others, but just telling
them about what he had seen didn't get the reaction he wanted. He needed
a camera. When he was nine years old the neighborhood kids organized a
backyard circus. Les' share of the profits was $1.04. He ran to the
drugstore to see if the blue leatherette Brownie Rainbow Hawkeye camera
was still in the window. It was, and it was on sale for $.98.
bought it, and went out stalking wildlife, but it didn't take long to
realize the camera's limitations. Flying ducks became tiny blurs on the
film, and if he got close to a hiding snowshoe hare, he was too close to
focus. Les experimented with different devices to overcome the problems,
but it wasn't until he was fifteen, using his father's Kodak 120 pocket
camera on a family vacation out West that he began blossoming into a
real photographer. The results were encouraging, and Les knew then that
he would be back many times to document the wildlife and magnificent
graduated from Duluth Junior College soon after the United States
entered World War II. He joined the 10th Mountain Infantry, and after
two years as a ski instructor, glacier and rock climber, platoon
sergeant Blacklock was ready for mountain warfare. But it didn't work
out that way. Les' 86th regiment was disbanded. He volunteered for
combat duty, and spent 18 months in the jungles of the southwest
Pacific. He returned home to Moose Lake in time for Christmas, 1945.
while taking nature-related courses in writing, art and natural history
at the University of Minnesota, Les met his wife-to-be, Fran Jordan.
They were married that October, and went on a canoe trip honeymoon in
northern Minnesota (later recounted by Fran in her text for the book,
first winter, Les lived with white-tail deer on the shore of Lake
Superior, filming the motion picture, Deer Live With Danger, which was
distributed by Encyclopedia Britannica Films.
summer of 1948 Les and Fran spent 4 1/2 months camping on Isle Royale in
Lake Superior where Les made his second motion picture, Stalking
the Royale Moose. From 1952 to 1956 Les was
photographer-director for Empire Photosound, a producer of commercial
Les returned to freelancing, photographing big game, primarily with a
4x5 Graphlex camera. He did some films, too: two fishing movies for
Johnson Reels, and a tourist promotion film, Ghost Town Montana.
Eventually, Les felt he had to choose between making motion pictures or
concentrating on still photography. He opted for the later, returning to
his childhood desire of sharing the wilds with others through his
images, often with accompanying lectures or written text.
career as a nature photographer was given a big boost when he teamed
with his friend, Sigurd F.
Olson, of Ely Minnesota. Sig's works and Les' photographs were
combined in the book, The Hidden Forest, published by
Viking in 1969. Les' second book with Viking, The High West (1974),
combined his western mountain photographs with Canadian, Andy Russell's
career was filled with varied work and assignments. One of is steadiest
customers was Hamm's Beer, and Les' Land of Sky Blue Waters pictures
with a red canoe became synonymous with the local brew.
Dubois, founder of Voyageur Press, suggested that Les supply pictures
for a Minnesota calendar. The first Minnesota Seasons was published in
1973. In 1976, Les and Fran's son, Craig joined the family business.
Together, Les and Craig did the photography for as many as four calendar
titles a year for Voyageur Press. When Bob Dubois saw the interest in
Les' calendar captions, he asked Les to write and photograph a book of
his own. The result was Meet My Psychiatrist, published in 1977, and a
second, similar book, Ain't Nature Grand!, released three years later.
Minnesota (1978), was a compilation of favorite calendar
photographs. Fran wrote the text. In 1983 Voyageur Press published
Minnesota Wild, a coffee-table book with text and pictures by Les and
Craig depicting the state's varied ecosystems.
1960's and '70s Les occasionally worked as a consulting naturalist,
helping to plan over thirty natural areas, parks and nature centers.
Both Les and Fran were instrumental in establishing a park around
Anderson Lakes in Eden Prairie. Included in the park is the land they
lived on for over twenty years.
1975-76 Les, Fran, Craig and his photographer/wife Nadine moved to rural
Moose Lake, becoming neighbors on the same land. The Blacklocks planned
their homes overlooking a beaver lake with the idea of willing them as a
retreat for people to work on nature-related projects. This was the
beginning idea behind Blacklock Nature Sanctuary, which now holds over
440 acres and will eventually include the Blacklock homes and land as
served on numerous boards including the
Sigurd Olson Environmental
Center, the Metropolitan Park Reserve Board, the North Star Chapter of
Sierra Club, and the Audubon Center of the North Woods. In
recognition of his photography and his work as an interpretive
naturalist, Les received the following awards: Association of
Interpretive Naturalists (1976). Mid Continent Regional Park and
Recreations Conference (1977), YMCA Camp Olson "Keeper of
the Dream" (1978), State of Minnesota Certificate of
Commendation (1982), Northwoods Audubon, "Marav Borell"
(with Fran, 1990). In 1985 he was awarded an honorary PhD degree by
Northland College when he gave the commencement address.
diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in the mid-1980s, ending his ability
to work with the camera. The business he and Fran started in the 1950's
is was continued by Craig and
Nadine until Nadine's death in 1998. Craig
continues to publish images by all of the
finally succumbed to the ravages of Parkinson's disease in 1995. He was
a gentle man who never lost his delight in the natural world. Even in
his disease and drug-induced hallucinatory state prior to his death, he
had a sense of wonder about his favorite apparitions that would appear
near the bird feeders out the window - the leaf dancers.