David Stalling loved the outdoors. Growing up in Westport, he was an avid hiker, camper and fisherman.
After graduating from Staples High School in 1979, he served in a Marine Corps Force Recon unit. He has degrees in forestry and journalism, has worked for several wildlife conservation organizations, served as president of the Montana Wildlife Federation, and is a passionate advocate for conservation. He lives in Missoula.
But Stalling did not take nature photography seriously until he went walking in the woods with his son.
Nearly a decade ago, Cory was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. A severe form of the disease, characterized by rapid muscle degeneration. Eventually, even involuntary muscles are affected.
Cory is now 17. When he was 12, and first slowed down, Stalling would walk ahead. He’d sit on a rock or log, and wait for his son.
“I started noticing surrounding details: diverse, smaller, colorful plants; rocks painted with lichen; the geometrical shapes of tree buds; the beautiful, ever-changing arrangements of raindrops, snow, sun, dew shade,” Stalling recalls. “It was the art of nature.”
He surprised himself that — despite a lifetime of roaming the wilds — he’d overlooked such details. Or taken them for granted.
Or didn’t even know they existed.
So Stalling started to capture what he saw with his camera.
“My son taught me to ‘slow down and smell the roses,” he says. “And — while I was at it — to photograph the thorns.”
His images are popular. Stalling has won national awards, including a recent 1st-place prize from the National Wildlife Federation. He sells limited-edition prints.
Every December, Stalling combines his love for photographing the wilds with his love for his son. He creates a “Calendar for a Cure,” to raise awareness and funds to find treatments and a cure for Duchenne MD. Besides Cory, the disease afflicts 400,000 people worldwide.
“It’s a genetic, muscular degenerative, fatal disease for which there is currently no cure,” Stalling says.
“But there is hope. A lot of treatments, like the steroid-based medications Cory takes, slow the progression.” Promising clinical trials are underway too.
“I use my photography to focus on hope and beauty, while helping my son and others,” Stalling explains.
Cory — a high school junior — spends as much time as he can in the beautiful, wild mountains surrounding his home.
And, following in his father’s footsteps — literally and figuratively — he’s a budding photographer too.
(To enjoy 365 days of wild Montana in 2018 — and help Cory and others with Duchenne MD — click here. The calendar costs $19.95)