Photo © Ian Coristine/
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Martin Zonnenberg’s Hobby

When TI Life received a photograph of an Osprey fishing for his dinner, we immediately looked for the source.  We discovered the photographer was Martin Zonnenberg, who summers on Grindstone Island, and we asked for an interview.

We arrived on a beautiful morning and moments after were taken on a tour to see his secluded "studio", a small, beautiful marsh tucked into the south side of the island.  On the bank was a photography blind big enough for a person to sit, camouflaged. A small slit allows Martin to watch the marsh and exhibit his greatest talent, patience.

He mentioned that he has taken photographs all his life and that led us to learn about the photographer, his early years and his passion for boats, wetlands and wildlife.

Martin is from Holland and came to the United states in the 1970s. Boats were a way of life in his village on the Rhine River estuary and sailing had a profound and lasting impact on his life.


"Sailing broadened my horizons and sense of possibilities"  he explained. Zonnenberg went on to be a successful businessman in both Europe and the United States.


He came to the Thousand Islands with a friend and acknowledged the natural beauty immediately, returning often as a cruising family on a trawler and eventually finding the perfect location on Grindstone Island.

He learned to build wooden sculls with his uncle as a boy and enjoyed woodworking as an adult.  Both of these experiences naturally lead to his being involved in the Antique Boat Museum where he has demonstrated not only his sense of community through philanthropy, but  has also championed wooden boats and our Thousand Islands lifestyle.

In the winter Martin philanthropic commitment is transferred to Mt. Dora, Florida where he has created the lake Eustis Youth Sailing Foundation, providing unique scholarships and leadership programs in this central Florida community. 

Both homes on Grindstone and on Lake Eustis can boast some of the best habitats for water birds. Martin is out in his boat at dawn when the birds begin their day.  "By 9 A.M. you might as well go and have a coffee", he says, "by then the birds are gone". His new digital equipment allows him to capture hundreds of images, daily, and the evenings provide time to sort, discard and choose the very best memories.  He does not sell his photographs  but shares them with family and friends, although he does provide prints to non-profit organizations for an auction table.

Our visit to Grindstone Island and Zonnenberg's boathouse provided  the answer to our question as to who captured the fishing osprey - and as Martin was helping us leave his dock, he stated, "Photography is just a hobby, and it challenges me to keep on improving." 

TI Life is honored to share these incredible Thousand Islands photographs with our readers and we look forward to seeing the “challenges” in the future.



Photographs and Captions  by Martin Zonnenberg, 2010

 Merganser © Photo by Martin Zonnenberg 2010

©  Martin Zonnenberg 2010

"This is the most exiting shot I have ever made.......
The very elusive Merganser, who I knew had her nest somewhere on our place, showed up this evening showing off all her babies, I counted 16, HOW MANY DO YOU COUNT?

However, it was getting dark already when she was swimming by to bring her babies to a safe place to hide during the night. Also, she did not swim that close to the shore, It is a long distance shot with not a lot of light to make it a bright picture: BUT IT SURE IS UNIQUE!!!"

©  Martin Zonnenberg 2010

Day after

"The next day, late in the evening, I saw the Merganser family again on the return trip to the Bay behind my boathouse: Did she look haggard... What had happened the previous evening was that she run into the fishing grounds of a loon family. The loons really made her life miserable for a little while, they were diving under the merganser train and swimming close by and the merganser had a hard time bringing her babies safe inside the reeds. However, now I only counted 14 baby mergansers, what happened?



© Photo by Martin Zonnenberg 2010
© Martin Zonnenberg 2010

"An Osprey trying to chase a heron away: Heron stood it's 'branch'"

©  Martin Zonnenberg 2010
©  Martin Zonnenberg 2010

"Soaring above in perfect flight"

Loon Nest © Photo by Martin Zonnenberg 2010
©  Martin Zonnenberg 2010

"A heron was flying over the loon’s nests and the hatching loon
had no trouble at all chasing him away with some choice words, hidden in his call...."

Editor's note:  Special recognition goes to Tom and Julie Tinnie, who live on the north side of Grindstone Island.  They build and maintain the loons nests each year.

Loon Series

Preparing for take off

"It happen so seldom to be so lucky to see a loon ‘take-off’, and to be close enough to capture  this exiting event on the camera.

The loon needs to make a very fast run for it to gain enough speed to get some lift to get up in the air. This whole running exercise is pretty difficult because his legs are almost located behind his tail..."

©  Martin Zonnenberg 2010

Editor’s Note:  Click to enlarge each photograph. 

Each photo identification number is included so you will see how quickly the camera and photographer must work.

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Ring-Billed Gull Series

Seeing a sea gull fly by our place on Grindstone is such a common sight that we do not give it much attention most of the time.

However, look closer.  They are unbelievable acrobats up in flight, have awesome eyesight and can spot a fish as good as any eagle or osprey! They will dive right in the water, head first, completely disappear, like a tern and come back with a fish with a hit record of 9 out of ten dives. Enjoy the ring-billed gull series.

© Photo by Martin Zonnenberg 2010

Editor’s Note:  Click to enlarge each photograph – especially number 6 & 7. Again each photo identification number is included .


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 By Susan W. Smith,

Posted in: Photography
Please feel free to leave comments about this article using the form below. Comments are moderated and we do not accept comments that contain links. As per our privacy policy, your email address will not be shared and is inaccessible even to us. For general comments, please email the editor.


Ian Coristine
Comment by: Ian Coristine
Left at: 10:56 PM Sunday, June 13, 2010
These are inspirational photographs, clearly the work of a talented, passionate and incredibly patient individual. Congratulations Martin on your exceptional images!

Ian Coristine
Jan Brabant
Comment by: Jan Brabant ( )
Left at: 10:23 PM Monday, June 14, 2010
Great photos and thanks for sharing them with us.
trude fitelson
Comment by: trude fitelson ( )
Left at: 10:33 PM Monday, June 14, 2010
Dear Marty,

What a wonderful hobby and a lovely contribution to our river culture. A wonderful talent, too!


Trude Fitelson
Vickie Darcy
Comment by: Vickie Darcy ( )
Left at: 8:21 AM Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Your photographs are breathtaking. After 51 years of summering on the river I am just now really appreciating the wonderful wildlife we are blessed with, especially our bird population. If you happen to sell your prints please let me know. Thank you for sharing them!
Skip Tolette
Comment by: Skip Tolette ( )
Left at: 1:20 PM Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Susie and Martin----Great article and marvelous photos!!! Thank you.
Al Bickerton
Comment by: Al Bickerton ( )
Left at: 6:22 AM Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Wonderful pictures. Thanks for sharing. Our year round home looks directly south to Grindstone Island, so we enjoy many of these similar experiences - they truly are a treasure to be seen - many are viewable even in the depth of Winter.
Al Bickerton
Sue Smith
Comment by: Sue Smith ( )
Left at: 4:36 PM Wednesday, June 16, 2010
We also have a Merganser family - they were moving too fast to count - around the corner from Martin ( on Swiftwater Point) , I wonder if they are the same family in photos. Beautiful photos, thanks for sharing.
Dave Tennity
Comment by: Dave Tennity ( )
Left at: 2:39 PM Friday, June 25, 2010
I have often admired Taurus as she slips by our dock early in the morning. Now I have a new appreciation for the photagrapher on board! Thanks for sharing your photos.
Eric Wilder
Comment by: Eric Wilder ( )
Left at: 8:10 AM Sunday, June 27, 2010
Wonderful images!
Marti MacArthur
Comment by: Marti MacArthur ( )
Left at: 7:31 PM Sunday, June 27, 2010
Unbelievable!! The Merganzer with her babies is really remarkable. I have never seen one like it. Congratulaions and thanks for sharing.
Lori Moose
Comment by: Lori Moose ( )
Left at: 9:43 AM Sunday, August 22, 2010
Wow ! They are special photos..enjoyed the article and shared it of course !:)
Ginny MacCallum
Comment by: Ginny MacCallum ( )
Left at: 3:33 PM Wednesday, September 1, 2010
What a gift you are and have given us!!! Don't stop! I have very much enjoyed the increased numbers of loons due to the Tinney's efforts as well as our other bird populations....but you certainly capture them in a way that allows them to live much longer in our memories! Wow, wow, wow. Thank you.
June Ross
Comment by: June Ross ( )
Left at: 9:26 PM Sunday, August 28, 2011
I saw your photographs and they were just awesome.
You have a wonderful eye and a great talent. I can also see you must have a lot of patience.
Thanks for sharing your remarkable talent!