It has been said if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. While Paul Cyr of Presque Isle has a number of jobs that could be called work, it is his love of photography that frames his daily routine and defines his identity in Aroostook County.

“I didn’t expect it to get this big this fast,” he said of the hobby that has grown into a website with 10,000 images and a Facebook page with 14,000 friends.

While he sells digital images, calendars, CDs and some prints, “It’s not a big money venture,” he says.

Cyr operates 62 housing units in Presque Isle and Easton, manufactures a component for snowmobiles, which he has patented, and does earthwork with a large skid steer loader, but it is his love of photography that gets him outside every day between 3:30 and 4 a.m. to observe and record the world around him.

He maintains inventories of images for about 30 customers, including Aroostook County cities, towns, banks, health care facilities and the Northern Maine Development Commission, which regularly use his photographs for their websites, reports and promotional materials.

“I have a picture of the main street of every town in the county,” he said, though most of his images are made within 10 miles of his home. He calls his website ( “an online album” where visitors may select from more than 50 categories to view his work.

Born into a large farm family in Hamlin Plantation, Cyr has always awakened early, so it is natural for him to be up at dawn traveling Aroostook roads with his cameras, or monitoring the nine sites on his own property where video cameras survey the activities of wildlife. When something of interest appears on one of the nine screens in his office, he grabs a camera and races to the site.

“I don’t sit for hours,” he said of a common misconception about his ability to capture extraordinary wildlife shots. With careful observations day after day, “you learn the probability for something [to occur] at a given time.”

The sites include settings for numerous birds and animals. He did not discard his old film camera when he switched to digital. He uses it as a prop, or sets it up at one of his photo sites so wildlife will become familiar with it.

“When birds get used to the old camera, I put out a newer one and use a remote,” he explained. And when a curious bear began to fiddle with the old camera, Cyr got a hilarious shot of the bear “taking a picture” of the photographer.

“For non-believers,” he said, he posted a video of the whole episode on YouTube with the title “State Street Bears.”

“There is a decent amount of wildlife” on his farm, he said, and he is proud to have taken an unusual photograph of a barred owl eating a partridge.

“The more difficult it is, if I can pull it off, the happier I am.” He is particularly pleased with images of eagles and of the northern lights, for which he has become well known.

But when asked to name his favorite, he responds with the first type of photograph he took: farm aerials. Before he moved to Presque Isle from Hamlin in 1976, Cyr took 300 to 400 aerial color photographs of Aroostook County farms. Many of them still hang on the walls of farmhouses in the area.

It is a genre he still enjoys, shooting from the passenger seat of a powered parachute, a light aircraft propelled by a snowmobile engine. His current aerials include sweeping views of the St. John Valley and of towns throughout the region, as well as individual farms.

Cyr also is well known for photographs of his Amish neighbors in Easton and Fort Fairfield. He recalled his first contact with members of the community. The year Noah Yoder and his family moved to Fort Fairfield from upstate New York (2007), Aroostook County was buried in exceptional quantities of snow. Yoder asked Cyr to take pictures at his Fort Fairfield farm that he could send back to New York as evidence of the weather they were experiencing.

The next spring, Amish farmers were faced with tasks that required the kind of equipment Cyr uses for his earthwork business. They called on him for assistance, he performed the tasks successfully and the relationship grew.

His respect for their religious belief prohibiting the making of “a graven image” allowed him to take photographs as long as he did not show their faces.

“Some of them don’t mind,” he said, but he still doesn’t photograph faces. And when the children can’t resist looking up when he drifts overhead in a powered parachute, “I can pull back on the zoom,” he said.

Cyr is currently assembling images for a jumbo CD titled “The Best of 10 Years,” due out in November. After that, he may focus his camera on “new vistas.”

Kathryn Olmstead is a former University of Maine associate dean and associate professor of journalism living in Aroostook County, where she publishes the quarterly magazine Echoes. Her column appears in this space every other Friday. She can be reached at or P.O. Box 626, Caribou, ME 04736.