Photographer finds beauty and drama in the wild

Wildlife photographer in search of perfection... 02:19

OCEAN VIEW, Del. - On the coast of Maryland recently, wildlife photographer Kevin Fleming watched and waited, hoping for that rare moment when it all comes together: the light, the timing, and the wildlife -- in this case a colony of royal terns.

Out of hundreds of photos that day only a few met Fleming's exacting standards, and not one was what he calls perfect.

"I have probably, maybe a dozen that that I'm really happy with and most proud of," said Fleming.

Kevin Fleming

Like this one of three Great egrets at sunrise that appeared on the cover of one of his books.

"The sun's rising in the haze, so it's diffused light and the great egrets are just the perfect shape, and it's just an absolutely perfect photograph," said Fleming.

He says that the best photographs capture a stunning split second of action -- like the one of a flock of canvasback ducks that looks like a painting, or the one of two great blue herons that seem to dance as they battle for a fish.

For years, Fleming pursued the perfect moment in war zones, including Somalia, but he returned to his life-long passion -- wildlife.

Herons fight for a fish. Kevin Fleming

"This is my office," says Fleming as he tramps through marsh grass.

Even here there's no escaping life and death. He caught this heron snatching a helpless young bird.

Kevin Fleming in his gallery in Lewes, Del. Kevin Fleming

"Natural history in birds and wildlife are not just pretty things," says Fleming. "Every single predator has to eat something."

He also has a sharp eye for the warm and cuddly -- like four raccoon cubs following their mother to safety. Or two young foxes who were as curious about him as he was about them.

Fleming is now working on his 27th book called "Wild America."

"You have to be ready to push that button because it is only going to be for a second," said Fleming. "You don't get many second chances."

It's a project that will take him across the nation in his endless quest for that elusive perfect photograph.

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    Chip Reid

    Chip Reid is CBS News' national correspondent.