Passion with a Purpose
Text Copyright and Photography Copyright Donna Bollenbach
I often get up early, when the sun is just peaking over the horizon, and walk the perimeter of my 2-acre homestead. Often my three Labradors are following close behind me, trying to figure out just what I am looking for. I rarely carry my camera. I just look. I look along the edges of my property where the grass is thick and tall. I kneel down and peer into the spaces between the shrubs and small trees. I adjust my glasses and come face to face with small bugs barely the size of my fingernail. I observe spiders in their dew-laden webs, butterflies still clinging to the plants where they rested for the night. I am drawn to these walks and quiet observations by a lifetime of fascination with nature, but the photographer in me is drawn by the light.
My passion for nature started at a very early age. When I was in elementary school I remember spending my whole recess watching ants marching to and from their ant holes. My favorite “toys” were microscopes, magnifying glasses, butterfly nets and dissecting kits. My favorite children’s books were written by zookeepers and veterinarians. I kept a menagerie of pets, and any sick or injured animal in the neighborhood usually ended up on my doorstep. In high school, while my interest in nature took a back seat to my social interests, I still entered college with the idea that I would be a Zoologist. I graduated five years later, with many biology courses on my transcript, but with a Journalism degree in my hand. Life often takes some unexpected turns.
Nature Photography did not enter my life until about 15 years later. I always had a camera, and loved taking pictures, but I was preoccupied with building a career and raising a family to realize the things I truly wanted to do: I put “me” on hold. But, putting me on hold finally caught up with me. We had purchased our dream home in the country, but I did not have time to enjoy it. I had lived in Florida for nearly 10 years and still did not know the names of the native plants and animals. My children and husband were great, but I knew something in my life was missing and I became depressed. Out of this depression came the greatest moments of my life.
It was around Christmas, and close to my birthday, when I finally started to make some decisions. I asked my husband if I could buy a new camera. My husband, willing to do anything to make me happy, was more than obliging. Not knowing anything about serious photography, we went to the nearest mall and purchased a Nikon N50 and some off brand lenses. I began to learn how to use it and take pictures of family and pets. Friends and relatives always complimented me on my photos. I was also taking a great interest in learning more about photography, and having adjusted the priorities in my life, I found more time to explore the outdoors that surrounded me. My plan was to use my camera to learn more about the flora and fauna of Florida and the wonders of my great backyard. I had rediscovered my first love, nature, and with my camera I found a means to not only learn more about it, but to become intimate with it, and share it with others: I discovered my passion for nature photography.
So, whether I am walking in my own backyard, trekking through a state park, or driving on a country road, I am constantly observing nature, and studying the light. In the five years since I bought my Nikon N50, I have upgraded my equipment, taken photography workshops, and read everything I could get my hands on about nature and nature photography. I recognize and know the behaviors of many native birds and wildlife. I have photographed and identified a few hundred Florida wildflowers. I have taken thousands of images, but for every image I have captured with my camera, I have a hundred more in my mind. What started out as a sort of therapy for my soul, has now acquired a purpose. My dream is that my photography, and the photography of many other nature photographers, will make a difference; that it will inspire others to cherish the earth and support it’s renewal and preservation. NPN, and everyone that contributes to it, is part of that effort, and together we can realize the dream.
About the images...
The Scarlet-bodied Wasp Moth is one of the most serendipitous finds of my photographic endeavors. A moth that mimics a wasp, it rivals in beauty even the most colorful of the insects. This jewel was feeding on pollen from the Spanish Needles growing in masse over the septic drain field on my property.
I spotted this Green Lynx Spider with his rather large victim in the tall grasses at the edge of my yard. My son bounced the sunlight on him with a gold reflector, while I took the image with my Nikon 200mm Macro lens and F90x positioned parallel to the subject, on a tripod, of course.