Ever wonder where many of the beautiful photos featured on Lake County Forest Preserve District’s website come from?
Many photographs of vivid wildflowers, insects, birds and other residents of the forest preserve are the works of Joan Sayre and her husband, Jim, residents of Libertyville since 1973.
Sayre says her photographic journey started five years ago during an encounter in the wild.
“About five years ago we went up to Canada and we had our point-and-shoot (camera). We saw our first bear … I took a series of pictures and only one, maybe two out of 25 came out, because with those kind of cameras, you have a lag time.”
Frustrated with the quality of photos, Sayre sought out expert advice on cameras and went from owning a point-and-shoot camera to now owning three camera bodies and four lenses.
Since then the couple has donated hundreds of photographs annually to Lake County Forest Preserve District for educational purposes.
Capturing Nature’s Hidden Gems
Sayre, who prefers taking photos of nature rather than people, says she is fascinated with what she can see through a camera.
“How often do you really look at bugs?” Sayre asked. “But when you look behind a macro-lens, you’ll go, ‘Wow, I didn’t know that!’ ”
Since taking up photography, Sayre has discovered that her favorite subjects are bugs and insects. Her photos emphasizing texture, color and pattern, often reveal perspectives hidden to the naked eye.
One gallery on the couple’s website is devoted to spider webs, but what are displayed instead are strands of the web. Instead of white strands, the ones Sayre captures are filled with spectrums of stylish colors, ranging from pink and yellow to green and blue.
Another gallery devoted to dragonflies and damselflies features a close-up focused on the insect’s eye and its hundreds of lenses.
Learning Science Through Art
Sayre carefully curates the galleries, spending hours surfing on the Internet to find the names of her subjects.
“I’ve learned more science since I took up photography than I think I did in college biology,” Sayre said. “Every time we find a new species, we go to the Internet, No. 1, to find out what it is, and also things about it.”
As of May, Sayre says she has about 110,000 photos stored in her laptop – the fruit of her five-years of work. Typically, it takes three to four photos for Sayre to capture one good one, and oftentimes that also means waiting for something to happen.
“The more you are out in the field working with different species, the more you learn their behavioral patterns,” Sayre said. “I know which birds are very tolerant, like the black-capped chickadees will come and land on the bird feeder if I’m standing right there. If the blue jay sees me reach for the camera in the kitchen, he’s gone.”
Different species have what Sayre calls, “different degrees of skittishness.”
To capture close-ups, Sayre typically takes photos from about a foot off the ground and prefers not to use a tripod.
“I don’t have time because I am taking photos of things that are running away, flying away or crawling away,” Sayre said. “Everything I photograph, you have about a nanosecond to take the picture or it’s out of there.”
Sayre will host a one-hour presentation on macro-photography at 7:30 p.m. June 21 at Lake Forest Place, 1100 Pembridge Drive, Lake Forest, Ill.
For more photos, visit: jimjoan.smugmug.com