Then there are those who have raised the practice to an art form for personal enjoyment, science, conservation, and education of the public about the natural world. Meet two of those local nature photographers, whose names you might recognize from your social media feeds or widely circulated magazines, who stand out for the quality of their wildlife photographs.
Judy Gallagher is a member of the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia’s board of directors, and frequent photographer of insects and spiders; with a library of over 123,000 pictures of more than 4,000 species of insects. Gallagher uses photography to record the beauty of these small and very important, but often unnoticed, members of our world. Her work has been used by the Smithsonian Magazine and National Geographic. Wikimedia Commons, uses a full catalog of her insects to provide free educational content on insects to the world (commons.Wikimedia.org/insects).
Gallagher begged her parents for a Brownie camera at age seven, and first used it to photograph insects as a high school sophomore for a biology assignment. She was “blown away at the variety, shapes, and colors” she saw.
As an adult, she returned to photography after the death of her parents, as an urge to do something new. By this time, photography had moved to digital and she could take many more pictures. Her tip to beginning nature photographers, “Know your equipment and what it can do. You’ll find insects everywhere, but you can’t take good pictures if you don’t know your equipment.”
Her camera of choice: Canon 5D Mark IV with 100 mm macro lens.
Jane Gamble, of Alexandria, enjoys photographing all wildlife, but says “birds are an addiction.” She estimates her photo library at about 300,000 pictures since she began, in earnest about four years ago.
You can find her photographs in use by the National Park Service and locally by Fairfax County Park Authority and the Audubon Naturalist Society. She exhibited a solo show at Green Springs Gardens last summer, with sale proceeds donated to the park, and expects to do another show with friends there this summer. She is often among the avid nature photographers who regularly occupy the boardwalk at Huntley Meadows Park (3701 Lockhead Blvd, Alexandria), where long lenses have built lasting friendships around the shared passion for showing nature up close.
About four years ago, during kayaking trips with her husband, Gamble saw great wildlife but felt she was missing getting great photos. That changed when her husband gifted her an inexpensive, but better, camera kit for Christmas. She gradually moved up to bigger, better telephoto lenses, able to see improved clarity and detail. Her tip to beginning nature photographers, “You can’t appreciate birds in the same way without binoculars or a 300 mm lense. Get the biggest lens you can afford. The saying goes, ‘date your camera, but marry the lens.’ And telephoto lenses allow a safe and respectful distance from wildlife,” a principle Gamble calls primary. Her equipment of choice: Nikon D500, with Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6 lens.
These photographers, and many others who make their work available without charge, do so to share their enjoyment and respect for wildlife and our environment, in the hope that all will learn to share their philosophy on the importance of conservation of our natural world.