Jim Clark

NATURE’S VIEW: My Seven-year-old Encounters a Bruin Story and photographs by Jim Clark ©

On the eve of my first trip to Churchill, Manitoba, to photograph polar bears and other arctic wildlife, I’m reminded of my son’s first encounter with a bruin. Carson was only seven, and his reaction to the experience serves as a lesson for all nature photographers. After all, it’s not the age from whence wisdom comes, but instead, it’s the true value of the wisdom that matters. But I digress.

Carson exploring at Canaann Valley0016_01For several summers, Carson and I would take a week-long trip to explore our favorite places in West Virginia. This became a time for father and son to have fun, discover new things, eat pizza nonstop (Don’t tell his mother!), and spend time as best buddies. Oh yeah, we photographed a bit, too.

One June, we visited the usual locations: Canaan Valley and Blackwater Falls state parks, Beartown Natural Area, Falls of Hills Creek, and Cranberry Glades Botanical Area. Carson’s love for nature photography (especially wildlife) had just begun, so he was hoping to find something special to photograph at one of the locations.

While walking on the boardwalk at Cranberry Glades, I showed Carson recent signs of a black bear—scat on the boardwalk, broken alder branches and partially eaten skunk cabbage. Well, that got him excited. So, with camera in hand, he decided we should walk the boardwalk several times that morning to see if we would actually see the bear.

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NATURE’S VIEW: The Chattering Songbird of the Salt Marsh Story and photographs by Jim Clark ©

In an earlier column I gave praise to the seaside sparrow, a species common to the salt marshes of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, but rarely sought after by nature photographers. This column is on one of my all-time favorite songsters: Cistothorus plaustris, the marsh wren, a denizen of freshwater and tidal brackish marshes with robust stands of bulrush, cattail and cordgrass.

The marsh wren is every bit as inconspicuous as the seaside sparrow, but two qualities make it stand out. It is curious as all get-out, and it loves to sing.

Marsh wrens have to figure you out, and they will approach as near as arm’s length to do so. Even when you can’t see them, they are likely watching you; sometimes closer than you think.

Marsh Scene 4 HDR Nik NX2 05292015 Blackwater NWR MD

The domain of the marsh wren, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Maryland. © Jim Clark


The other giveaway is its song. Once you hear the marsh wren’s bubbling repertoire of chattering melodies, you will have little trouble recognizing it on future ventures into its wetland domain. A marsh is not a marsh without the wren’s enthusiastic and rapid chatter resonating throughout the tidal landscape. And this little feathered ball of dynamism not only sings during the day, but also at all hours of the night. Read the rest of this entry »

NATURE’S VIEW: Slowing Down, Story and photographs by Jim Clark

JClark-Autumn Morning along the Blackwater River 4 - CVI - Tucker County WV

Autumn morning along Blackwater River, Tucker County, West Virginia. © Jim Clark


We are all overbooked these days. Our lives are commandeered by everything we deem uncompromisingly critical. Add those electronic devices that have become as indispensable as an appendage, and we are saturated with an excess of things to keep us too preoccupied to even take a breath.

Remember a time when you hiked into a meadow, laid down and watched the clouds float across the blue sky? Did hawks and vultures glide into your view, and did you wonder what it would be like to fly? Watching, admiring, thinking and developing—that is slowing down at its essence. Read the rest of this entry »

PHOTOGRAPHER PROJECT: Buddy, Carson & Me, a Journey of Discovery by Jim Clark

© Carson Clark

Beaver adult and yearling at Dry Fork River, June 2010. © Carson Clark

In 2007 my wife suggested that our son and I do a book together. I had already published a few, and although Carson was only eight years old, he had already won national and international awards for his nature photography. What better co-author, photographer and partner could I have asked for? It was a perfect combination.

So, during the winter of 2008, Carson and I decided to do a children’s book about a family of beavers at a local nature preserve. To give Carson the full experience of a nature writer and photographer, I had him do a bit of homework. The more he understood nature, the better he would become at photographing it. Read the rest of this entry »

NATURE’S VIEW: The Seaside Sparrow, Story and photography by Jim Clark

Seaside Sparrow 05312015 Fishing Bay WMA MD (c) Jim Clark_7

Male seaside sparrow—Fishing Bay Wildlife Management Area, Maryland. © Jim Clark

One facet of nature photography that has always fascinated me is the natural history of what I’m photographing. Maybe it comes from my love for nature or maybe just because I’m a curious guy. I’d like to think it is in my DNA. Regardless of its origin or catalyst, the natural world has always been a critical component of my fabric of life.

So on occasion I will offer tidbits of natural history of select creatures I have photographed. Some may be high-profile, charismatic megafauna, but more often than not, I will offer insights on lesser known but equally fascinating creatures and landscapes. To start off, here’s a little natural history about one of my favorite marsh critters: the seaside sparrow. Read the rest of this entry »

NATURE’S VIEW: Whatchamacallits and thingamajigs (Part Two) Story and photographs by Jim Clark

It’s the little things that help in our photography

Summer Scene - Monroe County, West Virginia. © Jim Clark

Summer Scene – Monroe County, West Virginia. © Jim Clark

In Part I, I suggested a few items to consider packing before venturing into nature to take photographs. This article continues that focus with a few more helpful doodads. Read the rest of this entry »

NATURE’S VIEW: Whatchyamacallits and thingamajigs (Part One) Story and photographs by Jim Clark

Sunrise at Black Duck Pool, Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia. © Jim Clark

Sunrise at Black Duck Pool, Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia. © Jim Clark

It’s that time of the year when nature photographers are either embarking on a summer season filled with photo adventures, or they are making the final preparations to do so. They have their tripods, lenses and cameras all cleaned, inspected and primed, ready to go into action. Watch out nature, here we come!

Often, we forget to bring along the little things—the whatchyamacallits and thingamajigs—that can save us from those minor and major inconveniences we encounter in the field. During my workshops, I have a show-and-tell session to disclose to my students some of the lesser known items I keep in my camera bag or vest—very handy and inexpensive stuff that can make a difference in having a good photo shoot or a bad one.

Here are just a few items you might consider adding to your photographic toolbox: Read the rest of this entry »

NATURE’S VIEW – Embracing Out-of-focus Photography, Story and photographs by Jim Clark

I tend to get stuck in my ways for photographing landscapes: sharp and focused. But I’ve started experimenting with another technique that I refer to as ambient light painting.

Ambient light painting may not be what you think. It is not using artificial light sources at night to paint light on a tree, old barn or other subject. Instead, ambient light painting uses both natural light and slow camera movements to create abstract compositions. The results can be something resembling a Monet painting.

When I discovered how much my students embraced this technique, I decided to include it in my workshop resources to help them develop their own vision of nature. Turns out, ambient light painting is fun for them, and that fits right in with my goal to get folks to love nature through their photography.

Autumn Forest, Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, West Virginia. © Jim Clark

Autumn Forest, Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, West Virginia. © Jim Clark

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