Kurt Volker learned something about nature photography while shooting a gigantic tree in California. The 200-foot-tall redwood caught his eye because a fig tree had rooted itself in the redwood's skyscraper-size trunk. Looking for an interesting angle, Volker stretched out on the ground and aimed his camera, not realizing he'd landed on an ant nest. He got bitten, sure, but he also learned an important lesson about positioning: Look where you're going.
Volker, who works for the environmental division of the Broward County Parks and Recreation Department, will share the experiences he's acquired from three decades of outdoor picture-taking during Nature Photography Class, which begins next week at Anne Kolb Nature Center in Hollywood. The 55-year-old Dania resident has been into snapping photos since he was a kid, and nature photography, he says, demands use of all the senses and knowledge of wildlife behavior. He usually tracks birds by listening for their calls, but he once came across a hummingbird by following the scent of a tree in bloom. He coaxed a gray fox out of hiding with an animal call and found a moose by following its tracks in Alaska.
"I'm looking for something visually interesting and exciting," he says. "I'm looking for the beauty of nature. I'm just awestruck every time I go out and see something different."
During the class Volker plans to provide tips for getting the most out of picture-taking with either a pouch full of sophisticated equipment or a simple automatic camera. "I've seen people go to the Grand Canyon, and they run up to the rim and go snap, snap, and get in the car and go away," Volker says. He, on the other hand, walks around, visualizing prospective shots and checking different angles.
Of course being in the right place at the right time helps. He was once in the Grand Canyon, camera in hand, when a rainbow suddenly appeared in front of a backdrop of clouds. When it came to getting a shot of painted buntings, however, Volker took his time. He put his camera on a tripod set up behind a curtain made from a poncho and waited for hours, until eight of the brightly colored birds lined up for chow at a feeder.
He says the shot proves you don't have to travel the globe or tromp through the woods to get great images. Volker shot the buntings in his own back yard.
Nature Photography Class will meet every Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m., October 15 to 29, at Anne Kolb Nature Center at West Lake Park, 751 Sheridan St., Hollywood. The cost is $45, and two Saturday field trips are included. To register call 954-938-0615.