Photographer Member: Mark Gromko

Mark Gromko 3Mark says, “I have been interested in photography since I was young, but it is only since my retirement in 2009 that I have been able to devote time and energy to developing my photography in a more studied way. I worked for 31 years at Bowling Green State University, first as a faculty member in genetics and evolution, and then as Vice Provost for Academic Programs. Freed from those responsibilities and with our children grown and out in the world, I have undertaken photography trips to a variety of locations. I have concentrated on landscapes of the natural world and wildlife photography.”


Photographer Member: Phillip Brouse

20140212_093727Phillip says, “I am a wildlife ecologist and photographer. Most of my professional background has been in preserve and natural parks management focused on ecosystem restoration and management. My photography experience has been mostly with nature, with some occasional portrait, wedding, fashion, and newspaper projects thrown in.”




What Inspires Your Photos?

Interview and Commentary by Member Kathleen Dytrych

8B6A3440-7I get so excited with beauty, I want to share it. When I see something attractive that gives me pleasure, that warms my heart, or fills me with joy, or has a profound impact, I want it captured.  Whether it’s the beauty of a sunset, a range of mountains, haystacks in an open farm field, an attractive storefront, or unique signs hanging high in a quaint business district, I want it saved. Maybe it’s favorite paintings at a museum, a vision from a visited place, treasured experiences or smiles and laughter with family or friends, or the beauty of the seasons, that I want to catch.

Most importantly, I want these photos to treasure and share and return to when my memory fades. I often come across photos that spark forgotten memories and I’m grateful to have glimpses of time past. I love celebrating life. I love enjoying the people who I’m with and later having a token of fond experiences to share with them. I have way too many photos that I could never sit down and look at in a reasonable time, but I think eventually I’ll come back to all of them.

It’s okay that I’m not a pro or have much knowledge of photography, and in time I will gain more experience and understanding of technique. In the meantime, I’m going to capture what excites me, what provokes me, what interests me. I’m going to memorialize experiences shared alone or with others that bring me joy or inspire me. I am going to find the beauty in the profound and simple.

Now my family and friends know that I take way too many photos. They may sometimes find me irritating and I know I can work on containing my excitement, but after events or vacations or experiences, they have fun looking at the photos and tell me how grateful they are that I captured the experience. They love having reminders of something wonderful.

It brings me such pleasure when I come across photos I have taken being used by others, as their profile picture or when they re-post events we shared, or when I see my photos used to create a montage to celebrate someone’s birthday on social media or in a slide presentation at an event or celebration. It makes me happy that I captured memories that others can use later.

I’m not sure if the ease of an iPhone camera is a curse or a blessing, as the multitude of pictures taken of a single event has increased, as opposed to the days when I had to pay for a roll of film and to have it developed, which caused me to be more judicious of the amount of clicks.

Interview with Kathleen:

  1. What inspires you to take so many photos and share them with others?

My love for life! I so appreciate all the beauty that surrounds me, in nature, in architecture, in colors, in people. I rejoice in celebrations, travel, experiencing new parts of the world near and far and being with family and friends. I always want to take photographs for memories and to share. I love looking back and reminiscing. When my memory fails me it’s wonderful to have photographs.

  1. The photos you take with your iPhone are stunning. Do you have any quick tips for people wanting to take more photos with their phones?

For those who don’t know it…

You can swipe up on the iPhone Lock screen as a shortcut to get to your camera fast when you want to catch a quick shot.

Remember the rule of thirds…

iPhones have a grid option available. By visiting Settings > Photos & Camera and enabling the Grid switch this can assist in lining up photographs to more easily follow the rule of thirds.

If you cannot shoot photos in natural lighting….

or the environment is too dark, take a photo with and without the flash to see which one you like best and you can adjust the lighting when editing. Or instead of using the flash, use the camera app’s exposure slider to boost the lighting of the photo as your taking the pic.

When taking selfies….

set the timer for three seconds so you have a moment to set up the picture to your liking.

Don’t forget….

to take panoramic photos when outdoors in beautiful surroundings, or that some shots might look better in Portrait mode or Square mode. Easily check it out when you are taking the photo.

If the object is moving or the camera is moving…..

try using burst mode and you are bound to get a few good shots.

Remember to try out the High Dynamic Range (HDR)…..

particularly when there is a contrasting light sources, and then use the exposure meter to darken or lighten the image to your satisfaction.

Most important of all…

Just take the photo, no rules. Whatever you think looks interesting, attractive, unusual… Just take time to take the photos and enjoy it and share it and have fun.

  1. What do you feel the impact is on people when positive/beautiful photos are shared via social media?

I think people generally like looking at beauty and really enjoy seeing photos shared by others who have captured something beautiful they came across. Just as I enjoy seeing photos of others shared experiences or places I have not been, I think others get the same enjoyment from my shared photos. It is so easy to share photos on social media with others that are captured in my photos, that just wasn’t possible before.  Also, on social media there can be negativity, or strong voicing of opinions, so it’s always nice to come across an attractive photo especially nature ones that have a calming affect, or people ones that show the beauty of relationships. Beauty and colors and putting out positive energy has a favorable effect on people.

  1. What impact does having a visually enjoyable social media feed have on conservation organizations? Like how do you feel when you see amazing wildlife or experiences in their feeds?

All of this world is connected and everything has an important part and if that is significantly interrupted there will be dire consequences. We have to treat all of nature with respect and care, and we have to honor it and preserve it in all its wonder and beauty. We are not to harm it, nor discount the importance of it.

I feel blessed to be in the presence of wildlife. A chance encounter is always such a gift. When living in a city and not having enough time to explore nature, I value the photographs of others when they share what they have experienced. It brings pleasure and heightens awareness.

I get such joy being out in nature seeing the uniqueness and beauty. On a recent trip to Mongolia one my favorite experiences and photos is of me just sitting there and holding a baby lamb. I had pure joy sitting there and observing the beauty of this little creature. I was fortunate to have the great pleasure of walking through herds of yaks, horses, goats, sheep, of seeing them crossing the road, grazing in the field, living in the great vast expanse of the Mongolian steppes. This was a rare experience and I do not have the opportunity for such a moment often or in many places. So I rely on conservation organizations and wildlife photographers to educate me, to make me think, to give me encounters.

The social media feeds of conservation organizations also remind me of what they are doing, the positive impact they have, and what would be the dire consequences it they did not exist. I am reminded of the importance of them being supported.

  1. Why is it important for people to share photos they take with others?

Everyone loves to see attractive photos; everyone loves to see photos from events that they participated; everyone loves to see a story in a photo, to try and comprehend the message. Photos can have a pleasant or powerful impact on others. They are a gift to others and a gift to the photographer from the viewers.






CFC Members Document Monarch Fest for Blank Park Zoo

By Member Melissa Cory

CFC members Melissa Cory and Tammi Howell had the opportunity to photograph the Monarch Festival at Blank Park Zoo on Sept. 15th 2019.

Although a very warm day, it did not keep the crowds away from Monarch Fest. Guests were able to visit many conservation booths with representatives from Nature Conservancy, Polk county Conservancy, Neil Smith National Wildlife Refuge, Iowa County Conservation, ISU and more.  The tables were full of learning materials and many offered free native seeds and milkweed balls for them to take home as well as live Monarch displays. Entertainment from Jovenes Embajadores Mexican Dance was a beautiful site and they did a wonderful job!

The kids were able to make their own costumes to use for the Monarch Parade which was led by a giant Monarch Caterpillar that walked the parade up to the Butterfly Garden where they finally participated in the release of tagged Monarchs. It was great seeing the kids as well as parents learning and having fun. The smiles on the kids were HUGE!

Seeing what all goes into an event like this makes one really appreciate all that these organizations do and why it is so important for us to help them. They really do make a difference and they are doing really special things!

Photographer Member: Rex Andersen

Rex Andersen
Rex says, “I’m a retired Information Technology professional who’s married with two grown children and two grandchildren. Both my wife and I are from the Des Moines area. We do quite a bit of volunteer work to keep us busy, both with our church, the Animal Rescue League of Iowa, and other local organizations. As an avid outdoorsman my entire life, I’ve been a fisherman, hunter, camper and hiker in many states and countries. As I got older I lost interest in hunting, so I took up wildlife photography in retirement to get me outdoors and in nature. I shoot Canon equipment primarily in Iowa but I have made photo trips to Costa Rica and British Columbia with more planned in the future.”

CFC Documents Dallas County Conservation Event

The Dallas County News announced in September that the annual Prairie Awakening-Prairie Awoke Celebration at Kuehn Conservation Area would take place on September 7th this year. They report, “The celebration theme this year is ‘Much can be learned by watching children at play.’ This is a reflection on the words of Black Elk, the Lakota Elder, who said, ‘Grown men can learn from very little children for the hearts of the little children are pure. Therefore, the Great Spirit may show to them many things which older people miss.’

Although the participants did not get to enjoy the full event due to rain, the opening ceremonies, community, scenery, and set up for the event were inspiring and enjoyed by all who attended in the morning. The Kuehn Conservation Area has a gorgeous prairie area and wonderful quiet paths to walk on. It is a great place to enjoy and celebrate nature. To find out more about future programs they offer (they recently had an event where you could hand feed hummingbirds!) you can check out their page here or here and connect with them on Facebook here.

Cameras for Conservancy member Kristie Burns was on hand to document the event for Dallas County Conservation Board. Some of our favorite photos are below…

CFC Documents Raptor Release Event

Cameras for Conservancy loves to help spread the word about great work other organizations are doing and S.O.A.R is one of those organizations. According to the S.O.A.R website, “Saving Our Avian Resources (SOAR) is a 501(c)(3) organization established in 1999 dedicated to saving our avian resources through raptor rehabilitation, education, and research. SOAR maintains all necessary US Fish & Wildlife Service and Iowa DNR permits to provide the rehabilitation and education.”

Cameras for Conservancy member John Ryan was on hand to document the event for them and donated his photos to S.O.A.R. Here are some of our favorites below. He says that many rehabilitated raptors were released back into the wild during the event including an owl, two kestrels, red tailed hawk, and juvenile bald eagle.

Iowa State Fair Exhibits CFC Members: Awards Won

Cameras for Conservancy members had a good showing at the Iowa State Fair this year! Members Melissa Cory, Kristie Burns, and Shandy Mikkelsen had three photos exhibited, John Ryan had one photo exhibited, and Brett Stewart had one photo exhibited. Melissa Cory won an honorable mention for her amazing photo of a steam engine. Kristie Burns won an honorable mention for her photo of a heron and it’s reflection. Shandy Mikkelsen won an honorable mention for her photo of an elephant.

Kristie Burns also took home the Best of Show award for her photo “When She Thought No-one was Looking” and had her photo displayed on the front of the Iowa State Fair 2019 Photo Salon Book. She says of her award, “The best part is that the photo was taken during one of our charity photo shoots at Hercules Haven so they also get to enjoy their rescue horse, Ginger, being on the cover of the book.”


Shandy Mikkelsen took home the Best of Black and White award.

Iowa State Fair Shandy 3

Congratulations to all of our amazing Cameras for Conservancy members!

Conservation Fusion Fundraiser with CFC for Madagascar

CG0A7104YESCameras for Conservancy Member Kristie Burns donated a photo of a flamingo mother and chick to the silent auction and served as the official photographer at the Gala fundraiser for Conservation Fusion last weekend that helped raise money for a new school and wildlife education in Madagascar!

Conservation Fusion is doing amazing work with the community there. Their first school has been a great success in helping many children receive an education they would not receive otherwise. In addition, they have educated both the children and the community on wildlife conservation (lemurs and other animals) in Madagascar.

President, Susie Louis says of the fundraiser, “WE DID IT! Thanks to all who attended the gala- who donated online, who sent beautiful, encouraging texts, who have been there with us along this journey! We raised $14,014!!! And I leave MONDAY to join the team and finish building DREAM School 2.0!!!!! Your donations are going directly to this project!!! Thank you, thank you, thank YOU!”

Cameras for Conservancy is both humbled and thankful to have been a small part of this effort. You can see the photos we took of the gala on their Facebook page here or learn more about Conservation Fusion on their website here.

Monarch Caterpillar Conservation with Melissa: Part Two

From July 1st, 2019

Cameras for Conservancy Member, Melissa Cory writes, “It’s been fairly quite with most of the ‘cats’ being in the Chrysalis stage now. So far I have not lost any of them. However, we are still not out of the woods yet.  I have a total of 18 Chrysalis’ now.

The first 11 ‘cats’ are getting ready to emerge. I expect butterflies anytime now at the latest tomorrow.  My second set which included eggs that I and my granddaughter found are now in the Chrysalis stage. The last two forming over this past evening.