These photographers make art out of Florida nature scenes
Linda and Jesse Waring both admit that their day jobs can be a bit stressful.
Jesse spends his work hours staring down the tube of a microscope inspecting miniature electronics, and Linda works for a government staffing agency.
On weekends, the Parrish couple finds solace in getting out in nature, spying out wildlife and hearing the click of their camera shutters as they hone in on a stellar shot of a green heron or a great blue.
The Warings’ passion project, BirdWalk Photography, made headlines recently when they posted a series of photos depicting an alligator gulping down a live snake at Circle B Bar Reserve near Lakeland.
Linda says the traffic to their website has hailed from countries including El Salvador, Turkey, Cambodia and South Korea since the gator photos went viral.
It was a chance encounter that has brought worldwide attention to the photos that the Warings are most passionate about: scenes featuring Florida’s feathered fauna.
“We get excited about the more serene captures,” Jesse said. “It’s our way to relax and get away from the stresses of work.”
The couple travels around the state to visit prime wildlife spots, from Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key to a bird rookery in Venice, the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples and Everglades National Park.
Aside from posting shots on their website and social media accounts, the Warings have come up with another fun way to display the most stunning scenes.
“We started thinking, ‘What do you do with all of these pictures?’ ” Linda said. “Maybe there is a way to put them out there.”
Using special inks, they discovered a method of printing their photographs onto hand-cut wood slats to create pieces of wall art that are uniquely Floridian.
“Putting images on wood is not a new idea,” Jesse said, “but we do it a little differently.”
The pieces are designed so that the natural wood grain shows through, but the photos remain clear and vibrant. Most are printed on marine plywood, but they have also repurposed wood flooring as canvas.
The Warings first started making the pieces for themselves, friends and neighbors and eventually expanded to selling them at art shows; Linda says they can be crafted to fit any space.
The first public display of their work was in Village of the Arts in Bradenton.
They also were selected for a two-month gallery in the visitor’s center at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. Funny enough, Linda says, a woman from Anna Maria Island saw one of the pieces on display at the Naples nature preserve and later wound up tracking them down to buy it. The scene of a flock of roseate spoonbills at Myakka River State Park now hangs in her beach house.
While they haven’t had time for art shows lately, the Warings still take orders for custom pieces, and they plan to devote more time to the craft once they retire.
There’s also an educational aspect to their hobby. They recently redesigned the BirdWalk Photography website so that photographs are organized by location and include a date of capture. That way, anyone can seek out the same bird encounters that the Warings have had around the state, according to Linda.
No matter how many beautiful bird photos Linda and Jesse get, the pursuit never ends.
On a Sunday in May, the Warings scoped out a dock at Celery Fields in Sarasota for potential shots.
A great blue heron that Jesse spied stayed hidden in the reeds; a purple gallinule bobbed in and out of the scope of Linda’s camera before flying away.
Then, there was a sight that they had never encountered before — a group of fuzzy, juvenile least bitterns down on the water.
After about 10 minutes, one of them finally wobbled far enough out of the plants for a photo op.
The Warings were ready.
Click. Click. Click.