Online Extra: JMU alum publishes nature-photography book

Freelance photography pays the bills, and it offers some free time to go exploring the world that 2008 James Madison University grad Evan Dyson put to good use.
“You get an evolving eye every time you have a camera in your hand. It all builds upon itself. You can never really be at the top of your game. You always have to be out shooting,” said Dyson, who recently self-published his impressive collection of wildlife photos taken over the past year, Wildlife: A Photographic Record of the Shenandoah Valley.

Dyson aimed at two targets with the effort – to give himself something to shoot for, literally, with his photography work and to give himself the opportunity to learn more about the business side of publishing.

Along the way, Dyson seems to have picked up some graduate-level background in the finer points of wildlife science. Wanting to get a full range of environments, Dyson took advantage of his free time between paying freelancing jobs to scout out the best times to shoot at different locations based on lighting and activity among the wildlife populations. Wildlife activity, for example, is most prevalent at dawn and dusk, “meaning I had a lot of fun getting up at 5:30 in the morning to see activity among bears and fawns,” Dyson said.

He missed his fleeting chance at photographing a coyote that appeared briefly behind his truck one morning while he was out shooting a bear and her cubs. “There were definitely some situations that I wouldn’t recommend the average weekend happy-snapper get out and do,” said Dyson, who writes about his wildlife-photography experiences at his wildlifeinphotography.com blog, where you can also preview and order copies of his book.

The conventional wisdom is that there is safety in numbers in shooting wildlife photography, but Dyson actually went precisely in the other direction with his work, “working alone and making as little noise as possible,” he said.

“I did acquire more vigilance about my surroundings, and if I did see something where the comfort level was pushing it, I did have a good sense of when to back off and when it’s comfortable to stay and shoot a little more,” said Dyson, who took the extra step of researching the habits of native wildlife in the park to be able to read things like the markings on a tree, “and being able to tell that, oh, that was a black bear’s marks, now, why would a black bear be marking a tree here, what does that say about this area, that kind of thing, things the average hiker wouldn’t notice or pick up on.”

  

– Story by Chris Graham


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