From 45 years behind a desk and computer screen to the beauty of Mother Nature has been the journey of Dan Whittle since retirement.
Murfreesboro Post columnist Dan Whittle’s nature photography premieres at the Arts Center of Cannon County in May. TMP/D. Whittle
Dozens of his “nature shots” will be on display starting in May at the Arts Center of Cannon County.
“What an honor it is to be asked to hang my outdoor wilderness creations on the walls of the nationally acclaimed Arts Center of Cannon County,” Whittle credited.
The self-described amateur photographer credits wife Pat and physician Chris Thompson with helping him turn a negative into a positive following a major health issue that forced him into retirement in 2006 from newspaper deadline pressures.
As soon as his medical team gave a heads up, he was off to the woods and out to the lakes – and to one of the most plentiful sources of beauty, his own back yard that is backed by the cold-flowing waters of Stewart Creek that empties into Stone’s River and Percy Priest Lake.
“We have critters from around the creek in our backyard, ranging from beavers, otters to muskrats, deer and wild turkeys,” Whittle itemized.
“Taking nature pictures is my ‘church,’ no disrespect to my favorite preacher,” Whittle focused. “When Pat and I sit with our dog Honey Bear on the back porch for breakfast coffee and newspaper, the birds chorus their excitement for another beautiful day.
“Communing with nature can be soothing to the inner-soul, and yes, a special spiritual experience,” Whittle added. “And with the price of gas, one doesn’t have to go far to find ‘Beauty All Around Us.’”
His pursuit of nature takes him far and near.
“A recent trek with fellow amateur photography buff Hooper Penuel to the foot of Short Mountain proved that point,” Whittle assessed. “My fellow picture-taking buddy was surprised at the beauty of the old majestic mountain, officially measured as the highest elevation point in Middle Tennessee. And he was amazed when photographing the tiny stream of water coming out of the side of the mountain where the meandering Stone’s River begins.”
What comprises a typical photo shoot for Whittle?
“There are no typical photo shoots, as evidenced the day boating enthusiast Steve Barnett (of Smyrna) and I were out on Percy Priest Lake in search of herons,” Whittle pictured. “Instead, we floated upon the most beautiful flock of formerly-endangered American White Pelicans, as they were resting on their migration from the Gulf of Mexico to northwest states and Canada. It was one of the most breath-taking photography days of my fledgling outdoor hobby.”
He shared a secret to successful nature photography.
“Being out there is the first rule to getting pretty nature pictures,” Whittle instructed. “Prayer and patience help a lot too…be ready and be flexible to catch the shot you weren’t expecting.”
After health problems ended his 40-plus-year newspapering career, Whittle joined Friends of Long Hunter State Park, “a quiet Mecca of Mother Nature” that uniquely sits in the midst of urban sprawl of Nashville and fast-growing Rutherford County.
“Long Hunter Park has provided opportunities to photograph eagles, osprey, deer, geese, ducks and turkeys, not to mention delicate beauty of blue birds and cardinals,” Whittle itemized. “One doesn’t have to go far to find beautiful nature scenes in our colorful Volunteer State.”
One of Whittles’ most dazzling close-up shots of a big beautiful bird came in downtown Murfreesboro.
“Murfree Springs wetlands are a wonder land of nature, right there in the heart of Murfreesboro,” Whittle shared. “I’m forever indebted to former U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon and friends Kent Syler and Roger Haley who worked tirelessly in the political arena to preserve this wetlands that sits in the center of one of Tennessee’s fastest growth cities.
“It was at the wetlands when I got the rare photographic opportunity to focus my trusty D-50 model Nikon and my 55-300 telephoto lens on this majestic pair of Yellow Crown Night Herons,” Whittle pictured. “The key word is ‘night’ for these nocturnal birds are only visible in day light during brief spring mating season. I was so excited that I had trouble holding my camera steady long enough to take the shot.”
One tip for outdoor photograph, is “take a deep breath, hold it, steady yourself and your camera, for the shot at hand,” the photographer described.
Fellow nature photography enthusiast Randolph Salyer, of Smyrna, rates Whittles’ “Mr. Squirrel” photo as top in Whittles’ portfolio of nature pictures.
“I was on the Atlantic coast of Maine, in lobster-fishing country, when I caught ‘Mr. Squirrel’ on a fence, looking up early one morning, eyeing his next meal from a bird feeder,” Whittle accounted. “It, along with my favorite humming bird shot, are two of the most popular shots with the public.”