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Whittle sees ‘Beauty All Around’

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Murfreesboro Post columnist Dan Whittle’s nature photography premieres at the Arts Center of Cannon County in May. TMP/D. Whittle
From 45 years behind a desk and computer screen to the beauty of Mother Nature has been the journey of Dan Whittle since retirement.

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.

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.”
Tagged under  Art, Art Center of Cannon County, Dan Whittle, Event, Photography

Members Opinions:
April 26, 2012 at 12:01pm
I can see where Whittle is coming from, just sitting out in the woods or by a lake or by the ocean can be a very therapeutic experience. Photography can also be a fun way of expressing yourself without having to be a good sculptor, painter, drawer, or singer. Just getting out into nature with a camera has a lot of beneficial side effects as well. I think that if a nursing home, mental health care hospital, and schools would issue cameras to their patients, students, or residents that it would help with engaging the minds of those patients, students, and residents and also help with getting people out to experience nature and possibly get them to take up an interest in preserving nature. I mean when has preserving nature and promoting the arts ever been a bad idea. As an amateur photographer or at least a person slowly getting into photography myself nature photography has to be my favorite format of photography. Some of the best photos I’ve taken have been nature or I guess you could call them a landscape formatted photograph that I took up in the state of Maine on my Spring Break vacation of last year.
April 26, 2012 at 4:59pm
Upon reading eds3c’s post about photography as a form of art therapy, I decided to look into photo-therapy and realized that it is a valid form of therapy. Another part of the post that mentions the effects of people getting out into nature is a valid argument, because the more people that are aware of all of the different forms of flora and fauna that are out there might be more interested in preserving the outdoors. No one wants to take a picture of a polluted lake full of dead fish, birds, and other local flora and fauna. Usually dead plants and animals are not a good photography subject unless it is just for a shock and awe type of display. With exposure to nature comes the want and need to try and preserve the beauty of nature for future generations to come. Maybe if our future descendents see what we had for animals and plants when we were younger they will also be interested in preserving their natural wildlife and plant life along with protecting the beauty of nature as well as not just seeing what they can destroy just to make money. This article has inspired myself to get into nature photography also.
April 27, 2012 at 3:25pm
I do not know much about photography, but I do know that nature happens to look beautiful in any camera. Nature is a very beautiful thing. I’m no photographer but when I see a beautiful sunset or I go to a park, I have to pull out my phone and take pictures. The pictures turn out drop dead gorgeous majority of the time, and every time I go back to them, they are just as beautiful as they were in person. I completely agree with Dan Whittle; beauty is all around us. Many of us are so caught up in a fast paced life that we never take the time to really see the things around us. The Earth is a very beautiful thing and has many treasures to offer us. It is very sad that people don’t realize how precious the Earth is. Earth naturally gives us breath taking views and we’re quickly destroying everything. With every generation, humans are becoming more and more ignorant. We only care about materialistic things, status, and money. But the day we push our limits too far, nature will fight back and everyone will realize that there is truly nothing in the world if the environment is not protected and preserved. Tennessee of all has wonderful beauty to offer. From the luscious trees to the unique animals and rolling hills, Tennessee is one of the most beautiful places I have seen. It is nice to know that there are also other people here who appreciate the beauty of it.

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