Editor’s Note: While spring 2018 is struggling to make its appearance through much of the United States, we can already look in our backyards and see the early signs that it’s on the way. Our backyards are always one of the best places to look for flowers, birds, and occasionally, something larger. This post by Amy Shutt appeared in 2014, and what she describes sounds like the ultimate back, front, and side yards for observing wildlife.
Story and Photography by Amy Shutt
We live on 7.5 acres of land in a little town in Louisiana. Although I’ve only been here for a few years, my husband, an ornithologist, has been living here for quite some time. It’s 95% woods. He gardens the area around the house exclusively for hummingbirds and the rest is untouched. Yep, we are the eccentric neighbors with the overgrown yard with signs designating the ditch in the front as a ‘Wildflower Area’ so the city won’t cut or spray.
I see swamp rabbits almost daily. We have deer…and deer ticks. I have heard foxes in the darkness just off the driveway in the woods. We have enjoyed listening to coyotes howling in unison. Barred owls belt out their crazy calls nightly. Prothonotary Warblers nest in boxes we make for them around the house and in the woods. Point is, it’s pretty cool out here and we share this land with a lot of critters and plants.
Although I realize how lucky we are, sometimes I do forget. I forget when a deer mouse has decided to make a home in the glove compartment of my car. I forget when a wood rat has decided to tear apart a section of my brand new car to make a nest on top of my car battery. Twice. I forget when there’s a 4-foot cottonmouth snake in the storage room or when I notice Pearl, our inside-only cat, is playing with a ring-necked snake on the living room floor. But most of the time, it’s easy to appreciate it all.
Last year I decided to start documenting all the wonderful critters and plants that hang out here seasonally, all on a clean white background. It’s a way for me to shoot nature daily while keeping it close to home and intimate. I hope over the years this project will tell an interesting story of the flora and fauna with which we share our space. For each photograph I shoot I happily research the animal or plant and this gives me a stronger appreciation of each subject. I have always felt the more one knows about one’s subjects, the better the photograph. It is interesting how this plays out for me as I revisit a subject a second or third time.
This project has also helped to remind me to shoot what I know often, to really be in the present. As photographers, it’s easy to sometimes get lost while dreaming big and focusing our energies on when we will be ‘out in nature’, when sometimes all we really need to do is open the back door of our home and look at the nature that surrounds us.
Amy Shutt is a nature, food, editorial, and commercial photography based out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She also teaches various photography classes, nature photography workshops, and lighting workshops throughout the seasons in Louisiana, Texas, California, and Colorado. Check out Amy’s website and follow here on Facebook and on Twitter and Instagram.