CARBONDALE - Al Parr's photos, on display in Art Alley at Southern Illinois University's Student Center, celebrate the diversity of our natural world.
There is a vivid photograph of a pileated woodpecker. There is a juvenile blue jay. There are photos of ducks, turtles, spiders and flowers. Remarkably, all the photographs were taken at SIU's Campus Lake. The title of the display is "Celebrating the Wildlife and Landscape of Campus Lake".
Parr said that fact generated a great deal of comment while he was putting the display together last week.
"The people that have stopped and said something all say, ‘Oh, you have fun going out and taking pictures,'" he said. "I say, ‘I just do this while walking around Campus Lake.' It's astounding to them this is all from Campus Lake."
Of course, the exhibit didn't come together overnight. Parr has been photographing the lake and its inhabitants since the spring of 2006. And, it's all part of an exercise regimen.
"My first priority is I get exercise walking around the lake," he said. "My second priority is it soothes me. It relaxes me, and if I happen to take good pictures along the way, all the better."
Parr's walks, which are usually about an hour long and normally occur in the morning, are not geared around getting specific photographs.
"Some days I'll remember something from when I was there the day before so I'm a little more vigilant when I pass that spot," he said. "Actually, I take it as whatever I get I'm blessed with. I don't regret anything.
"For example, the other day I saw a large red-eared turtle with a small, a tiny red-ear, sitting squarely on its back in the sunlight. And just as I got ready to take the picture they both jumped in the water and I thought, ‘I'll remember that one.' But, that's the way it goes."
On the other hand, sometimes inadvertent research pays off. Parr pointed to a photograph of a gray squirrel sitting among cypress knees as an example.
"I had gone by there the day before and he was there," he said. "Sure enough, when I went by there I stopped and he was gracious enough to pose for me all kinds of ways."
Conversely, Parr said there are many days when he comes up empty. And, he takes those days in stride.
The Carbondale resident also takes a low-key approach when it comes to equipment.
"I use one digital camera," he said. "It's a multi-zoom. It's a Canon SX-10, is what it is. It has a high-powered zoom, but it's all in one. There is one little bag that hangs over my shoulder and that's all. I don't take a tripod. I lean against a tree or something."
Parr's favorite photo is of a great blue heron standing on a log on a foggy morning.
"There are two reasons it is my favorite," he said. "One, it's very popular. People like it. Another was I had gone through a short period when I had thought, ‘Gee, have I dried up on my inspiration?'
"I stopped and saw him walking up and down that log. When he stopped and did that pose you see I thought, ‘I got one." Indeed, it was a treat to work with that one. It has become very popular."
Parr's photographs will be on display through Sept. 15.
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