One of the best aspects of living in the Four States is the area’s bird population. Some mornings you cannot escape the seemingly endless chirping of birds that starts before sunrise. Most mornings, around 5 am when it’s still dark out, and I arrive at KRPS studios at Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, KS, I can hear a variety of birds, near and far.
Bob Gress has spent a lifetime watching, caring for, and photographing birds. He’s also the former director of the Great Plains Nature Center in Wichita, KS, and the author of numerous books. In a recent interview, Bob told me that for over three decades at the nature center, he shared his passion for nature.
“Initially, throughout my career, photography was a tool for educating kids and adults. It gave me the opportunity to show people what I was talking about and hopefully portray some of my passion for nature, wildlife, and the outdoors. And photography wasn’t the end; it was the beginning, the tool and the intro a much bigger subject which was nature.”
Photography has the power to stop us in our tracks. A snapshot in time and the attention to deal that comes with it. Bob says he used the power of photos to gain the attention of people who may not have been interested in nature photography if they had not seen Bob’s photos.
“So I used the photography as a tool at the Great Plains Nature Center, we did pocket guides, we did posters, we did programs to school groups, scout groups, church groups, adult groups of all types.”
Because Bob is so well known as a photographer, you may think that he had a close friend or family member who introduced him to it. Bob says that he had a fundamental understanding of photography when he started, a craft that he has continued to hone for over thirty years.
“I actually morphed into photography with a basic interest primarily as a hunter. I knew some of the basic techniques. I really didn’t have anybody to tell me about telephoto lenses or about wildlife photography. I read everything that I could read on it. The number of nature photographers today versus when I got started are drastically different.”
Bob is firmly rooted in the idea that he does what makes him happy, and he warns people that want to get into the business of nature photography to earn a living that perhaps they’ve got the wrong idea.
“Photography is a way of personal expression. And people want to become successful in photography, and I always ask people, ‘are you having fun with photography?’ and they say yes, they are having lots of with photography which is why they want to make money at it. And I’m like, don’t plan on making money at it.”
Bob’s advice to amateur photographers is that if you’re having fun, you’re successful.
“The main reason to photograph nature and we photograph birds, and we photograph anything is that we enjoy the process. Photography opens our eyes to a broader world around us. And through photography, we gain a bigger appreciation of where we sit among all of the spectacular beauty around us.”
This Thursday at 7 pm, Bob Gress will speak in person at the Sperry-Galliger Audubon’s monthly gathering. The group meets inside of Yates Hall at Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, KS. The event is open to the public. As a part of his presentation, Bob will take questions.