Kimberly Hosey's images are hard to get out of your head. She creates them with words and photographs on her blog, Arizona Writer,her flickr page, and in her published work. Those vivid images lodge themselves in your head and prompt you to pause, stare, laugh, gulp, and wonder how she did it. As a writer, photographer, nature nut, wife and mother of David (age 9), Kim somehow juggles it all with quick wit and grace.
When I found out about Bird Week on The Magnifying Glass, Kimberly came to mind. I knew I wanted to highlight her bird photographs, but to be honest, I also wanted to pick her brain and try to learn a bit from her. One of my big frustrations in life is that, although I frequently have a camera around my neck, I rarely have any success in getting photos of birds. Kim kindly agreed to an interview and in addition to generously sharing her photo tips, Kim shares her favorite birds and thoughts on kids and nature. Please join me in welcoming Kim to The Magnifying Glass.
Welcome to The Magnifying Glass, Kim! Your photographs are stunning, especially the wildlife shots. How did you get started? Do you have any special tips? What sort of camera/camera gear do you use?
Thank you! I only lately have considered myself a photographer. As recently as my son's early years, I didn't even own a camera and had taken about five photographs ever. I finally was given a cheap point-and-shoot in 2003 and it kind of took off from there. I wanted to share the things I was seeing and experiencing. Seeing -- watching, studying, spending time with something -- is really my best tip. In some ways, I've learned more about wildlife in my few years of photography than in all my previous years of study. It's because it takes the same skills to learn about an animal as it does to take a good wildlife photograph: Be still, stick around for a long time, and pay attention.
Beyond that? Get down to the subject's level. Take tons and tons and tons of shots. Shoot just after sunrise and before and leading into sunset. But mostly, just stick around and watch. I'd been propped against a tree trunk for thirty-five mintues before I got my favorite hummingbird shot, and it was SO worth it.
I don't have very fancy gear. My regular gear consists of a Canon Rebel XS 10.1MP digital SLR camera, the kit lens it came with, a Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III telephoto lens, and the very occasional gear that I beg, borrow, or rent. About 99 percent of my photos are taken with one of these two lenses. You can do wonders with what you've got, if you make it work for you. That said, I'd dearly love a heavy-duty telephoto or macro lens.
In honor of Bird Week at the Magnifying Glass, can you please tell us which birds have recently been visiting your back yard in Arizona? And are you planning on taking part in the Great Back Yard Bird Count?
We've been inundated with hummingbirds! For the past two years now we've had Anna's hummingbirds nesting in our backyard tree, and we've been able to watch the courtship and nesting and, later, watch the young grow each day. They're feisty little birds.
We've also hosted a roadrunner, several red-tailed hawks, mourning doves, white-winged doves, finches, and sparrows. We don't have to travel far to see countless other species. My mom's yard has Gambel's quail and curve-billed thrashers, the park has huge flocks of yellow-headed blackbirds, and the nearby Gilbert Riparian Preserve hosts close to 200 bird species.
I do plan to take part in the Great Back Yard Bird Count this week, and my son wants to participate as well. As if we needed an excuse to go bird watching.
Do you have a favorite bird? Does your son, David, have a favorite bird?
That's a hard one. I particularly love turkey vultures; I'm fascinated with their grace and how they can make utility out of waste, beauty out of garbage. Also, I could spend an entire day just watching the red-tailed hawks and listening to their calls. The rarer sightings are exciting too -- a friend once found me on a hiking trail and dragged me a mile out of the way to see an elf owl. I got to see a broad-billed/violet-crowned hybrid hummingbird at Boyce Thompson Arboetum; that was really exciting.
My son's almost as indecisive. I asked him, and here's his answer: "Oooh. I don't know ..." (silent deliberation for at least five minutes) ... "Maybe a cardinal. They're at the top of my list. Burrowing owls are really neat too. And roadrunners! Put that one for sure. Tell them that a roadrunner let me stand really close."
I first became familiar with your work through your Kids and Nature Flickr group. What prompted you to start that group?
For my master's thesis in writing, I was writing a manuscript on children and nature, using my own experiences with my son as a reference point. I began to share some experiences online. While I found many, many kindred spirits, I also found a moderate contingent of people who would scoff at all but the most postcard-worthy, touristy nature experiences. For example, when my son investigated a snake or held an insect, these people were (and still are, if my e-mails are any indication) horrified. How could I MAKE him do such a thing?
I had to believe that this was the minority opinion, and I started the Flickr group as a way to collect photos from around the world of kids interacting with nature. It's fabulous. Exploration comes naturally to kids. Adults forget; we tend to either ignore nature or demand what it can do for us. Kids just watch. Touch. They love it for what it is. Adults teach a lot, of course -- my son's learned which animals not to touch, for sure -- but we could learn a lot from children.
As the proud mama of nature-loving boy, do you have any advice on how to nurture childrens' interests in the natural world?
Join them! That's the biggest one. Nature walks, hikes, photography, and just being outside have been behind every best experience my son, my husband, and I have ever shared. It doesn't always even matter where you go. We pulled off the side of the road one day and found a hidden waterfall after a heavy rain. Just go outside.
Obviously, if you've got an enthusiastic kid who's going to be around animals, make sure they're also knowledgeable and careful. In Arizona, that means knowing which animals are dangerous and how to identify them (black widow spiders, Gila monsters, rattlesnakes, and a few others), and how to behave around any animal, dangerous or not. I always emphasize knowledge and caution, but never fear. He's not afraid of a single animal, but he'll never put himself in unnecessary danger. The same caution goes for outdoor wisdom about hiking, injuries, dehydration, and the like. He's not a Boy Scout, but he's definitely prepared.
Encourage, but don't force it. I can rhapsodize all day long about the hawk overhead, but if my son would rather watch the geese on the ground, I've learned it's best to let him. On one trip to the lake, I tried to get him out of the water to watch a heron. He stubbornly remained in the water, not defiant, just matter-of-fact. In five minutes, water birds were swimming around his submerged shoulders, and bats were swooping within inches of his head. He was overjoyed. Kids know how to appreciate the natural world. We just have to get them there.
Can you please share a few of your favorite nature-related posts from your blog?
I wrote a little while ago in praise of turkey vultures with some gorgeous pictures of my favorite turkey vulture. (Doesn't everyone have a favorite turkey vulture?) I really think they're beautiful, seldom-understood birds.
Lately, I've been on a black widow spiders kick. I'm fascinated by them. I discuss my fascination and our project to raise black widow spiderlings, and I cover them a bit here as well; but if you'd like to see a slightly less mature (but funnier) black widow incident, check out the night I wore a hundred black widows. I'm not immune to nature-related misadventures and freak-outs. I just try my best to respect all life.
Kim, Thank you for the photo advice, your beautiful images, and your witty words. We'll be eager to see what happens with your Black Widow project. Happy Bird Week to you and your family in Arizona!