LPC blogger shares his love of birds and nature on the World Wide Web

Ken Heiar is living proof you don’t have to travel to exotic locations to capture the beauty of nature. There’s plenty of it to be found near his La Porte City home. Not only does he capture it in stunning detail with his Nikon digital cameras, he shares it with the rest of the world on his blog. “Speaking of Nature” (speakingofnature.tumblr.com) is where visitors can find a magnificent array of photographs depicting the beauty of nature throughout all four seasons, accompanied by descriptions, reflections, poetry and other writings Heiar uses to inform and inspire. Some of the photos defy words. Others demand a scientific explanation to help understand the importance of the image Heiar has chosen to display. Come for the beauty. Stay for the education.

While Heiar’s blog dates back to 2014, his love for photography goes even further, to the 1970s as a college student working on a degree in Biology. In 1973, he got his first SLR camera and quickly turned his attention to the world around him.

Nearly forty years later, in 2011, Heiar published Remembrances and Treasured Tokens: A Lifetime Observing Nature, a book any coffee table would be proud to display. Four decades in the making, the book, available for checkout at Hawkins Memorial Library, is filled with vivid photography Heiar captured during that time.

Ken’s work is also featured on the Audubon South Carolina website. In 2015, after entering his photo of a White-breasted Nuthatch in the National Audobon Society annual photo contest, it was selected as one of the top 100 photos out of the more than 9,000 entries submitted that year.

Over time, technology has radically changed the camera industry, and Heiar admits that today’s digital cameras make it easier than ever to shoot hundreds of photographs in a very short period of time. After retiring from John Deere last March, Ken now has the time, the cameras and computer software to create the extremely high-quality images that populate his blog.

Along with the birds, bugs and other wildlife he has photographed, his blog’s visitors also enjoy a variety of images featuring sunrises and sunsets. There is something special about the early morning sunlight and the fading light of a sunset that make those times some of his favorite to shoot photos.
Even the best possible equipment, a top-notch camera paired with a long-range, superfast lens, cannot guarantee that the photos taken with them will be worthy of publishing in a book. So much of photographing nature is being in the right spot at the right time. That means capturing a beautiful sunrise can make for a very early morning for the photographer, particularly in the summer months.

But what about taking pictures of wildlife? How does Ken get such amazing photos of birds and other animals who normally give humans a very wide berth? First, he devotes considerable time to scouting locations that will offer him the best opportunity to find the subjects he wants to photograph. Some might be surprised to learn that many of the photos featured on “Speaking of Nature” have been captured very close to La Porte City. Two nearby parks, Hickory Hills and McFarlane, offer a rich assortment of wildlife and other scenic views worthy of a digital camera.

For shots that require Ken to get close to wildlife who don’t enjoy sharing their personal space, he uses a portable blind, fashioned out of PVC pipe and camouflage fabric. Over the years, patience and the ability to stay calm and quiet have rewarded him with beautiful, up-close photos that would not have otherwise been possible.

Heiar makes frequent updates to “Speaking of Nature.” His purpose for the blog is a simple one.
“I want to show what you can find in your own back yard and what is readily available right here in Iowa,” he said.
It’s a mission the blog’s followers, who now number more than 650, appreciate.

Beauty is all around us. For proof, look no further than http://speakingofnature.tumblr.com/.