Bird, Bee and Flower Photo captured perfectly

How a move to Bluffton and a passion for exploration transformed one woman’s life

Exploring new skies

Story + Photography by Lucy Rosen

I’ve always been an explorer — of new ideas, new approaches and new horizons. That’s why the idea of boldly venturing where no one has gone before has always resonated with me. So, it wasn’t much of a surprise to anyone when I relocated to Bluffton with a plan to expand my PR and marketing agency to a fast-growing area. 

About a decade ago my youngest sister, who serves on the board of a prestigious medical organization, introduced me to the world of adventurous travel. Their annual meetings took us to amazing places such as Nepal, South Africa and Thailand, igniting a new passion — exploring faraway lands and the newest of horizons — and now I can’t get enough.

Macaws hanging upside down
Macaws hanging upside down — canoodling for all to see. As we were on our way to a site, our driver suddenly stopped, and our guide said, “Wait until you see this!” We all grabbed our gear and hurried out of the bus to see eight macaws all hanging upside down in pairs. They are monogamous for the season, but the males are known for visiting other females at night.

One afternoon soon after moving to Bluffton in 2015, I wandered into Pluff Mud Art Gallery on Calhoun Street and saw a photograph by Kelley Luikey that captured the elegance and beauty of a roseate spoonbill. It was an ah-ha moment for me as I decided right then and there that not only did I want to see this bird in person, but I also wanted to photograph one. It was a magical moment for me. 

hummingbirds in Costa Rica
There are over 53 species of hummingbirds in Costa Rica. I saw at least six of them. That’s one reason I have to go back. The challenge of all bird photography challenges … they are small and lightning-fast. They rarely behave the way you expect them to, but on the plus side, they tend to go back to the perch where they came from time and time again.

Despite having little more than a point-and-shoot camera and a sense of adventure reminiscent of a National Geographic explorer (backpack included), I embarked on the first of many bird photography expeditions with Eric Horan, a fabulous local guide and master naturalist. At first I captured no photographs worth showing to anyone, but I was enthralled by the grace and beauty of these winged creatures. Thus began my journey into the world of bird photography, a love affair that has grown daily and has taken me on many bird photographic adventures since that day in Pluff Mud Art Gallery — and also gave me a legitimate reason to buy a new camera and a few long lenses. 

parrot love photo
Love is grand and it was plentiful … everywhere we looked.

I devoted every spare moment to learning and practicing the photography of birds. Whether it was trudging through mud at Fish Haul, driving to my favorite spot at Donnelly Wildlife Preserve or just sitting in my backyard — complete with a bluebird box, eight different feeding stations and two sources of water — I was consumed by my newfound passion.

snake with red flower
poison snake in costa rica

One day we had a photo session with snakes in the rainforest. These shots were controlled, meaning there was a snake handler with us who was in “charge” of them. I sat in the bus as my group got off one by one. I was determined not to participate in this exercise, terrified that one was going to jump and bite me. Yes, vipers are venomous, and my stomach hurts just thinking of snakes, or at least it did. Turns out snakes are gorgeous, slow, sexy and beautiful. I’m so glad I got off that bus and participated. Yes, I got a little too close. Yes, I was reminded that they were venomous. And it was a fabulous learning experience. 

Recently I returned from my second bird photography trip to Costa Rica, led by the talented Nancy Ellwood of Nature’s Portal. She led a group of eight of us, all bird photography enthusiasts, on a 10-day adventure through Costa Rica, and it couldn’t have been more fun or educational both in terms of learning about birds but learning even more about photography. 

king vulture about to land with wings up
Close encounters with king vultures. I can’t even begin to explain how it feels having one or more of these enormous birds swoop over your head to land, feeling their wings as they rush over you. It’s a feeling that I could get used to.

I’m already daydreaming of new destinations (the next one is Brazil), but until then I’m perfectly content with my local spoonies that fill my soul, as well as the egrets, the snowy, the owls, the robins, the anhingas, the great blue herons and all the other birds I love so much here in the Lowcountry.

sunbittern nest with chicks
This was probably one of my favorite moments of the trip. Our guide knew of a sunbittern nest with chicks, and we went. Mom was back and forth to the stream that the nest was above. Fun fact: When mom and dad aren’t in the nest, the chicks sway a little when they are standing — kinda like they’ve had one too many. Why? So they look like leaves and predators leave them alone.

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