Photography highlights the state’s great outdoors

Gary Hoard first found photography at just five years old.

His parents were both fans of the medium. His father was a naval photographer and had been stationed at Pearl Harbor during the attack during World War II.

“He always had a love for cameras, was shooting all the time and collecting old cameras,” Hoard said.

The apple didn’t fall too far from the tree apparently.

Hoard and a neighborhood friend both picked up the shutterbug working on the high school newspaper and yearbook.

Both families enjoyed nature, gardening and camping, so Hoard also picked up a love of the outdoors along the way.

And while his day job for 40 years was with Pioneer Hi-Bred, Hoard never completely set his camera down. Vacations were largely spent visiting national parks — camera in hand.

The dual loves of photography and the outdoors blend together beautifully in his gallery show, “Naturally Iowa,” on display now through Sept. 28 at Arts on Grand in Spencer.

“You can find nature anywhere. You can go into your backyard and there are flowers, birds, insects, all kinds of things,” Hoard said. “This show focuses on nature and all but a couple of the shots are from Iowa.”

There is a stunning image of the Aurora Borealis that one could be forgiven for assuming is one of those images captured a long ways from the Midwest. But that assumption would be incorrect. It was captured in a 10-second exposure just north of Des Moines.

“You don’t see that often. I’ve chased those so many times spending hours waiting for it to happen and got nothing. This shot was at 2 a.m. and for 15 minutes, boom, it happened.”

Upon retirement, Hoard also has been taking advantage of the extra time to chase the light.

“I have the chance to do a lot more, spend more time outside and hit the right light,” Hoard said. “That was the problem during working — that early morning light and evening light was impossible to hit.”

Hoard has certainly found the right light during the past few years, which has produced the majority of the images hanging in the gallery.

What will also stand out to visitors is the vibrancy of the images, some of which is a result of their printing process.

“Everything in the show is on aluminum,” Hoard said. “With the heat sublimation process the images tend to get a little more saturation and that brings a little more life to the image. And it’s a different look without a frame — the image kind of just floats there.”

And what floats inside the frame are all the flora and fauna that have found their way in front of Hoard’s camera lens.

Cardinals and many other birds. Frogs, cicadas, raccoons and other critters. Sunrises. Sunsets. Hoard’s eye captures it all in sharp focus.

“This is a perfect exhibit for Arts on Grand,” said curator Melissa Cadmus. “We have so many nature lovers and bird lovers that regularly attend our shows.”

Hoard hopes those nature lovers, and anyone else who strolls through the doors, sees the great outdoors in a way they haven’t seen it before.

“I enjoy the challenge and the time spent outside,” Hoard said. “The process of getting the photo is as important to me as getting the shot itself. And it’s enjoyable to see people smiling when they see a photo and are maybe seeing a different view of the natural world.”