Nature through a new lens

  • Posted: Tuesday, Mar. 5th, 2024

Springtime at Dodge is full of seasonal sights and sounds. Trails crunch with frozen mud underfoot, red-winged blackbirds trill from cattail perches, and ducks putter around an ice-free pond. Among the sounds of nature awakening after the long winter months are the small clicks of a camera shutter.

Jim Kammerer with kneeling on the banks of a pond, focusing on geese in the distance.

Every morning, nature photographer Jim Kammerer starts his day with the same question: which lens should he put on his camera? “Every day is a different walk,” Jim says. “It changes daily.”

Jim started walking regularly and photographing at Dodge when he retired, but his relationship with the nature center spans many years. He grew up in West St. Paul, planted roots and raised his family a few blocks away, and frequently brought his two daughters to explore the Main Property. “My girls told me they always felt cheated when they’d go on a school field trip to Dodge—they’d say, ‘We go here all the time!’”

Jim Kammerer with camera in hand on the Farm Pond boardwalk at the Main Property.

In his retirement, Jim (and his wife) found that he needed a hobby. He had been a casual photographer years before kids and family but never ventured outdoors with his camera. Living within walking distance to Dodge, nature photography became a natural fit: “Now, I can’t stop!”

His photos capture a wide variety of wildlife activity around the nature center: white-tailed deer prancing through the prairie, a mother wood duck on the pond with 18 ducklings in tow, and a watchful coyote observing him through tangled tree branches.

His favorite subject to capture?

A photo captured by Jim of a bald eagle in flight at Dodge Nature Center.

“Birds have become a recent favorite. I took an eagle photo last fall that was a highlight—it just happened to fly in front of me, and I remember standing there thinking, ‘Don’t mess this up!’”

Folks often visit Dodge to disconnect from technology and ground themselves in nature. For Jim, having his camera in hand helps him tune in to his surroundings. “You become much more observant. Everything is pretty, even light through the trees shining on a flower.”

Teachers at Dodge Nature Preschool are seeing the same behavior from their students. With miniature digital kid cameras, teacher Katie McCreary says her students are stopping to observe things they might have otherwise missed, like cracked ice on a frozen puddle. A whole new perspective is discovered.

A Preschool student capturing a photo with their digital kid camera.

Nature photography has a significant following in Minnesota, but it can be as simple as heading outdoors and snapping photos with your phone camera. Even an experienced photographer like Jim says he’s still developing his skills: “I’m self-taught. I still struggle with it—you always try to get the perfect picture, but I don’t know that it exists.”

Jim’s advice for the camera-curious? “I take pictures of everything, because I find it all cool; the sun on the curve of a dried leaf—that’s cool to me! Be more observant of what’s around you and see where it leads you.”

See Jim’s photography on Instagram @JimKammererPhotography.


Nature photography is always free at Dodge. Posed and commercial photography requires a media permit—learn more here.

This article was originally published in the Nourish Your Need for Nature Newsletter, Spring/Summer 2024.

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