Jeffrey Schulz has always been an outdoorsy person.
“I was the one outside the most out of us seven kids,” he said. Growing up in New England, North Dakota, and Polo, South Dakota, Schulz spent plenty of time exploring and looking for new adventures on the farm. His love of photography also started at a young age.
Some of Schulz’s subjects are scenic wildlife, architecture, and vintage vehicles. His first book, which came out in April of this year, focuses on his biggest hobby of all – birdwatching.
The Magic of Ordinary Days features over 300 birding photos that Schulz has taken over the years. His book is a little different from other bird photography books. When he began researching the topic, he noticed that most bird-centric publications only included photos and facts about the birds. Schulz’s book breaks away from the mold a bit and includes his own personal stories and poetry in addition to his photos.
“I tried to make it conversational,” Schulz said. “I wanted it to feel like I was talking to the reader.”
One of his favorite stories in the book is his first encounter with a snowy owl, which he found as a child while checking traps on their family farm along the Canonball River. That’s just one of the many memories that Schulz included in his book.
Most of the birds featured can be found within 30 miles of Aberdeen. Some of them, however, were spotted while Schulz was traveling. The red-breasted sapsucker, for example, was spotted when Schulz was in Sacramento, California.
Schulz had wanted to put a book together for some time. After getting a nice camera lens about five years ago, he began taking and compiling photos for his book. A majority of the work had been completed in the last couple of years.
“I always wanted to put a book together,” Schulz said. “Making it was mostly just for fun.”
He studied other photography books to decide what would be the best layout for his project. He also studied different types of poetry, and many different styles are explored in the book.
“When I started planning the book I used white pages,” Schulz said. “Some other books used black pages, and when I tried that, it really made the birds stand out.”
Birding isn’t just all about photography for Schulz. On some birding excursions, there will be no cameras involved at all. His backyard is set up to attract many different species of birds, and just being present in the moment can be an experience on its own.
“It’s amazing what’s out there when you stop and listen,” Schulz said. “During spring and fall migration, you can see some rare things. Sometimes a bird that’s not normally here will get off course.”
Over the years, Schulz has improved his birding skills.
“Each year you learn a little more,” he said. “Once you learn the habitats and behaviors of birds, you can find what you’re looking for easily. Learning songs can help you find birds before you even see them.”
Birding is also a family activity for Schulz. His wife, Kathy, and his daughter, Megan, frequently join him on his endeavors, and the two of them helped Schulz edit his book.
Schulz is already planning his next book. Tentatively titled I’ll Take the Back Roads, it will focus on his other favorite things to photograph – vintage cars and other wildlife outside of just birds.
In addition to his book, some of Schulz’s art has been featured in the SD Artworks Gallery in the Uptown Aberdeen Mall. More of his photography can be seen at his website, jeffreyschulz.photoshelter.com. //