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Nature Photography Day is the creation of an Oakton Catholic

First slide

The coronavirus pandemic has banished us from airports and offices and pushed us toward backyards, neighborhood sidewalks and wooded trails. We’ve paid attention as spring blossoms turned to green leaves, bunnies and deer skirted the edges of lawns, and seeds we’ve planted started to sprout. Shirley Nuhn hopes that as we spend time outdoors this summer, we’ll stop and take a photo. Particularly June 15, the day she helped designate as Nature Photography Day nearly 15 years ago.

Nuhn, a parishioner of St. Mark Church in Vienna, didn’t see a lot of wildlife while growing up in Chicago. She began to appreciate nature more living across from a park in Milwaukee and even more when she and her husband, John, moved to Oakton in 1982 so he could take a job at National Wildlife magazine.

In the early 1990s, the couple was part of the group that founded the North American Nature Photography Association. According to the website, the organization seeks to “promotes the art and science of nature photography as a medium of communication, nature appreciation, and environmental protection.”

Nuhn has held a variety of jobs in her life, including 23 years as an English teacher at Northern Virginia Community College, primarily at the Annandale campus. When she lived in Milwaukee, she worked for the Arthritis Foundation and the American Heart Association and noticed they both had months dedicated to the awareness of their respective causes. Years later, as part of NANPA, she thought the organization should establish a Nature Photography Day during a month with plenty of opportunities for beautiful outdoor photos. The first one was June 15, 2006.

“I do believe that photography opens doors,” said Nuhn. “(Nature photography brings) not only the appreciation of nature and the beauty that God gives us, but also an understanding of things people are doing to adversely affect the environment.”

Before the coronavirus pandemic put a damper on travel, NANPA used the slogan, “See where your photography takes you.” Nuhn herself loved to visit the state parks of Florida to see manatees. Now, she’s encouraging people to “Stay connected to the natural world,” instead.

“It makes my heart feel really good when I can see that people are taking up a camera and are willing to go out into their neighborhoods,” said Nuhn.

More than a way to learn about new species or hone photography skills, capturing the beauty of creation is a means to see God, said Nuhn. “It’s looking for the ways God reveals himself in our daily lives,” she said.

“There are certain novenas and prayers I’ve been saying even more often through the coronavirus pandemic and since we haven’t had public Masses. One of them has to do with Our Lady, Undoer of Knots,” said Nuhn. She then quoted Pope Francis’ prayer. “ ‘Untie the knots that prevent us from being united with God so that we, free from sin and error, may find him in all things.’ And I really do take that to heart — finding God in all things.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020

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