If you’ve been in the Sebring Public Library this year, you’ve probably seen the many bird photographs on display, taken by local photographer James “Jim” Upchurch of Sebring.
Because of public health concerns, the library was closed to the public for much of the scheduled display time, so the library has chosen to leave the photos on display longer than planned.
During the closure, the photographs were encouraging to staff members working in the building.
“I’m glad that they’re at the library,” Upchurch says.
He began taking pictures of wildlife when he lived in Botswana from 1978-1981, but Upchurch says that he had some camera issues and wasn’t quite happy with the pictures even though the wildlife opportunities were good.
He lived in Botswana and visited around 20 countries during his career developing housing for the poor.
After living in Washington D.C. and other areas, Upchurch eventually settled in Sebring, where he is on the board of the Florida Non-Profit Housing, Inc. and is a member of the Highlands County chapter of the National Audubon Society.
“The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow, throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation,” according to the group’s website.
Sharing His Passion
Now that he’s retired, Upchurch has had more time to devote to taking thousands of pictures of birds.
“What you see on the walls of the library are a few,” he says.
One of Upchurch’s challenges has been that as he ages, his hands are less steady. And, he explains, using a tripod would be very difficult when trying to take pictures of a moving target.
Sometimes Upchurch will take pictures from a boat, which adds another layer of movement to deal with.
You have to be very patient sometimes, he explains.
But, Upchurch says that “seeing the joy on peoples faces when they look at the picture of it” is his favorite thing about photographing birds.
“I’ve enjoyed talking to kids about it,” Upchurch says, explaining that he sold some of his photos during a downtown Sebring festival to benefit the National Audubon Society. He liked talking to the children that would stop, and he wants to get more young people interested in nature.
“Many kids from Sebring really haven’t been out to places where they can see some of these birds,” Upchurch adds.
Both children and adults have been able to enjoy the birds on display at the Sebring Public Library.
“When the library asked me if I wanted to display, I was happy to do so,” He says.
Upchurch doesn’t just take pictures of birds, although they are his main focus. If he sees another animal while he is out, he will sometimes snap a photo of that too.
For example, he once came across a bobcat that was looking for birds to eat and took a picture.
“He looked at me and said, ‘well you’re not a meal, so I’ll just sautner on by,’” Upchurch says.
Want To Learn?
For anyone interested in bird photography, the libraries have books to help you learn more:
-“The magic of digital nature photography” by Rob Sheppard
-“A Field Guide to Bird Photography” by Steve Young
-“Bird Photography: Choosing the Best Destinations, Planning a Trip, Taking Great Photographs” by David Tipling.
-“Bird Photography: Pure and Simple” by Arthur Morris.
You can also visit audubon.org/photograph for bird photography tips from the National Audubon Society.
Check back for a future Library Lines article about local birding and more ways to connect with nature.
This is the first of a two-part article about James Upchurch and birding in Florida.