If you’ve been a member over the past year or so, you’ve seen amateur nature photographer Thomas Sprunger’s preserve photos on your new preserve announcement postcards and in your Quarterly. You see his work on ACRES’ website, and in our media releases. Thomas visits the preserves often, on his own; he also volunteers “on call” for ACRES, collecting images on assignment.
Thomas first came to my attention on Facebook when he tagged ACRES on photos of Kokiwanee and Hathaway Preserve at Ross Run. Since then we’ve developed a relationship around the places we protect, sharing new and favorite spots and discoveries, talking about how he captures these moments and how they inspire others. Thomas shares how he found ACRES, and a bit of what’s going on behind his camera: “I’ve always liked natural places. In 1964, when I was a kid, my mom and dad and grandparents went out west on a month-long trip. We stayed in a rustic cabin in Yellowstone National Park. Times were different then, bears would come in for food. I remember kids chasing a baby bear until it hid under the cabin. I remember when my mom opened a window, a bear put its paws in. Unbelievable.”
Fast forward to a 2009 Komets Hockey game, taking photos with friends: “Someone suggested we all go to Rocky Mountain National Park. That trip rekindled my interest, sparked me to seek more places.”
“Coming back home, you think there are no photos to take around here. So I did an internet search for nature preserves and found Kokiwanee. I was surprised by how neat it actually was. It made me feel like I was not in the part of Indiana I thought I was.”
Since then, time spent photographing ACRES’ geologically unique preserves has given Thomas fresh eyes for our even more common flat open spaces and farmland: “I realize now that the farm community can yield some great shots. The familiar is beautiful when you can really see it.”
“This is the biggest part of photography. To see. The technical aspect comes. To see is the thing.”
Sprunger explains his craft: “Nature photography requires patience. You can’t be in a hurry. Part of this is the discovery aspect, keeping your eyes there, open, just standing, seeing what you see. If it’s a photo I want, I’ll take whatever time it takes to convey… you gotta work it.”
I like the peace you get when you’re in places like this. It gives you respite from the stress of everyday life. Sometimes I stand still and almost inhale it. So—that’s a hunk of it for me. The peacefulness. Another aspect is the beauty. I’m drawn to that, always have been. I’m looking for the view that when I see it, I think, ‘that’s beautiful’.
“Of course, with photography, this a way for me to be creative and convey a sense of what I’m feeling and seeing in a place like this. The peacefulness is what I aim to convey. Sometimes people will see my work and say, ‘I wish I could be there.’ Then I’ve accomplished what I’m doing.”
Thomas’ wife, Melinda, shares his interests: “She’s taking photos at Rocky Mountain National Park. We go every year, stay in the same cabin. She’s developed a kinship with that place. We both have an affinity for it, like coming home.”
Thomas has particular affection for a few ACRES preserves, often developed over time, visit after visit. He notes, “With photography, you need to keep going back. Spring, for example, is wonderful every week. Old places, new ones, too, are always better than expected. Often, when I’m done and it’s time to leave, I don’t want to go.“
Thomas will soon have more golden hours in his happy places: “Once I retire, I plan to spend quite a few just-before-sunrises and just-before-sunsets in the preserves.”