Before I headed out for a few weeks of traveling, my friend Bill and I made it up to San Juan Island here in Washington to photograph the plentiful foxes in the area. I was exceptionally happy with the variety of color in their coats, and the playful show they put on for us! Remember – be the fox, not the bunny!
Award-winning author and photographer David FitzSimmons has a unique approach to animal portraiture, and he loves sharing it with kids. Instead of seeking rare animals in exotic locations, David photographs common animals—many found in your own backyard—against plain, white backgrounds, producing detailed close-up images that motivate children and their families to appreciate and explore nature. The striking images are the visual foundation of his Curious Critters children’s picture book series. Volume one (2011) won five national book awards and sold over 100,000 copies. Curious Critters Volume Two, featuring amazing animals from across North America, will be released in February.
David FitzSimmons is an award-winning freelance photographer and writer. His first book in the Curious Critters series won the coveted IBPA Bill Fisher Award for best first book (children’s/young adult). A Sigma Pro photographer, David has exhibited works at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute, the National Center for Nature Photography, and the Telluride Photo Festival. He is a life-long educator, teaching students from kindergarten to college. Currently David is an Associate Professor at Ashland University. He has appeared on ABC, CBS, and NBC-TV. You can see more of David’s photography at www.fitzsimmonsphotography.com.
FitzSimmons’ unconventional approach to wildlife photography allows animals’ colors, textures, shapes, and seeming “personalities” to shine through. “Kids focus on the animals. That’s when the learning begins,” David explains. “They focus on and notice clues about animals’ behaviors, diets, life cycles, and habitats.” The first image in Curious Critters Volume Two is a monarch butterfly preparing for its 2,000 mile flight from Milkweed, Minnesota, to Oyamel Fir Forest, Mexico.
In writing the Curious Critters children’s picture books, David imagined that each critter talked to him during its portrait session and that he just wrote down what was said. The audiobooks for Curious Critters Volumes One and Two capture the sometimes calm, other times excited, and occasionally irascible personalities David envisioned. For the audiobook version of the conversation among four recently-born Eastern cottontail rabbits, David cast his two oldest daughters and two nieces for the voiceovers.
Besides the extraordinary photography, each of the twenty animals in Curious Critters Volume Two gets a chance to tell its story. The indigo bunting talks about calls in his “song neighborhood.” The indigo bunting reports that some “songbirds complain because I repeat myself, but I enjoy saying things twice, sometimes in very long songs. Sweet! Sweet! Chew! Chew! Where? Where? Here! Here! Sweeter! Sweeter! Chew! Chew! What! What! Sweet! Sweet!”
Curious Critters Volume Two is not only entertaining but also educational. Before David began composing the short vignettes accompanying the photos, he reviewed national science education standards. Curious Critters Volume Two meets all the life science standards for grades K-4, making the nonfiction picture book appeal to teachers, librarians, and education-minded parents. In the narrative alongside the green frog, the powerful male boasts about his healthy diet, including eating his own shed skin. “Hey! if it’s nutritious, I eat it.”
Adding to children’s enjoyment of the Curious Critters series, David partnered with nature-folksinger Foster Brown, who sings the predaceous diving beetle’s song, “Row, Row, Row Your Legs.” Beginning and ending both audiobooks is Foster’s catchy Curious Critters theme song, rich with the bluegrass sounds of guitar, banjo, mandolin, and upright bass.
David hopes that his Curious Critters picture books—featuring captivating animals like the vivid Northern Cardinal—will inspire children and adults to conserve nature. “To protect our natural world, we first have to care about it. I hope that my animal pictures allow people to see common animals—from frogs and fish to beetles and birds—in a whole new and meaningful way. It’s my goal that the close-up photography and playful prose in Curious Critters will captivate readers’ imaginations and motivate them to get outside and interact with nature.”
Curious Critters Volume Two (Wild Iris Publishing, hardback, 32 pp., ISBN 978-1-936607-70-9, $19.95) is available in bookstores, nature centers, museum stores, and other specialty shops, as well as online retailers Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Copies bought directly from Wild Iris Publishing are signed by and, if desired, dedicated by David FitzSimmons.
Check out other Curious Critters media, as well as games, parent and educator materials, sample flipping book pages, and other fun stuff at www.curious-critters.com. You can like Curious Critters on Facebook. To hear samples from the Curious Critters audiobooks, including tracks from Curious Critters Volume One, or to purchase MP3s or CDs of the audiobooks, visit the Audiobooks page on www.wildirispublishing.com.
What’s up next for David?
David can’t wait to share a variety of sea creatures with children and families. Coming soon is Curious Critters: Marine. Meet fish, birds, crustaceans and other animals from the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, as well as the Gulf of Mexico. Hear what the black sea bass, candy stripe shrimp, pencil urchin, crested puffin, California sea slug, horseshoe crab, roseate spoonbill, blue lobster, and other salty Curious Critters have to say! Available Fall 2014.
For the last couple weeks I have been traveling in India with some very good friends. As a last minute change in our itinerary, we decided to head off to Kanha, where we enjoyed seeing the abundant wildlife and the adjacent villages. Then we headed off to Mumbai and the Dhobi Ghat (the world’s largest laundry), which couldn’t be any more different than the bucolic countryside.
Click the play button to see all the photos, or click HERE
Though I am on my way to Thailand, I am able to share some photos from Sri Lanka before take off. While staying in the beautiful Southern Province I fell ill with a terrible head cold. A few days out capturing the beauty- the rest of my days were spent close to the hotel. As you can see- it wasn’t such a horrible sick chamber! (Click the play button below the photo to see them all.)
Locations: New York City; Amazonas, Brazil; British Columbia, Canada; Katmai National Park, Alaska; Astoria, Oregon; Vava’u, Tonga; Auckland, New Zealand; Southern Africa: Namibia, Botswana and South Africa
Namibia is the photographic gift that keeps on giving. While I have been to the Sossus dunes many times, the Serra Cafema and Ongava Reserve were new to me. The wildlife is tremendous and the dusty atmosphere is magical.
Wow! I hate being out of contact for so long! Connectivity has been a struggle and I was just able to upload a few photos from my recent shoot in the Duba Plains of the Okavango Delta. We were the only people to see a lion and buffalo take down in weeks, so I feel extremely fortunate. Over the course of ten days we also were able to photograph gorgeous leopards and magnificent herds of elephants. Perhaps, it isn’t so bad to be out of touch after all!
Fabled and feared, rescued and reared— bears, through time have experienced human impact, both negative and positive. Indeed, the current circumstance of these impressive creatures reflects our behavior, depth of understanding, and attitude towards them.
In this Special Edition we share the perspective of photographers, explorers, scientists and those dedicated to the conservation of bears and their habitat worldwide. Their stories and images reflect the diverse nature of bears, the vital role they play in the health of an ecosystem, their spiritual significance and reverence to native culture. These are but some of the aspects explored through first-hand encounters and expressive photos which capture intimate moments of bears in the wild.
Viewed through a global prism encompassing past, and present with expert insight on the future— we open a much wider window, into the world of bears.
Deepest gratitude to all who contributed, for enriching this issue with your knowledge and experience. You have helped provide a global perspective that I hope will raise awareness and support for our beloved bears.
My bag arrived in time for one day’s shoot. We had just five days over the water and four of them were just too windy and the whales were very shy. There was one, though, who would stay on the ocean bottom where we barely could see him and then every 20 minutes he would come up for air. Our trick was to swim like hell to intersect him when he reached the surface without being clobbered. I got three chances, and during one, I guessed right and he came up just in front of me. I could have grabbed his tail and gone for a ride. Now I am off for the Duba Plains in Botswana; hopefully, my bags will make it with me! Stay tuned!