For Brantley County native Wayne Morgan, nature photography is more than just a hobby.
“It’s a passion, it sure is a passion. It helps if I make money along and along, but even if I didn’t I’d still be doing it,” Morgan said. “People pictures is probably the right way to go. You can make money with people pictures.”
He’s tried event photography and decided it wasn’t for him. Morgan’s regular animal and plant subjects don’t complain as much.
“They don’t mind if I take a bad picture, it don’t bother them at all. The birds, they don’t care if I take a bad picture,” Morgan said.
His photos have made him a little bit of a profit, along with the four photo books he’s self-published: “Satilla Solitude,” “Okefenokee Swamp,” “Zirkle to Alaska” and “Kase for the Environment.”
Here and there, organizations have seen fit to recognize his work. Two of his photos — one taken in Providence Canyon in West Georgia and the other on the Satilla River — hung for six-month stints in then-Gov. Nathan Deal’s office in Atlanta.
Most recently, the magazine National Wildlife selected his photo of a frog on a lily pad in the Satilla River as one of 50 to hang in the halls of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C.
Called “A Frog on a Lily,” the photo will be featured in the AAAS headquarters from November to February of next year.
“I don’t enter a lot of contests,” Morgan said. “For some reason, I just don’t ever get around to entering them. The few that I have entered I have done pretty good.”
A machinist by trade, Morgan worked for 15 years at Georgia Pacific in Sterling and 10 years at Hercules in Brunswick. He is currently employed by CSX Transportation in Waycross, where he works on diesel freight engines.
His interest in nature photography began with some health issues that arose in 1999 when he was 35 years old.
“In ’99, I was working at Hercules, and I had an episode, passing out. They realized my heart was stopping, and I had to get a pacemaker,” Morgan said. “While I was out of work, I was fishing a lot, and I started taking my camera with me fishing. The man I was fishing with, I just started letting him fish, and I started taking pictures. I loved taking pictures better than I did the fishing, so I kept doing that.”
He won some employee contests at Hercules and got his photos into multiple calendars, but it was a lack of material on some of his favorite places that led Morgan to publish his books. He had a camera and he had the will, which was all he needed.
“In 2011, I went to the library looking for a book on the Satilla River. They didn’t have any, so I started trying to figure out how to do a book and I self-published a coffee table book,” Morgan said.
He published 1,000 copies of the first edition of “Satilla Solitude,” all of which sold. At that point, he realized he was on to something.
His second book, “Okefenokee Swamp,” was something of a collaboration with his friend Don Berryhill, an educator and guide at Okefenokee Swamp Park for 48 years, now retired.
“He said if I ever do another book he wanted to work with me on it, so we did the Okefenokee Swamp book. Did 1,000 of those, and they sold out,” Morgan said. “I’ve been to a lot of places taking pictures. I’ve been to Montana and Wyoming and Alaska and California, so my other book, ‘Zirkle to Alaska,’ is the other places I’ve been taking pictures. A lot of Georgia, but different places I’ve been on vacation.”
His most recent book — “Kase for the Environment,” named for his grandson Kase — is a children’s book about keeping the environment clean.
“We see a lot of trash. I know there’s a lot of it on the coast too, but for some reason, there’s people that like to trash the river and the swamp whenever they go to them. I don’t understand it,” Morgan said.
Swamp and river environs are by far Morgan’s favorite, and as such he keeps abreast of issues his favorite spots might face. He plans to fly over the Okefenokee Swamp with some concerned citizens opposed to a proposed mining operation near the swamp sometime soon.
“I’ve never done aerial photography, so that’s going to be a first. We’re going to see about stopping that mining company from tearing up the Okefenokee,” Morgan said. “I just don’t think it’s going to be good for the Okefenokee if they drain it. I’m not an expert on hydrology and geology or whatever, I don’t know all that, but if it’s going to be too close to the swamp I’m afraid.”
While photography is certainly a fun pastime for him, Morgan says it can sometimes get a little rough.
“It’s relaxing, but sometimes it can be a lot of work too,” Morgan said. “We were in Colorado, I went out there to see if I could get moose pictures. We were there the whole week and didn’t see the first moose.
“The last day, there was a moose in the pond, and I had to pack up and run about 100, 150 yards with my camera and everything else to get to it. Couldn’t hardly breathe when I got there. I’ve waded in and out of the swamp and Satilla River a bunch. It can be a lot like work, but it’s not bad.”
Morgan’s books can be found at Righton Books and G.J. Ford Bookshop on St. Simons Island. He can be reached via email at email@example.com or the Wayne Morgan Artistry Facebook page.
Coastal People appears Tuesdays. Contact Taylor Cooper at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 912-265-8320, ext. 324 to suggest a person for a column.