Known in college as the "Pelican Lady" Rosalie Winard was 17 years old when she aborted her affection for ant colonies and fell in love with birds. She was perched on a seawall on Sarasota Bay, watching the sunrise with her sweetheart, a guitar, and her kitten when the paradox happened.
"I had never paid attention to light, especially not to the magic of a breaking day," she writes in her new book "Wild Birds of the American Wetlands." "A cloudless morning, the bay waters of the Gulf of Mexico were still."
All of a sudden "one zany creature" began dive bombing. It was the only action within the stillness and she watched enthralled by the creature's grace and fortitude.
This experience led to her studying birds, especially the brown pelican species she saw that day. But eventually she laid down her books and binoculars and picked up a camera.
"Wild Birds of the American Wetlands" is study of some of the country's most beautiful birds: the Great Blue Heron, White Ibis, Snoey Egret, Whooping Crane, Roseate Spoonbill, American White Pelican Wood Stork--and of their vanishing habitats.
Her love of birds coupled with her skill as a photographer and documentary filmmaker led her to produce the book in the hopes of getting others to understand the plight of the creatures if wetlands are not preserved. As she puts it: "Beauty is her tool" toward succeeding in this effort.
"I'd always felt that what I felt for the birds I had never seen portrayed in photography," said Winard in a recent interview. She longed for a more intimate view of the creatures in action-as they premed, fished, waded, flew and communicated.
The result is ghostly yet ethereal infrared black and white images. Winard learned how to use infrared film when she worked with documentary filmmaker Errol Morris (The Fog of War). And what she has given to the birds in heightened awareness they have returned to her 10-fold. An energetic and impatient woman, watching the birds for hours on end has offered her a sense of peace, calm and satisfaction.
Crossing the country by foot, canoe, airboat, and ATV, Winard has captured large birds of the wetlands from Florida to California, Louisiana to North Dakota.
Her work is comprised of the birds' remarkable habits, evidence of their prehistoric forms as beings that go back some 40 million years, their grace as seen in the air and on water; and humor --as they are especially clumsy on land. Currently, these photographs are the subject of a national touring exhibition which opened at the Utah Museum of Natural History in October 2008.
From the Ballona Wetlands in California to the prairies of Nebraska, Winard uses her 30 years of experience observing these winged creatures along with her mastery of photography to illuminate the importance of avian and wetland conservation.
Winard worked for the National Science Foundation censusing bird populations in Florida before being led to documentary film, video arts and finally photography.
Like a true art book, "Wild Birds" is sprinkled with poetry throughout. Winard chose Chilean poet Pablo Neruda to portray her feelings for her subject.
"There are no letters, there is no telegraph between poet and bird," the poem reads. "There is secret music, only hidden wings, plumage and power." - from "The Stones and the Birds"
For more information, visit Winard's website at www.rosaliewinard.com/.
All photos © Rosalie Winard from WILD BIRDS OF THE AMERICAN WETLANDS (WELCOME BOOKS), WWW.WELCOMEBOOKS.COM.