Sitting in an office with a desk covered in paper work and stacks of things to do, Susan welcomed me into her world by offering a leather chair and a request to hold her phone calls. A property manger at Bundy in Beaufort, she has been a dedicated employee for nearly 29 years. But what you wouldn't know by looking at her, except for her sun-kissed skin, is that she spends every minute she can floating down stream in a kayak hoping to capture the perfect glimpse of wildlife with her beloved camera.
Susan is a Beaufort native, although technically born in Allendale just 60 miles away, and has spent the most of her life enjoying the outdoors, along with her husband, Doug, also a Beaufort native. For many, this passion is hard to understand. Who wants to spend their free time getting dirty, swatting bugs, sweating or worrying about sunburns? Why not enjoy the modern convenience of air conditioning and free Wi-fi? Susan says, "I would rather be outside any day of the week, than inside." And she proves it by sharing her beautiful nature photography and inadvertently donning toned arms. According to her, it's that one, awe-inspiring photograph, or that one chance meeting with something she can't touch, that makes all the mosquito and "no-see-um" bites worth it! "The experience of the encounter itself is what draws me to it," she says.
In a beautiful twist, her indoor job can be held responsible for her love of kayaking. She was given a cash bonus for 15 faithful years of service, and she took that money and bought herself a woman-powered floating device that would take her into the nooks and crannies of the Lowcountry. In fact, she considers those crannies a gift and is convinced that people are missing out if they aren't experiencing it. "Dolphins are free!" she exclaims. After she fell in love with paddling through streams and tide pools, she began noticing all kinds of birds and thought to take pictures of them. Naturally, what came next was the purchase of her Nikon camera. And the evolution of her nature photography was complete.
"I really love what I do because it is something I can do by myself if my husband is fishing or golfing," she explained, "And I really think that everyone just needs to find their own way to experience the benefit of nature, and go once, and then they'll be hooked."
If you were to view some of Susan's photos, you'd notice that she has a unique skill of catching some rare finds. And I'd bet you ask how she manages to do that. I'd say it's her technique. First of all, she takes a lot of photos from her kayak, which means that she is in a place you probably couldn't drive to. Second of all, she often goes alone. The silence helps to hide her presence and hear theirs. Her advice, "Hang out where birds are." It seems simple enough, but sometimes we over think things. Her favorite spot to kayak and photograph wild life is the Lagoon at Hunting Island State Park. She says that all kinds of coastal birds can be found there, along with osprey and eagles! And even though she loves photographing all of these beautiful birds, she admits passionately that her favorite subject is her dog, Nash. She pointed to a photo of him showing off his blonde coat with pride that she had set as her screen saver. And as I looked around the office, I saw many more photographs depicting the beauty of nature and took away a small note of pride in realizing just how beautiful of a place we live in. Sometimes we forget to see it. Thank goodness for people like Susan who reminds us!
Unique wildlife she's encountered:
Recently, Susan ventured out and managed to capture a photograph of a bobcat, a black fox squirrel and even a mink-which she declares is the rarest animal she has seen so far.
What you don't know: She recently suffered a bad back injury from carrying her kayak too far in a low tide!
Other passions: Hiking! Several times a year she and her husband return to their cabin in the mountains of North Carolina to enjoy the trails.
Never without: Her phone. And it's not because she loves getting text messages, she just wants to make sure she can photograph anything that catches her eye, even if she doesn't have her camera with her!