Capturing the Magic of Nature

With Nature Photographer Kelley Luikey

Kelley 1019Kelley 1019 2October 2019 Issue
By Mary Hope Roseneau
Photograpy by Kelley Luikey

Kelley Luikey is a tall, athletic woman, with beautiful long hair. She opens the door to her private paradise in Port Royal with chickens clucking, a dog barking hello, a husband on the way out to do errands, all to the sound of a nearby powerboat in the Port Royal sound.

Kelley is an award winning nature photographer who will be honored next month as “Artist of the Year” for the Port Royal Sound Foundation. Her photos of birds, all shapes and sizes, and nature are in galleries in Bluffton, Beaufort and St. Helena Island. It all started back at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, where she graduated in 1994. There she discovered photography, back when negatives were developed in darkrooms.

After marriage and two babies, Kelley discovered digital photography in 2014 with a basic, entry-level Canon model. She was hooked by digital ease, and the ability to take hundreds of pictures easily. The editing capabilities came later.

Her most famous billboard size art is north of Beaufort, before the Marine Corps Air Station for the Town of Port Royal (“Cool, Coastal, and Far from Ordinary”). It shows a beautiful dolphin playfully standing on top of the water. Her business name is Nature Muse Imagery, and you can find her website, Facebook page, and Instagram account by typing that. On it you will find hundreds of absolutely stunning photographs, and quite a few short videos she has taken of birds, turtles and even a mink. The soundtrack is only what is natural, the birds or animals themselves. It is captivating.

Kelley’s mission is to educate the public about the natural environment and promote the protection of the places where wildlife needs to survive. She does this through beautiful works of art in her photography. The size, framing, and placement of her photos in a person’s home, or office, or even billboard on a highway are very important to her, and she spends a great deal of thought and deliberation with each piece of art.

Kelley has two children; Tristan who is 15 and learning to drive, and Arden, who is 12. Her husband, Rich, is a NetJets pilot, and is responsible for bringing Kelley to Beaufort 13 years ago. They first lived in Habersham, another beautiful spot, rich with animals, plants, birds and water. Three years ago, they purchased their home on the water in Old Port Royal, which is secluded and full of wildlife. Kelley can literally take pictures of these exquisite birds from her back porch.
Kelley 1019 3
Kelley is not a “birder,” but a couple of years ago, she turned those folks on their ears. She was at Bear Island, south of Charleston in the ACE basin, in February, and snapped a picture of a bird that had never been seen on the east coast. It was a Great Kiskadee! This caused birders all over the country to go “a-flutter”, as Island Packet columnist David Lauderdale put it. She shrugs it off that she was just there at the right place and time, shot the picture, and identified the bird… but the sighting spread like wildfire.

Kelley has definite ideas about not disturbing the creatures in their habitat and “calling” the birds out with recordings and other devices to get them to show themselves. She feels this is not the responsible thing for birders and photographers to do, believing it can confuse and hurt the birds. She has a published article in the South Carolina Audubon Journal called “Using Bird Calls Ethically,” which beckons people to reconsider this technique. You can read it at:

Kelley doesn’t make new year resolutions, but she does make birthday goals. Celebrating her 47th birthday this year has Kelley setting some important priorities. She is going to focus on more balance in her life. Her children are growing more independent, and she wants to get back into running and carve out precious family time on weekends apart from her work. She wants to slow down, relax and enjoy the beauty around her. Her business is doing well, and she may possibly open her own gallery. This is a gal who knows what she’s looking for, either behind the lens, or in day-to-day life as a wife and mom. She’s making magic happen. Stay tuned!

Kelley's tips for beginning nature photographer:

What equipment do you need? You really need a zoom lens and will probably buy more zoom lenses. That way you can be very far away and the subject will never see or hear you.

Where do I go?
There are so many great places nearby: ACE Basin, Harbor Island, Pinckney Island, Magnolia Plantation and Port Royal Rookery. You want to find wild, untouchable places as much as possible.

When should I go? Every season of the year has different sights and sounds. The fall season will have many birds migrating through our area. The early morning and early evening are perfect times for the light. The spring has mating season and babies. There will be different opportunities all year round to find something beautiful, and capture it just for the sheer artistry in a bird’s wing, or eyes, or flight in the sky.

Kelley's beautiful artwork can be purchased at Pluff Mudd Art in Bluffton, MacDonald Marketplace in Frogmore or on her website

Main Photo: "Morning Conversation" | Top Left: "Refined Beauty"
Top Right: "Motherhood" | Above: "Glossy Ibis"

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