Brighton photographer Jim Ridley rarely goes anywhere without his camera. Since the nature lover spends most days in local parks, it's no wonder many of his photos celebrate the great outdoors.
Ridley's nature and wildlife photography is racking up an online fan base, publishing credits and critical acclaim. Most recently, he scored a first place win in the Huron-Clinton Metroparks/West Oakland Camera Club’s 2010 Nature Photography Contest, for his photo of a mother and son racing down a sled hill at Kensington.
Ridley and other contest winners will be recognized at the West Oakland Camera Club meeting on Thursday.
Ridley, 59, retired after 35 years at Ford Motor Co., and has built a second career as a professional photographer, shooting senior portraits, wedding, maternity, family and sports photos in addition to nature shots. His love for photography began early, he said.
"My dad kind of started me. He used to have a 35 mm. Watching him, it made you want a camera," Ridley said. "In 1980, my wife, Maryann, bought me my first 35 mm."
Ridley has since graduated to a Nikon D3, and has mastered the strong, steady hand it takes to wield a 500 mm lens without a tripod.
"A lot of people can't do that. It's a real heavy lens," Ridley said.
Using that and other Nikon lenses, Ridley has built an impressive portfolio of breathtaking images of wildlife, from waterfowl and game to small birds and tiny insects.
The images reveal Michigan's wildlife in remarkable detail and color, and capture the expressions and unseen lives of animals in our own backyard.
Building a Fan Base
Ridley's flickr galleries attract thousands of views, and hundreds of positive comments from fellow wildlife photographers and fans. In addition to acclaim, his work has been featured in nature publications and honored with prizes.
Ridley's capture of an Eastern Massasauga Rattler, the only rattlesnake found in Michigan, appears in A Guide to the Rattlesnakes of the United States (2009). His photo of two blue jays sparring was just published in National Geographic Backyard Guide to the Birds of North America.
This week, Ridley received notice that one of his red-tailed hawk photos won second place in the raptor division of the Atlanta Audobon Society 2011 Photography Contest.
And, for the second year in a row, one of his images will be featured in the Nature Conservancy's annual calendar; his photo of a frog marks the month of July.
Metroparks Photo Contest
Ridley takes most of his shots at Kensington Metropark, which he has frequented since moving to Brighton in 1990.
"I love the Metroparks," Ridley said. "I've always liked the outdoors."
Denise Semion, spokesperson for Huron-Clinton Metroparks, said judges selected Ridley's "fun, wintry image of a day on the sledding hills" for first prize in the adult recreation/education category of the 2010 Nature Photography Contest.
"We are fortunate to have this Brighton resident at our parks," Semion said. "He takes beautiful photos."
Ridley's prize image, along with other contest winners, will be displayed at Metropark interpretive centers and can be seen at http://www.metroparks.com. Ridley's photos can also be found on his website, http://www.jimridleyphotography.com, and at Wildernest in downtown Brighton.