By Sally Haynes
Special to the Rappahannock News
“Birds are beautiful and they fly!” exclaims Rappahannock County photographer Francie Schroeder. “How could I not be enchanted?”
Schroeder admits that she was more interested in toasting marshmallows than spotting a confusing fall warbler as a child on family bird-watching picnics, but something must have taken root for she has become an enthusiastic bird photographer who gravitates toward wildlife refuges while on vacation.
“My cameras now ride in my lap or on the passenger seat as I travel,” she says.
For years the avid photographer simply enjoyed photographing the birds without considering them as a group. This spring, sorting through her saved images she realized she had a collection worth sharing and proceeded to print her favorites for “Birds,” which opened July 1 in the upstairs gallery of Griffin Tavern in Flint Hill.
Schroeder elaborates, “I took all these images with hand-held cameras. I usually carry a tripod but rarely use it. Frequently I shoot with zoom lenses up to 300 or 400 mm. I am also drawn to the larger landscape in which the birds exist. These expansive spaces say a lot about the lives of the individual species and their connections to local environments.”
It’s not surprising to learn that Schroeder is a fan of conservation photographers whose ethic goes beyond creating beautiful images to expanding awareness of the importance of each animal to the environment. She points out that beyond being beautiful, birds gobble up tons of insects, sparing crops and limiting the spread of diseases. They feast on carrion, helping to keep our world sanitary, and disperse seeds ensuring the continued growth of many plant species. They are also “canaries in the coal mines,” the quintessential indicators of toxicity in the environment.
“Birds” will be displayed at Griffin Tavern through the end of August. Schroeder will be in the gallery July 13 from 3:30 to 6:30 to meet visitors and talk about her work. Additional images are displayed in the Old Rag Gallery at Glassworks Gallery in Sperryville.
When not working on her photo collection, Schroeder helps husband Henry Eastwood with their collection of trees at Eastwoods Nursery in Washington.