History of the Heard Nature Photographers Club

The Heard Nature Photographers Club was established in 1981 and has served the nature photography enthusiast ever since.  For an insight into the history of the club we asked two founding members to share their stories about the early years of the club.  (The date these letters were written is unknown. Circa 2008.)

Letter From Ramona Putman

First, I want to say that the Heard Nature Photographers Club has always been dear to my heart.  Nature and photography have brought me much “spiritual joy” through the years.

I have been asked to write the history of the Heard Nature Photographers.  In writing the club history, it is necessary to share how I got into photography, since my photography history and the club history are entwined. The following is really about how the club got started.

I “discovered” photography in early 1981 (might have been late 1980.  It was born out of my need for a hobby that would bring  relief from the stress of a very demanding job.  I first enrolled in 6 golf lessons and decided after 2 lessons that was not what I had in mind!  I quit my golf career.

I had made friends with staff at the Heard Museum and started “hanging around the Heard”.  I subscribed to the Audubon magazine and joined the local Audubon birders group. The magazine included center spreads of beautiful color nature photography. One day, while considering what to do as a fun hobby, I looked at those photos and said to myself  “that’s what I want to do”.

At that time, Heard offered a very basic nature photography class - although I did not yet own a camera, I enrolled in a class beginning in February 1981.  I borrowed my husband’s rangefinder camera and did not have a clue what to do with it, and the instructor was no help..  I did learn a little bit about nature and photo principles. The main thing I learned is I knew I was on the right path.

I finished the class and began the pursuit of a camera. Photography was in its heyday and there were several good camera stores, including one on Greenville named Camera King.  (Camera King also offered a basic photo class which I took).  The salesman tried to save me money and sold me a Fuji.  I got it home and I could not figure out how to look through the view finder - the problem being I am a “left- eyed” shooter.  I called Weldon and told him I had a problem.

He told me the only camera that would accommodate my way of seeing was a Nikon F3.  I had seen Nikon ads in the Audubon magazine stating the Nikon was used in the Space shuttle program.  I figured if it was good enough for the Astronauts, it was good enough for me.  So, I bought my first Nikon, spent a ton of money on lenses and equipment - I knew I wanted to do close up photos. I very soon discovered Canadian photographer Freeman Patterson and soft focus photography.  That was exactly what I was looking for  - I knew that nature and soft focus close up photography would feed my soul.

After purchasing the Nikon camera, I enrolled in the next Heard Nature photo class in 1981. Angie Hayes and Theresa King were also in that class. We had a wonderful time,  got an introduction to nature photography, and became friends.

The Heard Nature Photographers was born

After the class was over, since we had so much fun,  I didn’t want it to end. I discussed my feelings with Harold Laughlin, Museum Director, and suggested they should have an ongoing photography group that met periodically at the Museum.  Harold said he thought that was a good idea - that if I wanted to start such a group, to go ahead and do so.  (I could barely spell “ nature photography” at that time.)

I discussed the idea with the instructor, who didn’t really want to get involved. (Maybe he thought the club would be too much work, or perhaps competition)  He did give me a list of all prior class participants.  I mailed invitations to all those people and asked if they would be interested in participating in a Heard Nature Photographers group.  A few people responded.  The diehards were Theresa King, Nancy Storer, myself, and Angie. Dot McCalpin was one of the former class participants who attended the early meetings.  Dot became very involved and helped the club grow.

We initially met in a small room at the Heard.  In the early days  3 to 5, maybe 10 people would show up.  We started off meeting on the first Saturday, but changed to the 2nd Saturday because the first Saturday was too busy for most people.  We sent questionnaires to find out what people were interested in.  We had “field trips” on the Heard sanctuary property to let people see what a treasure Heard is.  We had field trips to the Harmon satellite sanctuary  near Quinlan.  (Theresa backpacked with her 6 month old baby) We had fun and grew with the help from people who came to us from other Dallas clubs.  At one point, when attendance was low, Theresa  and I  discussed disbanding the group, but decided we would continue even if attendance was small,  because we were having fun at the Saturday Club outings.

Heard Nature Photographers Mission

The mission of the Heard Nature Photographers was always to  have fun “fellowshipping” with people who shared the common interest in nature and photography, to enhance the education  re nature and nature photography, and especially to enjoy and utilize the wonderful privileges of  the Heard sanctuary. The club has stayed true to this mission - while increasing programs, field trips, work shops, and other services.

We gradually grew

The Heard group grew with the  help of key members from other Dallas camera clubs.  Norman Freeman, Sid Rucker, and others brought their experience from the Dallas Camera Club.  Harold Green and Barbara Stone brought their expertise from the North Dallas Camera Club. Harold is still using his talents with the Newsletter. Steve Runnels and others brought help from the Dallas Museum of Natural History club. Also, Harold Laughlin was a tremendous supporter and help.  He had a real interest and talent in photography.  He was the one who started the Heard Photo contest before the club was born.  Other staff members also helped us with programs and ideas.

Our membership grew and we started meeting in the Laughlin Hall.  The Heard Nature Photographers took on two major projects which helped grow the club. Meeting attendance increased to an average of 50 to 80 people.

Heard Nature Photo contest:

Heard had sponsored a nature photo contest for several years before the club was formed.  It was always a lot of work for the museum staff and Harold Laughlin asked the Club to help.  It was very important that the Contest continue to be known as a Heard Museum Nature Photo Contest and not just another Camera club competition. The club took over the work of the contest. The joint effort helped the contest to grow for the Museum and the contest helped the Heard Nature Photographers Club membership to grow.  The club assisted in hosting the annual Contest awards meeting and presentation.

Dallas Photo Festival:

The club also assisted with the Dallas Photo Festival project.  Ramona and Angie attended various Photography workshops conducted by Freeman Patterson in Canada and South Africa. Freeman is one of the best Nature photographers, writer, and teacher, with emphasis on artistic design, seeing, & feelings.   Freeman accepted an invitation to come to Dallas and conduct weekend seminars.  Ramona and others formed a committee to do the work required to host these Seminars.  The Heard Nature Photographers helped with the four seminars that were presented by Patterson (2 times) , John Shaw, and Lisl Dennis.  The publicity and exposure helped the club to grow.

Club Leadership

The club leadership has been consistent through the years with certain key people. (This club never has been the typical camera club with “chairs” of leadership with predicted terms. Leadership was based more on experience. Ramona Putman was president for several years (covering three  different periods)- Dot McCalpin was president for several years. Barbara Stone guided the club for a period.   Rob Hull guided the club in recent years and was instrumental in bringing the club into the “digital” age. Harold Green has been the editor for many years.

The club is now entering a new period with Jim Ross.  This promises to bring new and exciting programs and services to this wonderful group. 

Privilege of the Heard

Having a photography group at the Heard Museum and sanctuary is truly a special privilege.  Where else can a photographer have access to 300+ acres of natural area in safety with a beautiful meeting place and access to solitude, birds, flowers, trails, animals, etc.  -   Please continue to enjoy and appreciate this privilege. A wonderful place “TO FEED THE SOUL”.

Letter From Theresa King

I have been checking some old photos and trying to jog my memory about the early beginnings of the club, and it is still pretty foggy.  I wish I could get with Ramona.  I think if we fed off each other, more details would surface.  It was the summer of 1981 (Aug. I think) that Heard had their first Nature Photo Class. Ramona and I met in that class.  I still have some of the slides shot at that time.  We began meeting shortly after that.

I had Joshua Sept. 26. I can't remember if we started meeting just before, or just after I had him.  We met in a small room at Heard.  I think Nancy Storer was one of the early members.  Most of the time there were only 3-5 people who showed up.  Sometimes Ramona and I were the only ones and we talked of disbanding the club, but we enjoyed being together and decided even if it was just us we would keep it up.

We began meeting on the 3rd Sat. but it often conflicted with holidays - Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. - so early on we changed the meeting day. The first Sat. seemed busy for most so we chose the 2nd Sat.  We began meeting at 1:00 at first, but for those who didn't live near Heard it was better to come at 1:30, so the time was set for then.  

I can't remember when you [Harold Green], Angie, and the Rucker's began coming, but our first Field Trip was to the Harmon wildlife sanctuary in Quinlan.  Were you there?  We went at the end of March or beginning of April because Joshua was 6 mo. old and I backpacked him around the sanctuary as we were taking pictures. I still have some of the slides.  I wish I had one of Joshua and I.  Other members took photos of us, but I didn't get one.  I cannot remember the first name of the Harmon's, but they were associated with the museum at that time, they may still be.  The club began to grow more after the about the first 2 years - if I remember correctly.  At first we just called members to remind them of meetings, then we began mailing postcards. After awhile we began collecting .25 from members who were at each meeting to pay for the next mailing.

We started a small newsletter.  I wrote the newsletter and Ramona was the president for years.  I don't remember when we decided it was time to pass the baton, and I don't remember who was president after Ramona, I just remember you took over the newsletter - you have done a really great job with the newsletter.  I appreciate you still sending it to me.  I do hope one day to come back to the club.  My mom lives in Dallas and at 83, although she still gets around with a walker and is in good health, she doesn't drive anymore.  I usually spend my Saturdays with her.  I don't
photograph much anymore other than documenting family get-togethers and vacations.  I do still do a small wedding every once in awhile for families and friends.  I still shoot with my 2 Canon FTB's.  They still take great pictures.

I know this e-mail is long, but it has been kind of fun going down memory lane. We had a lot of fun together in the early days of the club.