Dan Shepardson is a Geoenvironmental and Science Education professor at Purdue University. He has over 80 journal publications and his photography has been featured in national magazines, regional publications, local newsletters and is on permanent display at the Lilly Nature Center. His work is also part of the Photos for Health series on display in area hospitals. In his newest work, A Place Called Turkey Run, Dan combines his passion for photography, nature and the environment.
A Place Called Turkey Run: A Celebration of Indiana’s Second State Park in Photographs and Words is an Official Endorsed Legacy Project by Indiana’s Bicentennial Commission. The books captures the park’s striking scenery in hundreds of full-color photos. It takes readers on a vivid journey through the beloved state park during its hundredth anniversary. Learn Shepardson’s motivation and inspiration for the book in our Q&A below.
What inspired your love of nature and photography?
My love of nature and photography may be traced back to my parents. As a kid we would spend time hiking, camping, and fishing and so my parents introduced me and my sister to the natural world. They also bought me a 120 Instamatic camera that I used to take photographs of nature. But it was probably our first family trip to Yellowstone National Park that instilled in me a lifelong interest in nature and nature photography.
What made you want to photograph Turkey Run?
Turkey Run is an amazing state park. Its bluffs and canyons are unique for this part of the country and so it offers the nature photographer and hiker opportunities to see and photograph nature that do not exist in the area.
Why did you decide to create this book? Why did you decide to create it now?
Over the years Turkey Run has provided me with many enjoyable experiences hiking and photographing nature. In 2014 I realized that 2016 was the 100th anniversary of Turkey Run as a state park. I wanted to give something back to the park for all of the experiences it had provided, and I wanted to celebrate its natural history. So I decided to create a photograph and natural history book to honor and celebrate the beauty that is Turkey Run.
How did you decide what to photograph?
Over the years I tried to photograph the more interesting and unique features that make up the geology and ecology (natural history) of Turkey Run. So in a sense, Turkey Run’s scenery determined what I would photograph. Other times I would take trips, hikes, to photograph specific situations or events, such as the Virginia Bluebells in spring and freshly fallen snow in winter.
The book is divided into 6 sections; how did you choose this breakdown?
After randomly looking at several of my thousands of photographs of the park and thinking about my park experiences I quickly identified the six chapters that I felt captured my experiences and the natural history (geology and ecology) of Turkey Run: Sandstone, Bluffs and Canyons, Flowing Water, Snow and Ice, Tall Trees, Flowers, Ferns and Fungi.
Do you have a favorite photo?
I have several. It is difficult to select just one. I like the Chapter 6 cover photo of the trilliums and the photo of the mayapple on page 170. The fogged lens photo of flowing water on page 62. The photo on page 4 contrasts the living and nonliving and the crossbed deposition to today’s sand deposition in the creek below. Just to identify a few.
Is there anything that shocked or surprised you while working on this project?
No, not really. But it is always wonderful to see the spring bloom of wildflowers, the colors of fall, and the snow and ice of winter. I am always astounded by this amazing display of nature. It is always thrilling to see bald eagles soar over Sugar Creek or turkey vultures roosting in tree tops.
What did you learn from this experience?
I guess, what I learned is that Turkey Run is an even more amazing place then I initially realized. The more I experienced and photographed the park over the years the more I came to know and appreciate the natural heritage and beauty that is preserved and protected in the park. Unfortunately, I also learned that people litter. I was stunned by the number of plastic water bottles that are thrown along the side of the trail. It shows no respect for the natural world. It also impairs the experience of other hikers.
Photographing Turkey Run
Enjoy more of Shepardson’s photos as A Place Called Turkey Run becomes available this month. See the beauty of the park up close and personal. Discover Dan’s tips and techniques in the companion book Photographing Turkey Run: A Guide to Nature Photography. It is designed to provide a basic understanding of how to take pictures of nature and improve one’s photographs.