- Associated Press - Sunday, February 9, 2014

MARTINSBURG, Ill. (AP) - Pittsfield High School driver’s ed teacher Jeff Ruzicka has been known to snap a few photos for his classroom over the years.

“I’ve taken pictures of how the roads look in icy stuff that I use to demonstrate what winter driving looks like,” Ruzicka said. “I’ve sent other teachers pictures to use in their classroom as demonstration.”

But photography’s become more of a hobby, and a way to fill time, in the past year for Ruzicka.

“When my wife passed, I needed something to do to keep busy,” he said. “I took a couple of pictures with a little camera and thought they look pretty good.”

He tried taking similar photos with a bigger camera, and soon he was hooked on documenting eagles, deer and other outdoor-themed subjects with his lens.

“I don’t really do families and pictures like that. People are too critical about how they look,” Ruzicka said.

An avid hunter, Ruzicka always enjoyed the outdoors. Now he hunts with his lens, looking for the perfect shot.

“It’s just being there at the right time,” he said. “I carry a camera all the time. You never know when you’ll have the opportunity to take a picture.”

He talks about shooting eagle photos south of Pleasant Hill hoping to end up with something he liked.

“When I developed all the stuff, I had a young soaring eagle with a full moon in the background. That was my first picture that really got me going,” he said.

He’s developing an artist’s eye for the work, trying to see, and capture, what others don’t.

“My sister is a really good artist. I followed her footsteps,” he said. “I have smart friends who are really good artists who helped me develop how to place the object in the picture so it draws people in.”

It’s still a learning process for Ruzicka.

“I’m still developing my skills on how to take them, how to manipulate the camera, where I want the main object,” he said. “I might take 100 photos, and out of 100, find five good quality.”

Editing is key to creating the photos he wants.

“You get a raw picture, and it may not look like anything until you go in there and move it around, place it where it belongs,” he said. “I put it aside, come back to it.”

Ruzicka takes most of his photos on the weekends, often framing shots of something spotted earlier in the week.

“One morning I might drive around on the way to school in the country looking for things, or I’ll put the dog in the back of the pickup and go around the countryside looking for things,” he said. “Maybe in the driver’s ed car, I’ll notice things that would be a nice picture.”

The area’s wildlife, especially the large numbers of eagles, also provides plenty of opportunity.

“I did get one of a young eagle that caught a fish and bald eagle was trying to take it away,” he said. “I’d like to get two bald eagles doing that.”

Ruzicka said it’s fun to see what he comes up with from hours spent outdoors.

“Pike County has got a lot of wilderness out here. It’s unlimited what you can find. I have nice fall pictures, winter pictures,” he said. “You’ve got to go out when there’s opportunity — nice sunrises, sunsets. The one big snow with the snow on the trees, I was out there pushing snow and taking pictures.”


Source: The Quincy Herald-Whig, https://bit.ly/1b6jmqA

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