Columbia nature photographer's work reflects her biology, botany background

Friday, September 9, 2011 | 9:22 p.m. CDT; updated 11:19 a.m. CDT, Saturday, September 10, 2011
Annette Sanders shoots a photo off the edge of a bridge along the Katy Trail. Sanders has been coming to the bridge repeatedly to photograph the changes of the season.

COLUMBIA — Coming face-to-face with a snapping turtle or preying mantis might seem like a nightmare to some, but for Annette Sanders, 65, it's a great photo opportunity.

This photo enthusiast can often be found out on Columbia's trails getting up close and personal with her subjects — often nature's creepy crawlies. Sanders carries her Fujifilm Finepix with her everywhere, just in case a great shot comes along.


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Sanders' interest in photography began about five or six years ago, she said, when she first got a digital camera.

"I was hooked and I've been doing it ever since as a hobby," Sanders said. "I love seeing the beauty of nature and being able to have it, take it home, look at it and share it with other people."

This Lake Charles, La., native earned a bachelor's degree in biology from McNeese State, a master's degree in botany from the University of Massachusetts and both a master's degree in science education and a doctorate in instructional media from MU.

"I've always had a love of the outdoors," Sanders said. "It's nice because I have the biology and botany background, and the educational Ph.D. taught me a lot about composition and visuals, so I've kind of put those all together."

After receiving her doctorate, Sanders worked in MU's Agricultural Editors Office, where she learned to write press releases and began taking pictures of people, awards and events at the university. Sanders was owner and president of Sanders Public Relations and Training in Columbia before she retired.

"When I finally retired, I said no more people pictures," Sanders said, laughing.

While Sanders enjoys walking the trails of Columbia's parks, she also looks for less expected places to photograph wildlife.

"One of the places that is often overlooked are the stores, like fast food places in shopping centers that have lights that will draw in small insects," Sanders said. "Sometimes the bigger predator insects will come in and eat them, and early in the morning before it warms up, they may not have left. I have gotten some great pictures of moths and other big bugs that were sitting there when I would go out for breakfast somewhere."

The photographer recalls one of her fonder memories of interacting with her wildlife subjects: finding a butterfly she'd never seen before.

Sanders said she felt it tickle her left hand, where the butterfly had landed. She moved her camera away and took her shot.

"I focused on it and got an extreme close-up of it on my hand," she said. "It was really gorgeous — you can see its eyes and the scales on it and everything.

"Those kinds of memories are the things that stay with you if you love nature."

Sanders also described an encounter with a preying mantis.

"I kept picking her up and moving her, and she kept stabbing me with her big thorny claw," she said. "I'm lying down in the grass, and just as I was ready and focused and clicked, it attacked my camera. I got a picture of her claw coming at the lens."

Another time, she recalls, she was hunting for the perfect shot and ended up becoming the hunted.

"I was taking a picture of a red-tailed hawk. It kept wanting to land in the trees and it was hunting," she said. "I kept chasing it from tree to tree, and I think it finally got tired and came to attack and swooped right at me. I got a picture of it coming right at me, right in front of my camera.

"Those are just some of the things that can happen."

Sanders doesn't focus only on insects and animals. During the Salute to Veterans Memorial Day Weekend Airshow, she had the chance to photograph the Canadian Forces Parachute Team, the SkyHawks, as they jumped out of an airplane.

"I didn’t jump with one of them, but they put me on a harness and let me lean out the back and take pictures of them as they were jumping," she said. "I’m afraid of heights and I don’t care to fly a whole lot, but I had a ball. That was a neat photo adventure."

Sanders is beginning to consider selling her prints, but will not set up a website. "I’d like to keep this as a hobby and more as a one-on-one personal interaction with people."

Many of Sanders’ photos hang in the Focus on Health Chiropractic office in The Village of Cherry Hill. Sanders first met the office manager, Krista Kippenberger, at the 2011 Columbia Business Expo. The chiropractic office had previously displayed other artists’ work, and Kippenberger agreed to hang some of Sanders' photos in the office. 

"It’s been a fun, rewarding hobby and I would love for anybody who’s interested to go by and see the collection of things I have at Cherry Hill," Sanders said."I have a phone number there for those that are interested in the photos or anything about it like going on hikes or shoots. That would be wonderful, I’d love to get a small group together."

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