Neighbors: Photographer Caruthers doesn’t find sharing her vision half the fun – Jacksonville Journal-Courier | Episode Movies

If you enjoy the beautiful nature photographs that regularly grace the back cover of the Journal-Courier, they’re often the work of Waverly-based Kathy Caruthers.

“It makes me happy to hear that people are looking forward to my pictures in the newspaper, so I just pass them along,” said Caruthers. “I take one of my cameras with me almost everywhere. If you see a car parked at the side of the road with its hazard lights on when someone with a camera is nearby, it’s probably me.”

Caruthers has no formal photography training and has only been shooting seriously for 10 years. She admits that photography wasn’t a passion until recently.

“I never took photos when my daughter was little. Her third and fourth birthdays were on the same roll of film,” Caruthers said. It’s different now with her two grandchildren who live 2 miles away and “were photographed a lot when they were younger but now they avoid me”.

Caruthers’ family moved to Waverly when she was 3 and her father ran a clothing store there. Caruthers worked there until the store closed, then went to Jacksonville Memorial Hospital—then known as the Passavant Area Hospital—as an emergency room clerk. She retired from the job about four years ago after a 30-year career.

Caruthers caught photography fever in the hospital.

“I had a friend who worked in the ER who was interested in photography, and I liked what she did,” Caruthers said. “So that’s how I started about 10 years ago.”

Shortly after Caruthers got serious about photography, she took an Alaskan cruise. Carnival Cruises’ lead photographer was on the ship conducting a seminar.

“The guy told us to go out at the weekend and bring three pictures and then we’d do a competition,” Caruthers said. “Well, all three of my paintings won, including first prize.”

Caruthers joined the Jacksonville Camera Club and exhibited her work at the club’s shows and occasionally sold some prints. She has been asked to donate her work to charity auctions and has won honorable mention awards in the photography category at the Illinois State Fair.

But if you want to see Caruthers’ work, the best place to find her is on Facebook and the back cover of the Journal-Courier.

“I saved every newspaper that had one of my pictures on it. I have a deep stack, probably over 200,” Caruthers said. “If I photograph something good, I’ll go straight home, put it on my computer and send it to the Journal courier or put it on Facebook.”

“People have said that I have the ‘eye’. That’s where you can see things and know what a picture is going to look like,” Caruthers said. “My husband says I see life through an 8×10 picture frame. I imagine things when I see them.”

Caruthers’ favorites are nature, moon, sunrise and sunset photography. Her 45-year-old husband, Wesley, last year built a tree house on their 37 acres south of Waverly so Caruthers can photograph the wild turkeys, deer, mink, marmots and birds that frequent the wooded property.

“I’ve been photographing a barred owl on our property for over 10 years,” said Caruthers. “It’s so used to me that it lets me get really close. She had a baby this year and I’ve watched the baby grow. It’s so cool.”

Caruthers also enjoys photographing old barns with character, around-the-bend shots showing winding roads, close-ups of flowers and bald eagles along the Illinois and Mississippi rivers.

How about pictures of people?

“I don’t really like portraits and people. I’ve taken people as favors for older pictures,” Caruthers said. “I would never do a wedding, it’s too much pressure for me.”

Caruthers began her photography passion by shooting with film and eventually transitioned to digital, but it wasn’t an easy transition.

“I took back the first digital camera I bought. I was so used to shooting on film that I had a hard time shooting digital,” said Caruthers. “A bit later I bought another one and I really like digital now, I don’t know how people film anymore.”

Caruthers has only met one famous photographer, Clyde Butcher, a Florida resident who many compare to legendary landscape photographer Ansel Adams.

“My grandparents lived in South Florida and Clyde bought a property near theirs. I would go down there and have my picture taken with him and have him sign things for me,” Caruthers said. “He let me go back to his property and shoot alligator shots without a fence or anything.”

Caruthers wants to return to Alaska to take more photos and also wants to photograph the trees in Colorado. Her cousin lives in Oslo, Norway, and Caruthers wants to return there to take more photos. One of her photographic “bucket lists” is to capture a shot of an airplane cruising in front of a full moon.

When not busy photographing the outdoors or her grandchildren’s activities, Caruthers enjoys reading, baking, and collecting vintage hair receivers, hornets’ nests, and White Hall pottery. She would like to take some photography classes in the future and has some advice for anyone like herself who has thought about getting into photography.

“Buy a good all-round camera and just shoot. In the digital world, you can erase,” Caruthers said while capturing a scene with her $3,600 Nikon SLR outfit with a long zoom lens. “It’s expensive but worth it if you like it.”

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