For Jeffery Davis of Figure Eight Island, photography is not a hobby but a religion. It brings him peace and hope.
Four years ago, Davis’ doctor advised that he find a way to relax, to ease the frantic pace of his worldwide business of manufacturing and distributing columns and related architecture products.
Davis, 52, said he tried golf but found it too much like work. Then he bought a camera and his life has never been the same.
“The pace of my daily schedule is fast with the only other option being faster,” he says on his website. “It was not until I purchased a Canon Rebel that I realized some of the most beautiful images can only be captured with both patience and an unhurried concentration…Photography allows me the opportunity to take a step back from the mundane and capture natural beauty that can only be seen below the surface.”
Without any formal training, Davis has shot thousands of frames and produced four volumes of wildlife and landscape images found on the island, which is north of Wilmington. Many of the photographs were captured in the front or back yard of his home, perched on the tip of the island overlooking a sound between the Inland Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean.
Shooting people is not for Davis because people pose. He seeks the character of wildlife. He prefers to be hunkered down in the marsh grass armed with a telephoto lens set on automatic focus, shooting dozens of frames per minute of his subjects – a skimmer sliding along the ebb tide, its beak barely touching the water; a sleeping pelican five feet away; an oyster catcher bopping across the wet sand in search of breakfast; a pair of doves snuggling.
No phones ring, no deals are made. There’s nothing but a man alone and at peace, ensconced in the natural world.
You won’t catch Davis without his camera. He learned early on that he would miss the best shots when he left his gear at home.
“I did go to a wedding recently without my camera, but it was close by in my car,” he said. “You never know when something might happen. I’ve ruined many a pair of shoes slogging through a marsh after a bird.”
Ninety percent of Davis’ photos are of landscapes and wildlife. He also shoots architectural elements that may become a new product for his business.
In 1987, when Davis was 26, he poured his savings along with funds from his parents and brother into a fledgling business. Within a year be bought out his family’s interest. Since then, the enterprise has grown to offer thousands of products and employ 700 workers.
Davis shares his four-story home filled with antiques and art with three golden poodles and his 5-year-old niece and 8-year-old nephew. He took over their guardianship in October.
His advice to budding photographers is to always have the camera handy and to shoot hundreds of frames “of every thing you see.
“Of course you’ve got to hold the camera still and have good lenses,” he said. “The more you shoot, the better you will get. You’ll learn what works.”
Davis, who never trashes an image, has accumulated 750,000 photos on his server. On a recent weeklong trip with friends he clicked off 5,000 frames. His primary lenses are a 55 mm and telephoto 100 to 400 mm.
Davis’s favorite shooting times are early morning and late afternoon when the best light is available. His prints are for sale and displayed at art shows, but he says, “photography is something I do for myself and the joy of it, the quiet time for me…”
Davis works at it daily. He looks for dolphins playing in the waves, dual flying skimmers, the motion of the ocean, the synchronization of multiple flying birds, the spontaneity of any animal.
His mantra of sorts is a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience.”
How would Davis endure life without photography?
“I’d take up drinking,” he joked. “I can’t imagine that happening. I love to be outside with nature too much, the clouds, the storms, I like it all. There is so much to shoot, I’ll never be bored.”