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Nature Photographer Larry Stone


Larry Stone says he's been taking pictures for over 50 years.  If his name sounds familiar it's probably because for half of those years he was shooting photographs and writing articles for the Des Moines Register about the wonders and issues facing Iowa's outdoor environment.  

Larry Stone: Which was the best job in the world.  I really enjoyed that.  Got to see a lot of the state of Iowa and meeting a lot of people in natural areas.  I didn't pretend to be the expert.  I was getting other people to tell me the stories of Iowa and conservation and nature.

Larry believes he wrote over 3,000 articles during his 25 years with the Des Moines Register.  Since he retired from the paper in 1997 he has written five books. The first book he wrote, Listen to the Land, is a collection of stories he wrote for the paper that were personal reflections of the beauty he has found throughout the Iowa landscape.

Stone: I chose that title -- listen doesn't have to be just with your ears, I guess, you can taste, hear, see, smell, experience the land and you can call that listening, I guess.  That was kind of the idea behind that title.

Two of the books Larry has written were co-authored with ornithologist and long-time friend, Jon Stravers.  They are tributes to two of the state's most recognized and respected naturalists, Sylvan Runkel and Gladys Black.  

Stone: Sylvan and Gladys were both kind of characters.  Gladys was a character in her own right.  She started educating people and education was her big thing, teaching people about birds.

Gladys Black: In the little abdomen you can see the little, the intestines and everything.

Stone: And I think she probably did more to get more Iowa people interested in birds than any other one person ever could have.

Sylvan Runkel: This is, some people call it niche weed, some people call it a nettle.

Stone: Sylvan was a little bit more laid back or subtle in his mission.  He was always happy to go give a talk to anybody who was willing to have him.  He delighted in talking about -- especially about wildflowers.  That was kind of his field of expertise.  So he was kind of Iowa's premier naturalist.

Larry grew up on a farm in Warren County.  Even while doing chores he says there were constant opportunities to observe and appreciate nature's wonders.

Stone: Whether feeding the cattle or something as unglamorous as hauling manure out to the field, you know, there would be birds to see or sometimes wildlife around.  So a lot of things to do on the farm, you know, pick wild plums, pick wild grapes and pick wild strawberries and just the opportunities that I had, not enough kids have an opportunity to do now.

Larry has spent his life planting seeds he hoped would grow into an appreciation of the state's prairies, woodlands and waterways.  Nowadays, as a member of the Clayton County Conservation Board, he works to protect those resources.

Stone: Our board, one of our primary focuses and missions is the conservation education and awareness, make people appreciate and protect what we do have.  That is our future when you get right down to it.  If the kids of the future are going to have any place to enjoy or to fish or to swim or canoe we've got to take care of what we've got now because we seem to keep losing it.

And as papa Larry, he spends a lot of time nurturing a respect for Iowa's natural environment in his grandchildren.  He does it in part by sharing with them what he knows about photography.  But the camera is just one of the many tools he uses to expose them to the wonders of nature.

Stone: You know, it's a cliché but kids don't play in the dirt enough any more and if you're going to take care of the planet you've got to have an appreciation for it and get your fingers dirty.  I hope -- are we accomplishing getting your fingers dirty?  I hope so.

I think so.

Stone: I hope so.  I hope so.

Stone: We've got to climb trees, we've got to pick up acorns, we've got to look for snails and watching birds and a lot of things to do besides take pictures.  It's good for me because I sometimes get too focused on only this flower or this image and I forget about the things around me.  So when I have the grandkids along that helps me appreciate the other things too.

Stone: I'll tell you what, I had the best job in the world for 25 years at the Des Moines Register.  And I still have got the best job in the world.  You know, when you can go out any time you want to and photograph outdoors with the kids that's hard to beat.

That wraps up this edition of Iowa Outdoors.  We hope we've given you some ideas of places to explore with our family this summer.

For a complete list of all the state parks in Iowa go to iowadnr.gov or check out any of our past episodes at iptv.org/iowaoutdoors.  

We'll leave you with some images of summer in Iowa.

Funding for Iowa Outdoors was provided through a REAP conservation education program grant.  Up to $350,000 are available annually to support educational projects about Iowa's natural resources.  Information is available at www.iowadnr.gov.  The Gilchrist Foundation -- founded by Jocelyn Gilchrist -- furthering the philanthropic interest of the Gilchrist family in wildlife and conservation, medical care and social services, the arts and public broadcasting and disaster relief.  

Many of Iowa's natural wonders you'll find on IPTV can be found in Iowa Outdoors magazine, the Iowa DNR's premiere resource for conservation, education and recreation activities.  Subscription information can be found online at iowadnr.gov.


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