Studio Visit: Dave Stone
Studio Visit is a Q&A with a local artist. Here, a chat with Dave Stone, president of the Champaign County Camera Club, author of the blog Things Biological and head of the biology department at University Laboratory High School.
Q: How long have you been president of the Champaign County Camera Club?
A: This will be my sixth year. The club is essentially a group of people, including a lot from outside Champaign County, who are hobbyist photographers. It's a great place to learn all sorts of different things regarding photography.
There are people who are great with equipment. There are people great with lighting. There are people great with the post-processing. It's a very cordial group, and I find it's a great place to consistently up my game regarding my own photography, and I'm so impressed with what I see many of the other people produce.
Q: I assume everyone works digitally? Did you ever do film?
A: Yes, everybody does digital. No, I'm a newbie to photography.
Q: When did you start?
A: I started after a group of Uni students purchased a Nikon D50 body, with no lens, for me in 2008 after we won the national ExploraVision science competition. They had a sense that the DSLR camera would allow me to do things I couldn't do otherwise, so I bought a couple of lenses.
The following year, another Uni team won the same competition and again, their families pitched in and gave me a macro lens. So I started doing insect macro-photography during the summers.
Then I did a one-hour workshop with insect photographer Alex Wild, offered by the UI entomology department during National Pollinator Week. That got me hooked on insect macro-photography.
Then I joined the Champaign County Camera Club. I started taking pictures more often, kept working on my technique during the winter and then in the summer became involved in the National Writing Project, a four-week writing workshop for teachers.
One of the things we did was write a blog. Mine's called Things Biological; I still write it and post with it various pictures I've taken.
Then I went to another insect photography workshop just outside of St. Louis — BugShot, once again Alex Wild's brainchild. I met a lot of people through that also.
The macro-photography and blog have been really useful to me, both personally and professionally. I've done some writing on the side for various organizations.
I'm a big fan of WordPress (software used to create websites and blogs). The nice thing about it is I can look up articles and images using their search engine.
Beyond that, Google also does searches using WordPress entries so some of the pictures I've taken have been used in nature brochures. I had a picture appear last year in a French conservation magazine and some photos this spring in an Australian science magazine. A number of zoos also are using my photographs.
Q: Are you getting paid?
A: I worked out a contract with the Australian magazine but at the end decided I didn't want to take that step at this point.
I would like to continue supporting conservation and environmental organizations with my photography, if that's of value to them. I'm an amateur photographer at this point.
I'm also writing for answers.com for its insect section and I am paid for that. I decided I wanted to deal with just one supplemental paid opportunity at this time.
Q: Have you entered your photographs in competitions?
A: I have, and I've done well. The things I've entered have been national insect photography salons. And I won a $200 prize in the American Tarantula Society photo competition.
I attribute a lot of my success to the Champaign County Camera Club because we critique each other's work and they're an incredibly talented bunch of people.
Q: What do you take photos of besides insects?
A: I do other organisms as well. I'm kind of expanding my repertoire but my real interest is nature photography. Recently, I've been taking pictures in a pond just off the side of our property of frogs and toads at night when they come out to breed.
Q: Your photographs, especially of the insects and frogs, are amazingly well-focused. Do you use a tripod?
A: Like most other arthropod photographers, I shoot strictly handheld. You can't shake!
Q: You take a lot of nice photographs of your dogs too.
A: I take some of my dogs. Several years ago, before I got into photography, I was videotaping our border collies and mixed-breeds in agility. In agility trials everything goes so quickly you really can't see what's going on. I shot video because it allowed me to see things I couldn't see without the technology.
Q: Sorry about Ringer. (His border collie who recently died, at age 14.) Didn't you run Ringer in the flyball demos at halftime at U I basketball games?
A: We just loved Ringer, who was one of my perfect dogs. My son, Ethan, ran him in flyball — Ringer was my agility buddy. My wife, Miriam, ran Sunny, our little Chihuahua, in flyball at the basketball games and people just loved that.
That was years ago. Our flyball team doesn't exist anymore; our dogs started aging out.
Q: Aren't you heavily involved with the Dog Training Club of Champaign-Urbana too?
A: We're members but I've been busy doing other stuff. Miriam, who just retired, will be plunging back in.
Q: How long have you been at Uni?
A: I'll be starting my 31st year in the fall. I am the biology department. I teach freshman-level biology. I also teach an upper-level field biology class and an upper-level genetics class.
Q: Was Uni your first job out of college?
A: Yes. In terms of my pedigree, my bachelor's degree is in biology from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. My graduate degrees are both from the UI, in entomology and curriculum, technology and education reform.
Q: Do you like teaching at Uni?
A: I love teaching at Uni. I love the kids. I love my colleagues. I love the freedom I have as a teacher.
It's a job that allows me to pursue new things occasionally in science as well as my own interests in science, and the kids are always glad to go along on the journey.
For information about the Champaign County Camera Club, visit champaigncountycameraclub.org/.