It was a little more than a year ago, in a weekly meeting to discuss online operations, that we kicked around ideas to stimulate traffic with photo galleries and better content packaging. We sought to build something new around high-interest topics that readers would appreciate.
So I raised my hand, and Untamed Lowcountry was born.
I already spent a lot of my weekend time kayaking, hiking and taking photographs. I never really considered the photos publication-worthy -- well, except for Facebook and the personal website I piddle with -- but our publisher, Sara Borton, liked my pictures and thought they would appeal to a wider audience.
Having recently retired my Inside Pages blog, in which I spouted about newspaper- and journalism-related topics, I knew such a venture could be time-consuming. So Untamed Lowcountry would be a bit of a hedge. Instead of producing every post from whole cloth, I would "curate" the blog, posting photos but also bagging up stories about dolphins, turtle nesting and alligator shenanigans -- things we already were writing about. We also would solicit photos from readers, who often sent us wonderful outdoors shots for our Your Photos Your Life feature.
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Yes, I've turned a hobby into part of my job, but buy has it been fun. I’ve traveled all over the Lowcountry in search of wildlife, and readers have taken me to many of the spots I couldn’t hit myself with their submitted photos.
I launched the feature in May 2013 with what seemed an appropriate video, given readers’ unbound fascination with stories about alligators. Joe Maffo of Critter Management dropped by, as he does from time to time, to show us, well, critters he's been called on to manage.
Not long after that, the town of Port Royal held a birthday party for the hatchlings in its Cypress Wetlands ...
... and that was followed with a video about the Fripp Island Turtle Team’s work to relocate nests ...
... which I followed up on later in the summer after the turtles in a relocated nest hatched.
I also was invited to Harbor Island by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources' Al Segars to watch the tagging of horseshoe crabs.
The launch of Untamed Lowcountry roughly coincided with me and my wife's growing interest in birdwatching, so regular readers have no doubt noticed that many of my photo galleries tend to be heavy on feathered creatures. They might also have noticed, I've not posted quite so many galleries in recent weeks because I'm working on a rather ambitious project to identify the Lowcountry's 10 best birding spots and build an interactive graphic to showcase them. (I'm excited to tell you I should be ready to launch that in the next couple of weeks.)
Despite my penchant for birds, I try to mix in an occasional butterfly ...
... or snake ...
... or alligator.
Gotta showcase alligators, right?
Attached is a gallery of what I think are some of the best photos of the year. But I didn't take all of them.
Readers have responded with enthusiasm and generosity. Folks like Karen Marts and David Dahlke of Hilton Head Island, Jean Tanner of Bluffton, and Carl Berube of northern Beaufort County are among many regular contributors to weekly galleries of submitted photos.
Among my favorites are those that show wildlife, well, being wild. It's amazing what animals put in their mouths. Take, for instance, this pelican who took on a big, old redfish in a photo captured by my neighbor and friend Susan Trogdon ...
... or this great blue heron chowing down on a baby gator, sent in by Mike Banino.
Some of the photos make me downright jealous, like this great dolphin moment captured by Berube in the Fripp Inlet ...
... or this longtailed duck, a rare visitor to this area, photographed by Marts at Fort Pulaski near Savannah.
I want to thank some of the people who have become friends of the blog, like Chris Marsh of the LowCountry Institute, who has answered questions for me at several junctures and helped me determine the sites that will be highlighted in the aforementioned birdwatching graphic. Janie Lackman allowed my wife and I to follow her Fripp turtle watchers and is a font of information about the habits of loggerheads. Segars also has been a great help, as has Harbor Island's John Albert, who has given me access to birds such as the reddish egret that I might otherwise not have been able to photograph. Albert's fellow Fripp Island Audubon Club member Charlie Holbrook, one of my wife's co-workers, squired us around Dataw Island for the Christmas Bird Count and led us to an uncommon bird.
I've probably failed to mention many others who have helped get this blog off the ground, and for that I apologize. I won't, however, leave out our readers, who have helped spread the word about Untamed Lowcountry and have contributed their time.
Thanks for your interest and for making this part of my job so much fun.