September 22, 2014

Discovering nature in Southridge meadow

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July 29, 2010

By Greg Duggan
Observer staff

Williston resident Steven Shepard, pictured above, recently self-published a photo and essay book about the natural world near Williston’s Southridge neighborhood.

Many mornings over the past five years, regardless of the season, Southridge neighborhood resident Steven Shepard would wake early in the morning, grab his camera and trek into a field near his home. Shepard would wait in the meadow, letting the day come to life as he observed the nature around him — the birds, the grass, the flowers, the bugs. Then, with his camera, Shepard would snap away.

Other days, Shepard would sit in the meadow at dusk, or well into the night, always observing and taking photographs.

He recently produced the result of those five years of work in a coffee table book of photos and essays entitled “A Year in Southridge Meadow.” Organized by season, the photos range from tiny insects to fungi to snowy fields.

“There’s this incredible awareness of what’s there if you’re willing to look for it,” Shepard said during an interview at the Observer office while flipping through a copy of his book and pointing out pictures of flowers, vines and insects.

Shepard, who calls himself a “frustrated biologist,” has lived in Southridge for 20 years. In the foreword of his book, Shepard writes, “At the bottom of our street is a large open field, common land that is jointly owned by all of the residents of Southridge …. Every chance I have I walk down to the field with my cameras and spend an hour or two photographing the chaos of life that I find there.”

With the book, he said he wants “to give parents and teachers a tool to open children’s eyes to the natural world around them.” He even included a section at the end of the book about activities that will make children more aware of their natural surroundings.

Shepard said he’s talked to Williston Central School teacher Julie Longchamp about using the book in the classroom. She could not be reached for comment.

Yet Shepard said the book can enlighten adults as well, with its aesthetic images and thoughtful essays.

During the years of observing, photographing and writing about Southridge meadow, Shepard said he was surprised by the “immense diversity of insect life” and the amount of activity occurring in the cold winter months.

“People just aren’t aware the stuff is there,” Shepard said.

With his essays, Shepard said he wanted to “reflect the transition that takes place from season to season.”

As founder and president of Shepard Communications Group, Shepard travels internationally for a good portion of the year. He does some commercial photography, and has written dozens of books on communication technology and other aspects of technology. Those books were published by McGraw-Hill. “A Year in Southridge Meadow” is Shepard’s second venture into the world of self-publishing. Because he travels so frequently, Shepard takes many pictures of the places he visits. Approximately two years ago, he used Blurb.com to publish a travel book for his clients.

“A Year in Southridge Meadow” was also published through Blurb. Shepard explained that he chose the layout for the book, which comes in various sizes and prices ranging from $22.95 to $92.95. Shepard said he’ll make $2 on orders of the smaller version of the book, and is selling the large, coffee table version at cost.

“I’m not in it for the money, I’m doing it because it’s a fun project,” Shepard said.

Though the book itself is specific to a certain spot in Williston, Shepard said the same creatures and plants he photographed in Southridge live throughout Vermont.

“A Year in Southridge Meadow” is available online by visiting blurb.com and searching for “Southridge meadow.” Shepard also created a Facebook page for the book called “Southridge Meadow.”

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