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Caldwellian Janet Markman’s Hobby is for the Birds

Award-winning nature photographer holds exhibit at West Caldwell Public Library.

The "Official Photographer" for the Borough of Caldwell returns with a new exhibit,"New Jersey’s Wild Winged Wonders," which features a diverse cast of characters—from a Goldfinch to a Killdeer to a Red Admiral butterfly. The first-prize winner in last year’s Essex County nature photography contest, her work is on display during the month of May at the .

How did you get into nature photography?

I have two parakeets, Hasbro and Freckles. We adopted Hasbro as a stray in 2004, then got Freckles a few months later. It’s hard to believe we’ve had them this long. Time really flies (no pun intended).

After adopting the birds, I found I really enjoyed their antics so I joined the Montclair Bird Club, and began going on bird walks. Then I started to photograph the birds while out in the wild.

How often do you go bird watching?

I try to get out at least once a week if not more. This week I’ll get out a few times, but other weeks, not as much as I’d like. The more, the better: Sometimes I see nothing and other times, the whole world unfolds in front of you. Ask any birdwatcher. You can’t always predict. Some days nothing, others are unbelievable.

Every Wednesday, I go on warbler walks with the Montclair Bird Club at Garret Mountain in Woodland Park. Garret Mountain is what’s called a migrant trap. So is Central Park in New York City. It’s a wonderful place to see a variety of birds. I also go on walks with the Essex County Environmental Center in Roseland and the of West Caldwell.

Do you prefer group outings over solo ones?

I like both. Sometimes solo walks are easier for photographing birds. It’s hard if you want to stay in one place and the group wants to move. I like to stay still, so the birds come around. And they do. They get used to people. Garret Mountain, for example, is a big destination at this time of year for people who watch birds. But what’s great is the migrant birds get used to people and do get close.

Is now your “busy season” for photography?

Right now is the peak of migration. It’s slow in the summer. A lot of birds come through April to the end of May. Some birds you only get a week or two to see them. For example, the Pine Warbler, you see for a few weeks in April and then again when they come back in the fall. Some of the warblers do nest around here, but some go to Canada.

Where else do you shoot?

I go to Becker Farm tract, off Eagle Rock Avenue. Also, the Hatfield Swamp and Hilltop, though it’s made me sad that a large portion has been developed. It was a good habitat and I feel a good birding area was lost. The Hilltop Conservancy is really trying to keep part of it, but it’s really shrunk in size.

What do you hope people see in your work?

I like the reaction when people see my pictures and realize these birds and animals are right in our back yard. We have this beauty and I hope we can conserve it.

Your hobby is so relaxing, what do you do to unwind?

On bird walks, or nature walks, it’s an added bonus to have the camera. I use the walks to de-stress. I walk through Hatfield Swamp or Garret Mountain—I don’t see a lot of people. I feel like I’m in another world, it's so refreshing.

What’s next for you?

I’ll be at this weekend. I’m selling the same photographs that are on exhibit at the West Caldwell Public Library. Also, I’ll have matted, unframed photos from last year’s exhibit, "Birds Behaving Boldly," available for purchase.

Five facts:

Age: 50

Medium: Photography

Amateur or Professional: Amateur

Training: Self-taught

Inspiration: I want to see the beauty in everything and share it with others.

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