Bob Joy’s Frame of Mind

For Vero Beach resident and nature photographer Bob Joy, the best moments in nature occur when things just "click"

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Eagles nest high in a pine tree near U.S. Highway 1, just south of Vero Beach. Photo by Bob Joy
Eagles nest high in a pine tree near U.S. Highway 1, just south of Vero Beach. Photo by Bob Joy

These days, everyone has a camera at his or her fingertips. I sat down recently for a conversation with retired New York architect, Vero Beach resident, and nature photographer Bob Joy.

At Blue Cypress Lake, an osprey alights on a branch with a fish it has caught. Photo by Bob Joy
At Blue Cypress Lake, an osprey alights on a branch with a fish it has caught. Photo by Bob Joy

As part of our April issue, focused on all things green and sustainable, I wanted to share Joy’s perspective with our readers, since he is someone who appreciates everything the outdoors brings to us in Indian River County. And, as he points out, you don’t need the best, most expensive camera setup out there to make beautiful images; you just need the one you have with you.

Get out there and take in everything our area has to offer, photograph the beauty around you, and send postcards to all your favorite friends and family members who wish they were here!

What brought you to Vero Beach?

My parents retired in Ormond Beach, so when my wife and I visited them, we would also come down to see friends in Vero Beach. We liked the small-town atmosphere and the fact that Vero Beach is far enough south to be warm but far enough north to be out of the traffic. We bought a home here in 2008 and became residents when I retired at the end of 2016.

On a foggy morning at Grand Harbor, a single white pelican floats on a lake. Photo by Bob Joy
On a foggy morning at Grand Harbor, a single white pelican floats on a lake. Photo by Bob Joy

When did your interest in outdoor photography begin?

When I applied to architecture school, I was required to submit a portfolio of artwork. I was never very good at sketching, so I included several photographs that I took with my father’s twin-lens reflex camera. I then took several photography courses in college and spent countless hours in the darkroom.

A great egret shows off its full mating plumage at the Stick Marsh north of Fellsmere. Photo by Bob Joy
A great egret shows off its full mating plumage at the Stick Marsh north of Fellsmere. Photo by Bob Joy

We don’t want to give away any secrets, but what is your favorite place to photograph in Indian River County where most people don’t know to go?

It’s not exactly a secret, but the Stick Marsh north of Fellsmere provides incredible opportunities for bird photography. March and April are the best months because the roseate spoonbills and egrets are nesting and nurturing their fledglings. The rookery is on a protected island, so you will need a long telephoto lens or binoculars to see them up close.

But photography doesn’t always require a trip to a destination. There are countless activities and events in Indian River County that are fun to photograph. If you are bored in Vero Beach, you’re just not paying attention.

Sunrise at the Wabasso Bridge, also known as the A.B. Michael Bridge, is a gorgeous sight to see. Photo by Bob Joy
Sunrise at the Wabasso Bridge, also known as the A.B. Michael Bridge, is a gorgeous sight to see. Photo by Bob Joy

What role does patience play in nature photography?

I have often thought that if I ever do a book of my photography, I will call it Waiting for the Light. I captured some of my favorite images by patiently waiting for the sun to break through the clouds. Wildlife photography requires patience, too. Waiting until the split second a bird dives for a fish or takes flight can produce a photo that is a verb instead of a noun.

Roseate spoonbills show off their color while bathing at the Stick Marsh; a limpkin is in the background. Photo by Bob Joy
Roseate spoonbills show off their color while bathing at the Stick Marsh; a limpkin is in the background. Photo by Bob Joy

Do you prefer the predictability of photographing landscapes or the spontaneity of wildlife photography, and why?

Landscapes are definitely easier to capture. You think about the lighting, the composition, and all the technical stuff like aperture and shutter speed. Wildlife photography brings the added dimension of unpredictability. You can go up to Sebastian Inlet on a perfectly glorious day to photograph osprey diving for fish and nothing will be happening. You live for those rare moments when everything comes together and you get that magical shot.

The Stickwork sculptures at McKee Botanical Garden were made by Patrick Dougherty out of willow saplings in 2016 and again in 2020. Photo by Bob Joy
The Stickwork sculptures at McKee Botanical Garden were made by Patrick Dougherty out of willow saplings in 2016 and again in 2020. Photo by Bob Joy

From the looks of your images, you enjoy traveling. Do you have a place in the world that you never tire of photographing? What locations are on your bucket list?

I would rather wake up in Bruges, Belgium than anywhere else on earth. It has beautifully restored medieval buildings and miles of scenic canals populated with white swans. It is sometimes called the “Venice of the North.” Whenever I am there, I get up early to capture the reflections in the early morning light.

Machu Picchu was at the top of my bucket list until I went there in September. The Greek islands, and Santorini in particular, are calling now.

Bob Joy is an avid photographer who enjoys sharing his talent and love of nature with others. Photo by Bob Joy
Bob Joy is an avid photographer who enjoys sharing his talent and love of nature with others. Photo by Bob Joy

What advice do you give to people who don’t know where to start with their interest in photography?

The best camera is the one you have with you. Learn to use the incredible capabilities of your smart phone before investing in expensive camera gear. I’m still figuring it out myself.

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