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‘Chronicles of a Nature Photographer’

'Chronicles of a Nature Photographer'

Reviewed by Jeffrey Sanzel

In John Hanc’s forward to John P. Cardone’s Chronicles of a Nature Photographer (Waterview Arts), he states the book “reminds us that, just on the other side of the highway, deep in the recesses of, say, one of our magnificent Long Island State Parks, are the streams and brooks, the marshlands and estuaries that still provide a home to birds, animals, plants, flowers.” This beautifully explains Cardone’s celebration of nature in a book that offers his passion in prose and imagery.

Author John P. Cardone

Cardone is a vibrant storyteller with a pastoral bent. He defines “chronicles” as “documenting personal experiences over time in a historical fashion.” But he offers more than just an account, infusing the fifteen chapters with wry observations, wit, and honesty. As a result, his revealing narrative is wholly personal. “Let me start by saying that everything you read here is true and with no exaggeration or embellishment.” 

In the first chapter, Cardone begins with his fascination with the hummingbird. He juxtaposes his struggle with cancer and his journey with stem cell transplant with his desire to photograph these elusive birds. Eventually, with his wife’s help, Cardone builds a hummingbird garden during his recovery (which also coincided with the pandemic). He draws a subtle connection between the opportunity to capture images of these rare creatures and his eventual healing. 

From the very start, Cardone offers a thorough background on his subjects. His knowledge is impressive and seems vast, but he articulates with an accessible and almost conversational tone. He gives enough explanation of his photographic process without overwhelming the reader with technical details. He has ventured out in all weather, in all conditions, capturing a host of animals and settings, fascinated by the range of species, markings, and habitats. 

He makes a strong case for flowers as subjects. “… I can tell you that what photographers generally agree upon is what affects a photograph—and most will say light, color, and composition. With flowers as your subject, you have all of these and more.” Whether the focus or used as a framing border, this chapter contains incredible photographs — all vivid, rich, and colorful.

Of course, the greatest joys of the book are the color photographs, 175 in all, which are elegantly reproduced. A glorious study of an osprey landing on its nest, its wings slightly expanded, sits across from a regal American bald eagle, almost posing for its portrait.

From photographing insects with interesting angles and unusual compositions to vast landscapes and waterscapes, Cardone attains remarkable results. In Chapter 12, “A Bird in the Hand,” he shares personal pictures of his family on a visit to the Elizabeth A. Morton National Wildlife Refuge in Noyac. The final chapter has nearly two dozen glorious photos of wild horses.

‘Chronicles of a Nature Photographer’

The author’s sense of humor permeates the entire text. Whether introducing the white-tailed deer (“Love Them or Leave Them”) or expounding on his love of photographing turtles (an exchange with his four-year-old grandson, Noah, who references Raphael and Leonardo), Cardone finds whimsy and delight in his art and his life. The quests — such as his search for the snowy owl — present both small and big joys, along with surprises. (The day he photographed this particular owl as well as a harbor seal.) 

While the book focuses predominantly on his Long Island experiences, Cardone ventures as far as the Rocky Mountains. He first visited the Rocky Mountain National Park during his military service (1969-70) when stationed at Fort Carson, eight miles from Colorado Springs. He then purchased his first camera and learned how to develop black-and-white film and print with an enlarger. Fifty years later, in April 2017, he returned to the Rocky Mountain National Park, photographing elk, moose, bighorn sheep, screech owls, and a range of scenic views.

There is a certain Zen to Cardone’s approach: “Sometimes, as a nature photographer, I will take a long pause and just soak up the beauty of what I’m seeing. Being in the moment is a mindfulness practice that can help calm you.” This crosses over into his pleasure in the planning of excursions. (Currently, he offers two kayaking tours of Carman’s River: one is a photography tour and the other a naturalist tour.)

Cardone is an artist, a fan, but above all, a teacher. The book reflects someone who stands in awe of nature but embraces its possibilities. He seeks deeper understanding and communicates both the encounters and the underlying zeal. His ultimate goal is to inspire the reader to “put [his] hiking boots on and get out in nature. It’s all there, just waiting for you to visit. And if you are a parent or grandparent, to nudge the children in your life toward loving nature as well.”


A resident of Ronkonkoma, author John P. Cardone is the founder of the Long Island Authors Group, a nature photographer, a wildlife photography instructor, and a lecturer on nature topics. Chronicles of a Nature Photographer is his sixth book and is available online at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. To learn more about John, his books, and his nature work, visit his website at www.WaterviewsBook.com.