Local photographer's talent takes her across the globe

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Holly Horner of Egg Harbor Township

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP – Just last November, nature and wildlife photographer Holly Horner was chased by a polar bear down a dirt road in the Artic as she drove a small rented pickup truck in reverse to escape. “One swipe and they could take your head off,” she said.

 She’s held and bottle-fed baby tigers at an African research center as they paw at the bottle, and inevitably her arms, with their sharp claws, and she’s dragged a dead cow carcass into an enclosure of adolescent lions and cheetahs for the carnivores’ mealtime.

A longtime Egg Harbor Township resident has also been close enough to wild elephants to notice how the other smaller animals gathered around a watering hole in Namibia silently step out of the way just before the behemoth creatures charge toward one another in greeting. “It was an amazing thing to watch how they greet each other, trunks intertwining.”

Yet, it was my visit that caused her anxiety.

“I was so nervous before you arrived,” Horner said during an interview in her Front Street home last week.

As Horner explains it, the more wild the setting, the more at home she feels.

“I am a free-spirit. If a go too long without traveling I start bouncing off the walls,” she said. “People always ask me if I am afraid of the animals I photograph. I am not. I respect them, but I am not afraid of them.”

Horner is a lifelong photographer who got her first camera at age five. Just as she was entering adulthood at 18, she kept getting enough requests to “print me one of those pictures,” that she decided to give her talent a try as a career.

For the next 24 years, she was a wedding and newborn portrait photographer. “I became pretty well known for that work. I would take newborns’ pictures, as they were just a few days old. I loved it,” she said.

Still about seven years ago, after own children grew up and moved out of the house, she decided to change her focus to nature, travel and wildlife photography. Now, approaching 50, Horner said she has “reinvented herself" and her photographs can be seen in professional spaces as well as in residences. 

The groundwork for this transformation was already laid however.

When her children were younger and “before there were cell phones,” she would take off on journeys with them and travel around the country.

On one such trip, the family drove around Alaska for two months in the early 1990s before the Alaskan Highway was paved. “We stayed near rivers that we could wash off in. We would pass around an atlas and everyone would get a chance to pick a destination. We had 24 hours of daylight and didn’t wear watches. It’s always been about the discovery for me- what the experience will allow you.”

Since she has turned her lens to nature, she’s worked in locations both remote and familiar. “I love shooting around Ocean City and Cape May and in Brigantine’s north end,” she said, noting one of her bestselling photos is of a fox on the beach in Brigantine and she recently spent a day taking pictures at Saint Mary-by-the-Sea nuns retreat in Cape May Point.

She said she also gets a lot great wildlife shots by simply sitting on the deck of the house she shares with her husband Bill, overlooking Patcong Creek. From this post, she can see bald eagles, otters, ospreys, fox, deer and all sorts of migratory shore birds.

An environmentalist who recently earned an Environmental Stewardship certification from Rutgers Cooperative and Research Extension, Horner said she hopes her work can help inform especially children about the fragile state of the environment and all of its inhabitants.

“Reaching our children today is extremely important because they are our tomorrow,” she said. Practicing what she preaches, Horner is scheduled to return to Africa next summer to photograph silverback gorillas as well as to become an active member in Jane Goodall’s “Roots and Shoots” environmental youth program.

The photographer is also getting to witness today’s youth first-hand as she watches her grandchildren grow up. She happily shares her talent and stories with them, she said. “They love having my images on their walls, and now that they are getting older, I don’t give them gifts, I take them on adventures.”

Horner said she is appreciative of her success and is proud of what she has accomplished.

“I’ve come a long way in this life, and I am grateful for every opportunity. I am very blessed to do what I do. I believe that anyone can have anything they want in life if they envision it. If you want it bad enough, you can do it. But you can’t wait for other people to do it for you.”

Read Horner's three suggestions for aspiring photographers: Wildlife photographer shares tips on getting best shots.


View Horner's work at http://www.hollyhornerphotography.com/

Photos by Holly Horner

Photos by Holly Horner Photos by Holly Horner

Photos by Holly Horner

Photos by Holly Horner




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