Fire Island and Beyond would like to welcome our newest contributor Diana Poulos-Lutz.  Diana works for a public school district and has taught political philosophy courses at a local university. She has a passion for outdoor walks, nature and wildlife photography, and writing. She also enjoys photo sessions for children and families in outdoor settings. She can be reached at or


By Diana Poulos-Lutz

It’s the last day of winter, and the west end of Jones Beach was as beautiful as ever. The waves were mesmerizing: large, explosive, and plentiful.  The walk down to the jetty seemed shorter than usual, as the waves entertained along the way. The jetty was absent of people but full of dunlin. The sun-drenched rocks and adjacent sand were decorated with hundreds of dunlin and some sanderlings.  I walked slowly to the vicinity and sat on the sand, taking in all of the sights and sounds. The dunlin seemed unbothered by my presence, but they were paying close attention to the large splashes of seawater periodically drenching the jetty. One particular large wave startled some of them, and they started flying about in a murmuration over the jetty, dancing above the waves and then over the sand closer to where I was sitting. Hundreds of them flew over me, some of them just feet above my head, organizing themselves into a beautiful murmuration, eventually all landing further away from the large waves and closer to me. I remained in the same spot, taking photos and appreciating the magnificence of the moment. It was a peaceful moment of Zen, and exhilarating at the same time.  I sat there for a while, taking in the warmth of the sun, and listening to the waves crashing and the sound of the dunlin, which then seemed to surround me. I felt at once closer to the universe, and also more aware of the vast complexity and beauty of the universe, something that was much larger than I was.  Personal difficulties and challenges seem smaller and less significant in moments like that. On the other hand, a deep respect and appreciation for the environment and the interconnectedness of life becomes abundantly intuitive.  In one way or another, many of us renew our spirits in those moments. We exercise our muscles on the walks, and rest our minds in the meditations of our outdoor experiences. For some of us, those moments are golden and precious, since our other responsibilities call for our time and attention for most of the days and hours of the week. For others in different circumstances, abundant leisure time is gladly spent in the natural world.

Nature and wildlife photographers, both professional and amateur capture many stunning photographs. Some photographers enjoy the challenge of the larger raptors, while others enjoy a variety of both common and uncommon wildlife. Some chase the magnificence of sunrises and sunsets.  Many photographers enjoy improving the technical aspects of photography, always looking for ways to produce sharper and more detailed images. Others may enjoy the challenge of capturing those awesome moments of flight, a shore bird catching a large fish, or an owl with hunted food in its grasp. Some images are worthy of winning competitions, awards, or a place in the pages of a wildlife book. Others are of somewhat less “quality,” technically and aesthetically.  I’ve often heard criticisms of photographers that are less proficient in their skills and ability to produce high-quality images. I’ve heard others perplexed as to why some people would want to “share” photos if the images aren’t aesthetically pleasing enough or technically advanced.  To that issue I would answer this: Many people are sharing not just a photograph but a moment. They feel something that has compelled them to capture that particular moment and a desire to want to share that. Perhaps, it’s emotive and inspirational for them. Looking at the photo, however “good” the image may be, reminds them of that moment. They realize that those moments cannot be bought in a store. The moment felt fulfilling and moving in a way that some other forms of “entertainment” cannot. They are partaking in the appreciation and awe of the universe. For this reason, we can celebrate and encourage all photographers of nature, and applaud their effort and journey. Their photographs may even help educate others. Perhaps, they may encourage friends and family that have had no prior interest in the natural world, to learn about different species of birds, or to simply look up and around at sunrise and sunset and take note of the amazing variety of colors and ambiance that seem so unique each day.  Maybe a friend or family member will discover the powerful solace of a sunset, a crashing wave or a bird in flight during difficult and challenging times. This is not to say that we shouldn’t recognize, celebrate and applaud those photographs which are truly outstanding. Of course, we should.  At the same time, with kindness, we can also encourage all photographers, even those who are not consistently producing outstanding and winning photos.  Realize that they are not necessarily trying to show off advanced technical skills, but perhaps sharing moments and discoveries. We don’t want to end up being unable to see the forest for the trees.   Today, on my morning walk, I was reminded not to forget the beautiful bigger picture.  When the dunlin participate in a murmuration, and dance atop the crashing waves at the shore in mesmerizing shapes and patterns, they are creating something bigger and even more beautiful than themselves.