Betty Caldwell never has a shortage of things to photograph. Just outside her front door, she has access to 110 acres, including a half-mile-long wooded nature trail with nearly seventy different species of wildflowers and thirty species of trees. A three-acre, eight-foot-deep lake attracts all kinds of wildlife.
"Charlestown's property, their wonderful use of the land, and their respect for nature was one of the first things that attracted me to the community," says Betty, who moved to the Catonsville, Md., Erickson Living community from Columbia in 2016.
With her Canon EOS 70D digital camera in hand, Betty heads out a few times a week to Charlestown's Lake Charles in search of wildlife to photograph.
"It's a little oasis down there," says Betty. "I've seen deer with big antlers, fox, migrating birds, and baby geese."
Betty got her first taste of photography in high school while traveling cross-country to a Girl Scouts camp in Oregon.
"It was so extraordinarily beautiful out there," says Betty. "I took my camera with me, and I just loved the combination of being in nature taking photos."
Like hobbies often do, the time that Betty was able to dedicate to photography waxed and waned over the years. But whenever she could, she traveled, camped, and hiked with her camera in hand.
"I have had the good fortune to travel a good bit to places like the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Maine, Scotland, and Provence in the south of France," says Betty. "I am looking forward to a trip this June to Palouse, Wash., with a group of friends who are photographers. I'm excited about capturing some of the beautiful, mystical landscapes that are legendary in that area."
Whether photographing grizzly bears at Yellowstone National Park or capturing blue heron flying in tandem across Great Falls, a telephoto lens lets Betty safely get up close to her subjects.
"My camera has pretty sophisticated settings, and I am able to change lenses depending on what I'm shooting," says Betty. "The telephoto lens allows me to go for extreme close-ups of wildlife, like an eagle swooping down and catching a fish. Once I came across a fox den with adorable kits, and I was able to sit and watch from a distance for a few hours photographing them jumping in and out of view."
Betty's love of nature is reflected in her apartment at Charlestown, which features a gallery wall of her favorite photographs. Her new home also has a huge picture window that overlooks a nature trail below. From her home she often spots deer, fox, raccoons, and birds.
Her work has been featured in juried exhibits at the National Wildlife Center in Laurel, the National Institutes of Health, and the Howard County Conservancy. Since moving to Charlestown, she has taken on a new endeavor, the program Meditative Moments, featured on Charlestown's in-house TV station, Channel 972.
"A few weeks after I moved here, I met some of the people who work at the station," says Betty. "I talked with Tom Moore, the station's manager, and showed him a video I made with some of my photographs set to music. So we created a program called Meditative Moments, which features nature photos taken by different Charlestown photographers set to music."
Freedom to photograph
As Betty enjoys the newfound freedoms that come with living in a community like Charlestown, she's had more time to dedicate to what she loves most.
"I've taken photography workshops over the years, but now I've really been able to fully embrace photography and invest my time, interest, and money in it. It's exciting to be able to do that," says Betty.
She's even got her 14-year-old granddaughter hooked.
"She is really a natural photographer," says Betty. "Occasionally we will go out together to take photos. It's really fun to see what she comes up with."