Ever since he was a young boy, nature photographer Jim Radford, of Shoreview, has been inspired by God’s gift of nature.

“What I try to capture in my photographs is the beauty of the beast—the behaviors, biology and sustainability of our planet. Whether it’s a tiny hummingbird or grizzly bear, a forest fern or the Milky Way, it’s all about the beauty and genesis of our lives,” Radford said. “I hope to spread the message of responsible stewardship of nature by all ages.”

Since 2013, Radford has put his scenic images on display at the Taste of Scandinavia Bakery & Café in Shoreview. His latest exhibit, “Birds of a Feather,” will be displayed beginning in May. It will feature birds with white feathers, including trumpeter swans, egrets and snow geese.

The main inspiration for the exhibit came from Jim and Sheila Lawrence, of Monticello.

“For the last decade, I’ve been visiting Monticello to see trumpeter swans. In the wintertime, they go there because of warmer water from the nuclear plant and can wade along the weed line,” Radford said. “About 35 years ago, Sheila Lawrence would see some of these swans but not too many of them. 

Sheila and someone from the DNR ‘hatched a plan’ to go up to Alaska and they brought back 50 swan eggs and placed them along the Mississippi. Those 50 eggs hatched and 50 turned into a couple hundred, then to a thousand. At the peak, they had 3,500 to 4,000 birds feeding at their location.”

Sheila passed away 10 years ago, and her husband Jim kept the project going. Radford said they basically restored the trumpeter swan population in Minnesota.

“Another inspiration for this exhibit is specifically the beauty of these big birds. Just seeing them soaring in flight is beautiful, even without a photograph. What led me as a child to an unfulfilled interest in flying, although I was in the Civil Air Patrol and enjoyed private flights with friends. I suspect we all want to know what it would be like to be a bird,” Radford said. “I had cousins who fulfilled that dream as military aviators. I also find inspiration in the work by other photographers and videographers.”

Once recent morning, Radford was taking his morning walk along Sucker Creek and saw approximately 500 trumpeter swans.

“I was excited, and I started taking some pictures. I ran into a volunteer from the nature center and she asked me if I’ve seen any sick birds,” he said. “The birds are getting poisoned in this water because of lead poisoning. They are bottom feeders and ingesting lead sinkers left by fisherman.”

This prompted Radford to get in touch with the Minnesota DNR. He discovered that the agency has been monitoring Sucker Lake since 2019. Approximately 21 trumpeter swans have died so far in the lake due to lead poisoning. Radford is hoping legislation will ban lead sinkers used by fisherman to help save the trumpeter swan population.

Since retirement from marketing management at 3M, Radford has been published in a wide variety of publications and has won awards for his graphic art and displays in public places, including his online galleries at http://radfordpictures.com and pictorem.com/profile/James.Radford.

“Photography is still fun, now that I’m retired,” Radford said. “I shoot a lot of sports because I have a lot of grandchildren and they are really good at hockey, and that keeps me busy.”

For the exhibit at the Taste of Scandinavia Bakery & Café, Radford said he has thousands of pictures to choose from and said he is going to be very selective on which photos to display. “I really just love the outdoors, and I’m hoping this will be the best display yet,” he said.

Radford is dedicating the exhibit to Jim and Sheila Lawrence for their joint dedication and cooperation over many years that changed the life of the trumpeter swan species in Minnesota. People who buy from the display will receive a 20% discount off his web gallery pricing.

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