OGDEN -- Rosalie Winard was a lifelong Easterner when she left New York City for someplace richer in avian life.
Winard, a photographer who aims her lens at waterfowl, moved to Utah in January 2011. On Thursday, she talked to Weber State students about her passion for shooting photos and for the artistic opportunity provided by the Great Salt Lake.
"There are more birds than people in Utah," Winard said. "I told someone that 5 million birds live or pass through Utah each year, and she thought I must have meant 5,000. And that 5 million probably includes over 250 species. It's incredible."
Utah's human population is about 2.8 million.
Winard photographs her "muses" with black-and-white infrared film to give her work a dreamlike quality. The birds that inspired her career were brown pelicans she saw in New York state.
"It was dawn, and I was watching it dive down, for food," she said. "Its form, its shape, its absurdity, this winged creature diving. It grabbed me. I fell in love with the brown pelican."
Winard studied ornithology and learned about the challenges of preserving wetland habitats. She works closely with Great Salt Lake Resource Conservation & Development (www.greatsaltlakercd.org) and often travels with local biologists, who have greater access to remote parts of the Great Salt Lake and its islands.
"I'm from New York, and I repeatedly meet people from here who don't really know what a treasure that lake is," said Winard, who now lives in Salt Lake City. "It's a very important IBA area (important bird area), which is a huge, big deal. It's part of the Pacific and Central flyways, and it's the only inland body of water this large for birds coming through this part of the country."
Winard said Utah has made some strong efforts to preserve the Great Salt Lake and its wetlands.
"It's unique in that it's a salt lake, but there are fresh-water management areas on the sides of the lake," she said.
Winard praised ongoing efforts to monitor the lake for levels of selenium and dioxin. The lake also has high mercury levels, but no one is sure why, she said.
As Northern Utah's population grows, homes are built closer to the lake, Winard said, but wild birds still have enough space to move farther out, she said. Of more concern to conservationists is a recent request by a mineral company to expand the lake territory in which it works, she said.
The human population also brings with it obstacles to safe migration, Winard said. Big box stores have large, asphalt parking lots that, under certain lighting conditions, birds can mistake for bodies of water. Hundreds of birds can die within a short time.
For those who want to see and appreciate the way Winard sees waterfowl, an exhibit of her work is on display in the Bridge Gallery, in the Shepherd Union Building, Weber State University, at 3848 Harrison Blvd. The free exhibit is open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays. The exhibit remains at WSU through Sept. 30.
And for those who want to see and appreciate Utah's waterfowl from their own perspective, Winard suggests getting out and doing just that.
"Go spend a sunset or dawn at Farmington Bay or Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge or on Antelope Island," Winard suggested. "Seeing any bird in its natural habitat gives you a true picture into their world. The visceral experience cannot be replaced by watching TV or a movie.
"But if you hate bugs and such, then images can introduce you, seduce you, inspire you to look further."