Retired school employee Zelia Frick enjoys photographing ‘God’s beautiful world’

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 29, 2014

Zelia Frick photographs whatever God puts in front of her — or sometimes, what he puts behind her.
She’s about the least threatening photographer you’ll ever encounter. A petite brunette, she looks like someone’s grandmother out there, shooting landscapes and wildlife and flowers and bridges.
Which of course she is.
“I never had the opportunity to stop and look at God’s beautiful world,” says the grandmother of three. “It took me until I was 62 to do it.”
Now 65, Zelia found her passion for photography four years ago when she retired from the Rowan-Salisbury School System as supervisor of instructional technology. Part of her job was encouraging teachers to document their field trips through photographs.
“Photography was more difficult than I thought,” she says. “I figured I needed to learn all I could.”
And learn she has.
“I just found it fascinating and enjoyable and a challenge to get a good picture,” Zelia says.
The walls of the Salisbury home she and husband Woodrow share are covered with her photographs. Even in the laundry room. Even in the bathrooms.
“Every picture has a story,” Zelia says. “Everything I look at brings my memory back to a pleasant travel experience.”
Since she’s been retired, Zelia’s love of travel and photography have become entwined.
“I especially like the pictures she took in Hilton Head,” says Woodrow, a retired Lutheran pastor.
They hang side by side in their great room. One is of a red-and-white lighthouse and the other is of three empty red rocking chairs.
“We go down there and we eat lunch, and I get me some ice cream and we take a nap in those rocking chairs,” Woodrow says.
“You never see three of those rocking chairs empty,” Zelia says. “My instructor, Donna Eaton, says if you can find three of anything, it’s a good number.”
Zelia took her first workshop with Donna, who’s based in western North Carolina, in April 2011.
“Her workshop was in Charleston and was for 10 ladies only,” Zelia says. “It was very reasonably priced. I was the first person to sign up!”
After her arrival, she listened as the other women introduced themselves. They were much more experienced than she, and with more expensive equipment, too.
“It got to be my turn, and I said, ‘Well, I just retired. I’m like a sponge. If anybody wants to help me, please do so.’ And it was like I had 10 instructors.”
The group made photographs at Magnolia Gardens, at which time a photography contest was taking place. Each student was to enter two photographs.
“I wandered off by myself and took a picture of these slave cabins,” Zelia says.
The photograph was featured in the Charleston 2013 poster, published by the Charleston Postcard Foundation.
Since then, Zelia has been on two other workshops with Donna, to Brevard and Gatlinburg, and has taken an online composition class with her.
Zelia doesn’t mind criticism, and in fact welcomes it.
“She always gives you something positive, and lets you know exactly what to do to improve,” Zelia says, which is her goal. “She’s a great mentor.”
Donna says of Zelia, “Zelia was one of my first workshop students. She was new to photography and her enthusiasm was infectious. She was eager to learn and such a delight. Her eyes would light up with each new thing she learned. 
“As the time has passed, I have seen her grow as a photographer and her skills improve to an impressive level. She has a love and passion for photography and shares it through her lovely images. I am very proud to have been a part of her journey with photography.”
Zelia has just begun to sell her photographs.
She’s printed a series of photographs for the Lazy 5 Veterinarian Clinic. Her daughter, Dr. Rebekah Julian, is co-owner. Rebekah and her husband, Scott, are the parents of three children, Noah, 11, Eli, 8 and Hope, 4. Rebekah’s twin brother, Benjamin, lives with wife Teri in Richmond, Va., where he is a pharmaceutical representative to veterinarians.
Some 28 photographs will hang in the Lazy 5’s new addition. Staff members chose from Zelia’s collection of wildlife photographs. She did honor one request — to photograph Dr. Lea Echeverrry’s cat, since she had no cat photos.
She is especially enamored of one photograph in this collection, “The Hunter and the Hunted.” It’s of a hawk which has just alighted on a huge branch — in pursuit of a nervous squirrel just below it.
“That’s its lunch!” Zelia says. “As much as I want to get a good picture, I do not want to see an animal eaten. The squirrel did escape, so that made me happy.”
Other photographs for Lazy 5 include goats at Hill Farm, a deer at Seabrook, S.C., and one of Zelia’s dogs swimming in a waterfall in the mountains.
“She gave me a few photographs, and I got so much good feedback that I asked her for more,” Rebekah says. “We want it to be nice and homey and relaxing here.”
She adds, “My mom is a perfectionist. She always tries to do the best she can. You can tell in her pictures that she’s passionate about photography.”
A photograph of a barn Zelia took at Hill Farm ended up in the Thrivent Financial For Lutherans 2013 calendar, as well as in the June 2013 issue of Our State Magazine.
Zelia loves taking photographs at Hilton Head and Charleston. She’s also made photographs in Alaska and Yellowstone National Park.
The colors in her Charleston photographs, in particular, look as if they’ve been manipulated.
Zelia says no.
“If you shoot it right, that’s how it turns out,” she says.
It also depends on which medium Zelia has her photographs printed. She chooses from among paper, canvas and metal.
Metal, especially, creates such vibrant colors.
Zelia has been brave and proactive when it comes to taking photographs. She befriended one woman in Hilton Head to gain access to her backyard to photograph egrets. She waded in waist-deep water at Hilton Head — in February — to attempt to shoot a full moon.
“You have to be willing to do most anything to get a picture,” she says.
She was thwarted however, when the fog rolled in.
A man came up to her.
“If you’ll just turn around,” he said, “that sunset is gorgeous.”
“Mystical Sunset” is one of her favorite photographs.
Zelia uses a Nikon D7000, and has a D3000 zoom lens and a regular 50mm lens. She keeps her equipment in a backpack.
“You’ve got to carry your camera with you everywhere,” she says. “Sometimes you have to stop fast, especially when you are photographing animals. You have to be ready for it because it happens in a split second.”
And then she’s got the picture.
For more information about Zelia Frick’s photographs, visit her Web site at
Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.