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Shutterbug: Photographs offer close-up views of the insect world

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An example of Shane Tolliver’s close-up photography. Photo by Shane Tolliver.

 

By David Freeze

For the Salisbury Post

“I truly enjoy God’s creation and I am captivated by what I see,” said Shane Tolliver when describing his nature photography currently on display at the Rowan County Public Library’s main branch. The exhibit includes close-up looks at insects in their natural environment.

As part of his 14 years teaching biology and zoology at East Rowan High School, Tolliver recalls that when he asked his ninth and 10th grade classes to collect insect specimens, they had only mixed success. A student named Hailey asked if it was OK to use their phones for collecting photos instead of the actual bugs. Tolliver thought about it and agreed to give the idea a try, as long as the students could identify the specimen on the photo. Not only did the students do well, but their teacher participated too. In less than three weeks, Tolliver had 500 pictures of his own and was soon exploring places to search for more.

That experience launched Tolliver into a consuming passion that has continued well after he retired from teaching. A former United States Marine and pastor, Tolliver said, “It’s another world that no one else ever sees. I’m very patient and observant. In a few minutes, I can find half a dozen insects. You just have to know where to look because I find them in unusual places. Even though most others will just ignore these things, I love to tell the story.”

Tolliver’s patience as a photographer is extraordinary. He often stays for as long as an hour in one spot. Sometimes, he checks back for several days to get just the right shot with his camera, often after taking hundreds that aren’t satisfactory.

“I don’t disturb their environment,” he said. “Most of the insects have to be approached very cautiously. Often by moving toward them very slowly, they will remain in place and do what they do.”

No natural location is out of bounds. Tolliver visits the Agricultural Extension garden on Old Concord Road, might explore under a bridge and has continued his hobby when traveling overseas. All of his photos are classified according to the 20 orders of insects.

Two of Tolliver’s favorites include the longhorn moth, less than an inch long but known for whipping its extremely long antennae like an egg beater, and the quarter-inch long ambush bug that routinely captures prey 10 times its size. He also searches for anything unusual, such as a five-legged grasshopper or butterflies with holes in their wings. He is partial to the wonderful color of hover flies.

After coming to Salisbury in 1994 to pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church, Tolliver wanted to teach Bible history at East High but was told that they needed a biology teacher instead. He said, “Even now, after retiring in 2013, my function in life is as a teacher, specifically by using illustrations and principles. There are a few collectors out there but people need a resource person when they have questions, I have a web page coming also.”

Additional interests for Tolliver include pen and ink, pencil and marker drawings, water colors and painting. Other subjects besides insects include birds and sunsets. He has written a book about insects, “Out My Back Door,” along with several children’s books. Tolliver does most of his own matting and  framing for his photography, with some of those examples evident at the library display. He also does an insect calendar each year and enjoys poetry. Tolliver competes in the Senior Games and at VA competitions and still enjoys coaching.

The Tolliver family includes his wife, Gloria, and daughters Christy, Stacey and Tiffany. Shane Tolliver is especially proud that Tiffany shares some of his interests. She recently returned from an 11- month trip around the world with Adventures in Missions.

“Tiffany takes great photos of insects,” he said, “but she lost lots of pictures from Greece and Nepal when her hard drive was wiped clean after a computer issue. She also paints and has recently finished some work that she started as a small child.”

Tolliver’s exhibit will remain at the library at least throughout the rest of March and possibly longer. The quality and detail of some of nature’s wonders are remarkable, especially from a world that most wouldn’t take time to explore.

The library’s headquarters building is at 201 West Fisher Street in Salisbury. Operating hours are 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Wednesday; 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Thursday; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday and Saturday; closed Sunday.

“I truly enjoy God’s creation and I am captivated by what I see,” said Shane Tolliver when describing his nature photography currently on display at the Rowan County Public Library Main Branch. The exhibit includes close-up looks at insects in their natural environment.

As part of his 14 years teaching biology and zoology at East Rowan High School, Tolliver recalls that when he asked his ninth and 10th grade classes to collect insect specimens, they had only mixed success. A student named Hailey asked if it was OK to use their phones for collecting photos instead of the actual bugs. Tolliver thought about it and agreed to give the idea a try, as long as the students could identify the specimen on the photo. Not only did the students do well, but their teacher participated too. In less than three weeks, Tolliver had 500 pictures of his own and was soon exploring places to search for more.

That experience launched Tolliver into a consuming passion that has continued well after he retired from teaching. A former United States Marine and pastor, Tolliver said, “It’s another world that no one else ever sees. I’m very patient and observant. In a few minutes, I can find half a dozen insects. You just have to know where to look because I find them in unusual places. Even though most others will just ignore these things, I love to tell the story.”

Tolliver’s patience as a photographer is extraordinary, often staying for as long as an hour in one spot. Sometimes, he checks back for several days to get just the right shot with his camera, often after taking hundreds that aren’t satisfactory.

“I don’t disturb their environment,” he said. “Most of the insects have to be approached very cautiously. Often by moving toward them very slowly, they will remain in place and do what they do.”

No natural location is out of bounds. Tolliver visits the Agricultural Extension garden on Old Concord Road, might explore under a bridge and has continued his hobby when traveling overseas. All of his photos are classified according to the 20 orders of insects.

Two of Tolliver’s favorites include the longhorn moth, less than an inch long but known for whipping its extremely long antennae like an egg beater, and the quarter-inch long ambush bug that routinely captures prey 10 times its size. He also searches for anything unusual, such as a five-legged grasshopper or butterflies with holes in their wings. He is partial to the wonderful color of hover flies.

After coming to Salisbury in 1994 to pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church, Tolliver wanted to teach Bible history at East High but was told that they needed a biology teacher instead. He said, “Even now, after retiring in 2013, my function in life is as a teacher, specifically by using illustrations and principles. There are a few collectors out there but people need a resource person when they have questions, I have a web page coming also.”

Additional interests for Tolliver include pen and ink, pencil and marker drawings, water colors and painting. Other subjects besides insects include birds and sunsets. He has written a book about insects, “Out My Back Door,” along with several children’s books. Tolliver does most of his own matting and  framing for his photography, with some of those examples evident at the library display. He also does an insect calendar each year and enjoys poetry. Tolliver competes in the Senior Games and at VA competitions and still enjoys coaching.

The Tolliver family includes his wife, Gloria, and daughters Christy, Stacey and Tiffany. Shane Tolliver is especially proud that Tiffany shares some of his interests. She recently returned from an 11- month trip around the world with Adventures in Missions.

“Tiffany takes great photos of insects,” he said, “but she lost lots of pictures from Greece and Nepal when her hard drive was wiped clean after a computer issue. She also paints and has recently finished some work that she started as a small child.”

Tolliver’s exhibit will remain at the library at least throughout the rest of March and possibly longer. The quality and detail of some of nature’s wonders are remarkable, especially from a world that most wouldn’t take time to explore.

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