NORTH TROY- Gustav Verderber is a nationally known naturalist, author, photographer and an adjunct professor of environmental science at Johnson State College who lives with his wife Cheryl and two English Setters in North Troy.
Verderber's family emigrated to the USA when he was five years old, moving to Ohio where his father obtained employment with the Ford Motor Company. His exposure to nature started when his family would visit his uncle who owned 400 acres in the Allegheny Mountains south of Buffalo, NY.
“They would leave my brother and I there for what seemed like months. We would hunt and fish; I was 14 years old and wanted to spend the rest of my life involved in natural history,” Verderber stated.
“I can remember when I was eight years old my family rented a cottage in Niantic, CT, on the ocean. One day when we went fishing and I saw jellyfish, a gumball of colors, that were in the tidal pools, that was it for me.... The scene stuck in my head.”
Those childhood encounters led Verderber to enroll at Ohio State University where he received a masters degree in marine zoology. Initial aspirations to follow the career path of Jacques Cousteau, famous conservationist, led to a three-summer stint in the Florida Keys studying tidal zoology. The focus of the study was on how flora that is submerged for hours and then exposed to the sun and baking heat survives as the tide rises and falls.
A Ph.D. in zoology was the next goal in life, but in a serendipitous moment, the world of photography became a central part of Verderber's vocation. Sitting in a store with his then girlfriend, who was shopping for clothes for work, Verderber flipped through an issue of American Photographer. The magazine had attracted his attention because the cover had a Damsel fly covered in dew. The article that followed was a profile of John Shaw, who started a career teaching English before becoming a premiere nature photographer.
“I realized that's it for me," he stated. “Two days later I drove to Richland, Michigan, where he lived. I knocked on his door and he was very nice.”
Shaw extended an invitation to a workshop photographing insects and Verderber was hooked. That was in 1982 and, following completion of the workshop, he came to Vermont where another uncle lived on a 300-acre property in Montgomery.
With formal training in photography limited to the workshop, Verderber started taking photos and writing stories for publications like Vermont Natural Resources, and over the years increased his exposure to draw the attention of National Geographic Magazine and Natural History, where his work was featured.
“Photography isn't about equipment, it's being able to see the composition in front of you at the right moment,” he observes.
The attention to detail led to more opportunities including assignment work for Kodak, shooting the Mesa Arch and Yellowstone Park among other venues. For five months in 2003, taking photographs in Yellowstone Park for Kodak, he took copious notes detailing where to take pictures, what time of day, under what circumstances, and other information for future use. The experience led to the publication of a handbook for tourists who want to know where in the three million acre park to get memorable pictures.
“Being a nature photographer, there's not a lot of money by itself; there's a lot of pieces to the financial pie,” Verderber said. “I can also write the articles that accompany the pictures, and that's good for the publisher as he doesn't have to pay for two professionals.”
His articles and pictures have appeared in Natural History, Nature Photography, Nature's Best, Backpacker, National Audobon Society, Ranger Rick, Vermont Life and Yankee Magazine, among many publications.
An accumulation of a body of work over the years is marketed through a web site, Sojourns In Nature, and the use of stock agencies which provide royalties for his work.
Working as an adjunct professor for 22 years, showing his work in art galleries, and major shows, holding workshops (including an annual workshop at the campground in Eden), and intensive tours to locations including the Grand Canyon or Slot Canyon contribute toward Verderber's career as a nature photographer, writer and recorder.
In recent years, he formed a partnership with Robert Servranckz, a software writer from Montreal, whom he met by chance. A Yankee deal was consummated, trading three prints for the creation of a web site, and a short time later Servranckz purchased $9000 in camera equipment and started taking photographs.
“That same year there was a big Great Grey Owl migration from the Arctic south to southern Canada in search of food,” Verderber recalls. “We went out to photograph them; it was his first serious shoot. We walked out onto a golf course and there's three right there. You can spend hours and never see one.... We sent the pictures to Yankee Magazine and they uses our shots. It was the first time he ever shot professionally and they published three of his photos.”
A “sojourn” to Gustav Verderber's web site has samples of his work photographing amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals, fish, invertebrates, fungi, plants and landscapes. The web site can also direct you to a newsletter to which you can subscribe.