One glance at Florida photographer Beth Reynolds’s CV tells you she’s an extraordinary multitasker. Currently the director of Photography at the Morean Arts Center in St. Petersburg, Florida, Reynolds coordinates analog and digital arts; manages a 200-member photo club; and serves as a TV and radio spokesperson. However, she still has time for helping others.
Previously, she was the owner, teacher and community photographer of Base Camp Photo Community Center, in Greenfield, Massachusetts, “the place where photographic enthusiasts come for education, exploration and inspiration.” In addition, she curates and judges art competitions; writes articles and books; participates in solo and group shows; and has volunteered for many organizations. Moreover, she served in the United States Coast Guard Reserves as a public affairs specialist for eight years!
A professional photographer since 1988, Reynolds began her career in the newspaper business. “I worked mainly as a photojournalist, shooting weddings, portraits and events on the side,” she says. “As the news business changed, I began teaching and pursuing fine art, taking news assignments as they came along. At the Morean Arts Center in St. Pete, I work on documentaries, telling stories about subjects people might otherwise overlook.”
Raised on Helping Others
Growing up in a family that did a lot of charity work, it was second nature to continue as an adult. “It’s fun; it makes my soul happy to help people as well as makes my community a better place,” she explains. “Over the years, I’ve volunteered for the Heart Gallery in two states. I also volunteer for animal shelters and their events. Being learning disabled, I sought out opportunities to volunteer with kids who were in the same boat. That’s how I found the Hindman Settlement School in Kentucky.”
Every summer for 20 years, Beth Reynolds travels to Kentucky to work at the Settlement School, founded in 1902 to support education, cultural heritage and community service. Reynolds shoots photos to help promote its programs. This began when she met one of the school’s board members and expressed a desire to learn more. She was introduced to the director and presented some ideas. Subsequently, the school agreed to provide a place for her to stay, free of charge, when she’s there.
“The school needs powerful images to engage donors and spread the word about what they offer,” says Reynolds. “True documentary photos work best for them. I bring cameras for the kids to use and give them assignments. I teach them about working together as well as learning to be observant.”
Even the Birds
In addition, last year she started volunteering for the Tampa Bay Shore Bird Alliance as a bird steward. “Nearly a dozen endangered species of birds migrate, nest and breed here in Tampa Bay,” she says. “It is critical to have bird stewards monitor, count, photograph and also collect data about the birds. I spent almost every weekend, April to September, on the beach with a colony of more than 500 Black Skimmers. We photographed bird habits, chicks and people as well as the environment.”
Reynolds’s photographs taken at the Skimmer Colony have been featured in dozens of presentations by environmental organizations across Florida. Furthermore, they highlight the good and bad—trash on the beach; people disturbing the colony; and, of course, the beautiful birds.
Moreover, this was her third year photographing the Celma Mastry Ovarian Cancer Foundation Race. “I try to bring students to help me and to teach them how to cover such events,” she adds.
Keeping It Light
Reynolds likes to work light. “I have been carrying gear for more than 30 years and at this point, light is better. I love the Nikon Z 6 mirrorless system. I bought it almost a year ago, sold my Nikon D3 bodies and still have a D810. In addition, I always keep reflectors, a tripod and toolbox in the car, just in case.”
The impact of volunteering is immeasurable for Reynolds. “While I do get some freelance jobs from it, I don’t do it for that reason. I volunteer to pay it forward, never expecting anything in return. I know what I do matters for the nonprofits by the many thank-you notes as well as hugs I receive.” She’s also made wonderful friends over the years she never would have met otherwise.
Considering pro bono work? she suggests: “Start volunteering without your camera. Research organizations first; find one that speaks to you. Vet the charity on Guidestar.org to make sure they’re actually doing the good things they say they are. Then discuss their image needs. Nonprofits depend on volunteers, and they need you to be dependable.
“Be clear on what you are providing to them; how they can use the image, photo credits, etc., so no one gets hurt. So many charities work on a shoestring budget and need images to tell their stories. Find a place that speaks to your heart and get involved. Your life will be happier and healthier.”
For more information and images by Beth Reynolds, visit basecampphoto.smugmug.com.