Second nature

Photo by Collin Richie


Photographer Dede Lusk goes into the wild


There’s the rustle of leaves when the frosty winter wind really picks up. And their brown and brittle fallen brethren, too. They crunch steadily under foot. As we trudge up a loping hill near Bayou Fountain, a twig snaps with a sharp crack that echoes through the oaks. And yet the overwhelming feeling of this forest is one of unbelievable quiet.

Stillness and peace.

“I’m not much on chaos and busyness,” says photographer Dede Lusk, her eyeglasses nudging upward as her nose scrunches to make her point. “There’s busyness here, but the modern world’s noise is gone. It fades away.”

As she trains her eye to “look small,” as she says, to dig for the details, she stops suddenly when inspiration strikes. Though she uses the latest digital SLR models and lenses, today she’s armed only with her iPhone.

InRegister Dede Lusk, Collin Richie Photo, 2.10.15
Photo by Collin Richie


Lusk is that rare baby-boomer photographer who has infused technology into her art—snap, app and Insta.

“This is my time of year,” Lusk says, angling her phone upward at the thin black fingers of a branch. “I love naked trees.”

Lusk, now in her mid-60s, grew up roaming the woods near her hometown of Clinton. She fished and hunted with her father. “I was up with the crickets,” she says.

This reverence and fascination for nature is evident in her starkly contrasted black-and-white images. Lusk places pattern and texture on a pedestal, amplifying the oft-overlooked details of nature to epic proportions. Through her lens, the well-worn grooves on a tree look like a rushing river flow. The slinky curve of a bean pod becomes some elegant architecture. A crooked creek shines like shattered glass.

Same nature. Different perspective.

Her first camera was a little Kodak Brownie her grandfather gave her. He owned a drugstore in Clinton and developed the film there for her, too.

While her fine-art photography has been in several gallery shows and was featured recently in LensWork, Lusk says Instagram and the iPhone are what have brought so much of the fun back to it for her. Perhaps it reminds Lusk of her youth, when she was a novice and picture taking was more about discovery than perfection.

“I love the surprise of it,” she says. “My professional camera is so precise, and you know exactly what will happen. With the iPhone you don’t know, and I like that. I love the freedom. We don’t have to be so serious.”

Lusk experiments with tons of apps, but Hipstamatic is a favorite. It gives the images she captures a slightly eerie, old-world patina. So does the fog she chases endlessly. She watches the weather each morning and wanders the Mississippi River banks for inspiration and “clippings,” as she calls the many leaves, flowers, driftwood, vines and other scraps she brings back to her home studio for meticulous and minimalist still-life arrangements.

“If they’re interesting when they die, they get photographed,” Lusk says. “If they’re boring when they die, they go in the garbage. I can find beauty in dead things.”

Lusk is so known as the collector among her friends that they bring her all manner of finds, from bean pods to birds’ nests—though Lusk adds with a snarky laugh that “they can stop with the birds’ nests for now.”

Wasps’ nests are a more current obsession.

Frequent LSU lakes kayaker Claude Nall saves feathers for her collections.

“Pelican feathers, egret breeding plumage, anything I see that I think will tweak her brain,” Nall says. “Her still lifes are just gorgeous.”

While her studio work is a meditation that takes time and patience, Lusk appreciates the speed and the constant creative challenges that Instagram and her battery of apps provide on the hunt.

“The great thing about photography with your phone is you can literally always do it,” she says. “And it keeps your brain going.”

Traveling, Lusk is part artist, part scavenger and all explorer. She looks for things that are wilted or unusual, things that break a pattern. And she always returns with curious finds. Once, when a cactus fell out of a Florida palm tree, she wrapped it up in an ice chest and checked it as baggage.

“I’m always wondering what they’re going to think when my stuff goes through the scanner,” she says. “Sometimes there are horns.”

Lusk snaps pictures anywhere—including the mall, which she dreads—but her favorite images are those like the ones she’s capturing for Instagram this day, those free of everything manmade, free of the clutter that seems to come along with a distracted life.

It is these images that connect her with her creator, she says. They help her reflect real beauty.

“Maybe I live in a dream world,” Lusk says. “But I like to see it the way God made it.”

For more on Dede Lusk and to view her work, visit and @dedephoto on Instagram.

Mobile memory makers

Dede Lusk takes her iPhone into nature and uses apps to manipulate the shots.
Dede Lusk takes her iPhone into nature and uses apps to manipulate the shots.


Photographer Dede Lusk shares her favorite photo apps and tips

Favorite apps:

Snapseed: “This is great for general editing.”

Distressed FX and Mextures: “Both have a lot of filters for texture and light.”

Hipstamatic and Lenka: “These make for interesting black and white captures.”

ProCamera: “This essentially replaces the camera that comes on the iPhone.”

Her tips:

1)  Keep it simple. Remove the clutter and get in close. Zoom with your feet.

2)  Take multiple shots of the subject and try different angles.

3)  Keep the camera lens clean.

4)  Look for good light.

5)  Play and experiment.

6)  Don’t share badly captured photos!