Member Spotlight: Inspired Images – nature & wildlife photography.

February 1st, 2023
image of five pelicans flying over the ocean at sunrise photographed by Julie Danan

We chatted with Zenfolio member Julie Danan (pronounced ‘Dah-NAAN’) of Inspired Images photography about the making of one of her favorite landscape & wildlife images. Julie is a nature photographer and rabbi who hopes to inspire others to connect with and care for our planet’s natural environment through her soulful landscape and wildlife photography. She also uses her art photography to share the healing power of nature within her pastoral care and teaching.

The making of: a spiritual sunrise landscape. 

For me this image represents the wonder of the natural world and living by the Atlantic Ocean. I went to see what the sunrise would bring and was surprised by the pelicans flying by the rising sun and the beautiful colors over the waves. I’ve lived and worked in scenic places from the Texas Hill Country, to Northern California, to the Hudson Valley of New York, and now find myself living and working on the Delaware shore. 

Creating art for inspiration and joy.

Nature photography is more than a hobby to me; it’s an adventure and a spiritual practice as I receive and share moments of awe with Nature and her creatures. I not only share my photos via Zenfolio, but on social media for friends and followers, and in my work as a rabbi. If I can lift one person’s spirits or inspire someone to care more about our natural world, I feel gratified. 

As part of this practice, I might send someone a text with a digital nature photo, or mail them a card with one of my photos. I tuck small prints in with letters and give photos on small easels to people who might be stuck indoors due to illness or surgery. We have even used some of my photos on screen during high holiday services to enhance the mood of awe.

Early morning golden hour shoots.

It’s funny that I find sunrise shoots part of my routine because I would never consider myself a morning person (in fact, I’m somewhat of a night owl), but now that I live on the East coast by the beach, the sunrise beckons. Amazingly I can also get sunset views over the Delaware Bay – it is an incredible place for golden hour light.

It’s a challenge for me to get up early, but the rewards are so great that I try to do it about once a week. I hurry out to see the sunrise over the ocean and let the world surprise me, as it did when these pelicans flew over the waves by the rising sun in an almost leisurely way. I had the camera set to Aperture preference with a low ISO for the sunrise.

I took this photo with the camera handheld. Use of a tripod is my next frontier of learning, as I’m sure that it would be helpful for those lower shutter-speed photos at sunrise and sunset. I’ve used a tripod for taking photos of the moonrise over the ocean, but I still generally prefer to take photos handheld because strolling or hiking outdoors is part of the spiritual experience for me. It’s in the spirit of “Forest Bathing,” and I call it taking a “soul stroll.” Wherever I’m going, I try to listen to my inner voice and be open to the gifts of Nature and creation. 

Post-processing: there’s always more to learn.

At this point in my journey I see myself as a serious hobbyist and I’m learning more about post-production as I go. I edit my photos lightly within Lightroom, mostly making small adjustments to  the shadows and lighting or fine tuning the crop to draw the viewer’s eyes to a subject. To be honest, I usually start with reviewing the automatic edits and work from there. In this case I was taking a photo into the sunrise, so I had to bring down the highlights a lot, but raised the white lighting. I usually follow up with a “dip” in Topaz labs denoise software which gives my nature photos a richer and cleaner look. Topaz labs was recommended by a friend who is a very accomplished nature photographer; I’m always open to learning more techniques!

As a rabbi with a camera, I use my photography to share the wonder and awe of creation with anyone (of any faith or background) who wants to open their heart to see and feel more of this holy sanctuary we call planet Earth.

You can see more of Julie’s nature and wildlife photography on her Zenfolio portfolio website, or follow her journeys on Instagram and Facebook.

Camera: Canon EOS R

Lens: TAMRON 100-400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD A035

Exposure: ISO 100, f/8, 1/200 sec, 100mm

Where: Herring Beach, Cape Henlopen State Park, Delaware

Hear Julie’s share about the practice of creating nature photography for joy in episode 4 of Behind the Photo:

YouTube video


  • Amanda W

    Amanda is a Content Marketing Associate at Zenfolio and the Owner/Photographer of Wild Orchard Studios photography. A BFA graduate from Maine College of Art and Design and professional Lifestyle Family and Branding photographer for over 10 years, she thoroughly enjoys drawing from her experiences to guide new photographers as they are starting out. Amanda lives in the wilds of Maine with her husband and two imaginative daughters. If there’s such a thing as too much dark chocolate, she hasn’t heard about it.

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