Photos by Jan Ramelli

Since the beginning of its inception photography has captured the hearts of people near and far. What was once a treat for only the prominent, photographs are now commonplace- many of us carrying the technology to take them in our pockets. While we’ve come to a place and time where everyone can take pictures, there’s still a huge amount of talent and work that goes into being a photographer.

One of the hardest parts of photography is finding your muse. While many photographers travel great distances for their inspiration, Jan Ramelli finds it in the critters that roam the mountains and lakes around her home.

On her days off Jan will take off in search of something to photograph. “I will photograph anything. You put it in front of me and I will shoot it,” Jan said. “There’s always something to shoot. There’s better days than others but most often I’m just out looking for an opportunity. I’ll spend all day Saturday and all day Sunday out somewhere.”

The days Jan spends in nature with her subjects are never days lost. “I love working on a project. Like the osprey. I found that nest last year. I went up there every week and I would sit for maybe four or five hours in my car and just shoot and shoot and shoot,” Jan explained. “I did that with an owl nest. Owls nest in the dead of winter, so I started following that nest in February and I got up every Saturday morning at like 4:00 am. It was still dark and I’d go out and set up. It was literally 20 degrees or colder. I’m all bundled up and I’ve got my coffee, just sitting there waiting for enough light to get something. I love doing the projects like that.”

The hours Jan has devoted to waiting and watching have been rewarded through the

amazing photos she’s captured. “I think the most important piece of wildlife photography is patience. It’s not about walking down the road and click, click, click. It’s about scouting out and learning about what you’re going to photograph.” Jan said “For example, when I photographed those ospreys or those owls and spent so much time, I really learned their behavior. I learned what was going to happen when they flew back to the nest. I learned what direction they flew from. I learned where the perch was they were often on. I learned their behavior and that will help you to photograph. You have to be patient. Just being quiet and still… being with them. It’s earning their trust.”

Jan’s wildlife photos are incredible but I think my favorite ones she’s taken is of a helicopter. During the Willard Fire, Jan along with her neighbors were evacuated but before she left, Jan snapped a photo of a helicopter silhouetted by the sun. “It’s in the afternoon and I was out there shooting and the helicopter  was coming through and I said, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m going to get this right in front of the sun.’ I have no idea how that came out so detailed. I actually found the guy who flew that helicopter and I had a canvas made for him and mailed it to his house.” Now this isn’t the sun like most people see daily. This sun is red, smokey and ominous. Those of us who’ve lived through wildfires like the Moonlight, Willard, Ponderosa and Chips know that foreboding hue and this photo captures it and those who risk their lives to fight the fires perfectly.

As Jan has been honing her photography skills over the past couple years, she’s been gracious enough to send her photos to us here at Mountain Valley Living. Many of our critter pictures were taken by Jan and we weren’t the only ones who realized her talent. Her friend Ginny Yagerhofer, who has framed many of Jan’s pieces, encouraged her to show her work. Jan finally agreed and in September she will have her first showing at Plumas Arts in Quincy. The show opening will be Friday, September 7 and will be on display throughout the month.

Photo-bugs see the world through their lens and they capture it to share with the rest of us. While Jan could take her talent anywhere, she seems content with the material Northern California presents her. In fact, she doesn’t even have to leave her house to find some of her subjects. “I have some gorgeous buck pictures. They eat the apples out of my tree. I get up in my robe and stand a couple feet away from them while they’re eating the apples and I have these gorgeous pictures of these huge bucks. So right here in our backyard we have so much. I watch the great horned owls right here on the top of this telephone pole courting each other. I have a sharp-shinned hawk who’s trying to eat my chickens.”

While Jan spent the last couple of years honing her skills and finding her niche, it was actually her husband, Dave, who encouraged her to start the hobby in the first place when he gave her her first camera 20 years ago. Since then Dave has been a teacher and constant source of encouragement. Though their styles differ (he was a professional Rodeo photographer) they are still able to spend a day together, outside, photographing anything that crosses their path.

If you enjoy Jan’s photography, make some time to run to Quincy and see her work in person. There’s something special about canvas that make these pictures pop more than you’d imagine possible.

Jan was so awesome to meet and talk with, I truly can’t wait to see what photos her future holds. She’s got the type of talent, dedication and patience that it takes to capture animals in their own world. Photography is hard, but looking at Jan’s pictures, you’d never know it.