In the studio: Mary Ellen Ryall

1 11 2013

Butterfly posterMary Ellen Ryall and I crossed paths more than eight years ago when I purchased milkweed seeds from her through eBay. This connection quickly morphed into a frequent e-mail exchange and a great friendship! I do volunteer design and photography for her environmental education organization, Happy Tonics. For several years, I designed and produced her quarterly 4-page newsletter, Butterflies & Gardens, as well as other marketing materials. I also designed a Monarch Butterfly Habitat Poster for her a few years ago. The poster included original photographs by me and my friends Brian K. Loflin (www.bkloflin.wordpress.com) and Jeff Evans (www.evanimagesandart.com).

I had the chance to visit Mary Ellen in her former home base in Minong, Wisconsin, in August 2011. (Sidebar: at the time I was making the three-hour drive from the Minneapolis airport to Minong, I called Michael and learned that I had just missed a big earthquake in the D.C. area; it was enough to scare both him and our cat, ZenaB, and for a vase to fall off a bookcase and break!). While in Shell Lake and Minong, I visited Mary Ellen’s Monarch Butterfly Habitat and met many of her friends, most notably Diane Dryden, a published author and feature writer for the Washburn County Register. Diane’s novels, The Accidental King of Clark Street and Double or Nothing on Foster Ave., are available on Amazon here.

About a year ago, Mary Ellen relocated to Fitchburg, MA, to be closer to her sister. She talked of slowing down, but I knew she wouldn’t—she’s brimming with far too many ideas! An author and truly dedicated environmental educator, Mary Ellen’s first book, My Name is Butterfly, was published by Salt of the Earth Press in 2011. This teaching book about a little girl and a Monarch butterfly was illustrated by Marie Aubuchon-Mendoza and is available here.

TwoBooksEarlier this year, I assisted Mary Ellen with producing The Monarch Butterfly Coloring Book. Written by Mary Ellen Ryall and illustrated by Moira Christine McCusker, It is available for purchase here. It is published by Mary Ellen’s new company, Butterfly Woman Publishing. Our next project is a plant guidebook, which we hope to debut in 2014. She visited the D.C. area a few weeks ago to attend a three-day conference for the North America Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC). She is presently on a task force to design a smart app called S.H.A.R.E. (Simply Have Areas Reserved for the Environment). This app will allow gardeners around the country to list their habitats on a national map. Mary Ellen blogs about organic gardening and open pollination for diversity on her blog here.

After seeing the portraits I did of her while she was in town, Mary Ellen said, “now I see that I have to go out and buy a new wardrobe!” The outfits she is wearing came from my “modeling rack” as well as my closet. She feels I captured her energy in the shots—and if you’ve ever met her, you know how high-energy this woman is!

P.S. Butterflies are the second largest group of pollinators after bees. Butterflies as pollinators are in trouble too. The Monarch butterfly population is down to only five percent in 2013. The Monarch and other butterflies need native host plants. We need to plant native wildflowers to bring butterflies home. Milkweed is the only host plant of the Monarch butterfly. If you would like to be part of the solution to stop the decline of Monarch butterflies, plant some milkweed seeds in your garden! Mary Ellen sells seed on her website here.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

MaryEllenHeadShots

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Hide ’n seek

31 08 2011

Photographed at the Monarch Butterfly Habitat in Shell Lake, Wisconsin

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Agastache

31 08 2011

Agastache bloom photographed against a backdrop of native prairie grasses at the Monarch Butterfly Habitat in Shell Lake, Wisconsin, 8.25.2011

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Red-legged Locust

30 08 2011

(unidentified) grasshopper photographed at the Monarch Butterfly Habitat, a restored native remnant tall grass prairie in Shell Lake in northwestern Wisconsin

UPDATE: Thanks to my fellow naturalist/blogger/writer, Jane Kirkland, for her identification of this little critter. It’s a Red-legged Locust (Melanoplus femur-ruburm). (Thanks, Jane!) Jane was a bestselling computer book author and after sighting a Bald Eagle flying over a grocery store parking lot, she began writing award-winning nature books! She is the recipient of the National Arbor Day Foundation’s Education Award, a Writer’s Magazine Book Award and two Teacher’s Choice Awards. She has been featured on PBS, Animal Planet, and is a regular guest on WXPN’s Kids Corner radio program in Philadelphia. I met Jane while I was on assignment photographing the American Horticulture Society’s National Children & Youth Garden Symposium in 2008 at the University of Delaware’s Newark campus. While at the Symposium, I bought one of her books and it helped me to identify this Halloween Pennant Dragonfly (Celithemis eponina) that I photographed at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens a few years ago. Learn more about Jane on her website here and see the books in her Amazon store here.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Another Monarch for Mary Ellen!

3 09 2010

This one is for Mary Ellen Ryall, creator of the Monarch Butterfly Habitat in Shell Lake, Wisconsin! I photographed this Monarch butterfly on a ‘Zowie’ Zinnia at Green Spring Gardens this afternoon. An overcast but very bright sky made for great lighting for photography. The gardens were swarming with insects—including Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, Spicebush Swallowtails, Monarchs, various Skippers, Sulphurs and Common Buckeyes. I photographed an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on a ‘Zowie’ Zinnia  few weeks ago here.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.