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Bringing Local Color into focus
Great Bend couple grow love of photography and the outdoors into intense hobby
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While photographing a rare irruption of snowy owls at Cheyenne Bottoms last winter, Jay Dee Miller and Karole Erikson paused to watch the arrival of a flock of blackbirds, darkening the sky as they prepared to land for the evening. Friend Rob Graham captured the awe-filled moment. Miller and Erikson both have photographs on display this month at Russells Deines Center. They are among several Kansas artists from the Great Bend area featured in the Local Color art show which opened Sunday, Nov. 4 and runs through Dec. 8. - photo by Photo courtesy of Rob Graham

Six years ago, Karole Erikson and husband Jay Miller bought digital cameras and began photographing the landscape and inhabitants of both the Cheyenne Bottoms and their own backyard.  For Miller, it was a chance to rekindle and interest born 30 years ago while studying art and photography at Barton Community College.  For Erikson, it was a chance to delve into a creative realm far from her everyday work as a music teacher at BCC.  On Sunday, Nov. 4, the Deines Center in Russell featured photography by each, spotlighting the talent of Kansans from Central Kansas in the “Local Color” exhibit that will run until Dec. 8.   
“The creating process is so amazing,” Erikson said.  “There are so many rules in music.  This has been a nice change for me to create instead of following all the composers and the piano rules.  I can make up my own stuff.”
That’s not to say she isn’t learning the rules along the way.  She continues to take classes, and receive critiques of her work on a weekly basis from her teacher.  He will point out composition mistakes, but Erikson isn’t discouraged.   
Miller attended Barton Community College in the 1970s, where he studied photography and screen printing, and earned his associates degree in 1977. Back then, he learned to develop black and white film, and then 1976, color film developing equipment became available.
“I rekindled my interests in photography about six years ago with the new age of digital photography,” he said. Local photographer Jim Glymn became his mentor during his first years, bringing him up to speed with digital photography.
They became members of the Central Kansas Photography Club that meets in Great Bend monthly and attend seminars often and belong to area centers for the arts, always on the lookout for new ideas and knowledge they can use to grow in their art.  For them, photography lies somewhere between an intense hobby and some extra income, Erikson said.  Their approaches are noticeably different too.
“Jay tends to be more conservative, and I tend to be a little crazier,” she said.  “Every once in awhile, I’ll get him to do something kind of wild in Photoshop, and it comes out pretty good.“

Travel and the outdoors
The two enjoy spending time out at the Bottoms, photographing the different species that pass through on their way both north and south.  Because of the lack of water, many of the birds continue to pass over in search of water.  They’re actually finding more birds in their own back yard.  Proximity to Veterans Park and the lakes in the north west part of the city are a welcoming stop and puts them at ground zero for birds, Erikson said. Recently, they’ve spotted warblers uncommon to the area.   
Last spring they went to Costa Rica, their first time abroad, and took thousands of bird pictures. They spotted several hummingbirds, which coincidentally, they are very familiar with.   
“We feed hummingbirds in our backyard, so we have our cameras set up inside our house so we can take pictures,” she said.
Among the more unusual bird images captured on that trip is the Resplendent Quetzal.  
“Its an amazing bird that eats avocados, and its head is shaped like an avocado and it has a long, amazing tail.  So beautiful,” she said.

The couple promote their art by entering area art shows and contests.  
“Karole and I have been entering photography and art shows around Central Kansas, as well as online galleries,” Miller said.  “We both have so much fun with the digital photography processes, meeting great people and making wonderful friendships.”
In October, their work was on display at Russell Original Art Review (ROAR), where Miller won honorable mention and Erikson sold a handful of pieces, she said.  They will be taking work to the Five State Photography Show in Hays which runs from Dec. 7 through the middle of January.  It is a juried regional fine art competition featuring artists from Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Colorado.
“It’s a difficult show to get into because it covers such a large area,” Erikson said.