By LISA MONTI
Alex North is widely known for his photos that capture the beauty of sunrises and sunsets, the drama of storm clouds and lightning strikes and the graceful movement of shorebirds on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
North considers himself an advocate for the beauty of the Mississippi Gulf Coast through his photography. “The scenes I shoot are not mine. I am simply blessed to share these with you through the talent bestowed and the beauty provided,” he wrote on his website.
His work is collected in a book, on notecards and calendars, on restaurant and bank walls and online, where the photos are shared, with his blessing, by some of his 45,000 social media followers. “Hope you enjoy my passion for capturing and sharing God’s artwork through my lens,” he tells online viewers of his photos.
North, who as a child watched his mother develop her own photos, seems surprised at his choice of hobbies. In the About Me tab on his website, he writes, “Who would have thought a colorblind guy would become interested in making color photos.”
North, who lives in Gulfport with wife Leslie, tells students in his workshops that his foray into photography wasn’t pretty. He bought a fully loaded Nikon to take photos of his son Jacob’s high school graduation and the result was, by his own recount, a disaster. But he was determined not to let the camera get the best of him. After a couple of months he made a discovery that changed everything. He had been shooting in auto mode, giving the camera control over settings, and realized if he switched to manual control, he could get the photos he wanted, the ones he could see through the viewfinder. (He said he knew he was onto something when his daughter Sarah let him take her high school senior pictures.)
With that profound lesson in how to control light, North saw that his photography skills quickly sharpened. In six months, he had his first exhibit at a Biloxi gallery. “If you can control and understand the camera, you can really start producing some pretty nice pictures,” he said. “It’s a learning process. It’s been seven years and I’m still learning.”
North’s career, the one he says pays the bills, is rooted not in the creative arts but in electronics, which he taught at Keesler Air Force Base, and engineering. His day job is operations manager at Bay Tech, a manufacturer of products for data centers. He’s worked for the Long Beach company for 30 years in engineering, marketing and sales.
North describes himself as an outdoors person with an appreciation for nature. “I love to see the sunrise. It’s the reason I get out,” he said. Those early morning photos are among the many landscapes in North’s portfolio. He shoots photos every day and calculates when, where and what to shoot. “I build a picture up here,” he said, pointing to his head. Before he takes a photo, he’s already envisioned what story he wants to tell with the shot.
North is a big fan of apps that help him figure out the best place to shoot, say, a full moon rising over a pier, and keeps a compass in the car to get him there. He’s in place several minutes before the sun rises or sets, waiting for just the right moment. Sometimes he stands on the roof of his truck to get the right vantage point.
Wildlife photography, he said, takes patience as well as experience. “I might sit and wait for up to three hours,” he said. He has photo galleries of bald eagles and raptors, land birds and water birds. Pelicans are a favorite subject of his.
But for all the planning, things happen that can make a photo even better. When he’s shooting a beach scene, a great blue heron may sweep into the frame or a boat may sail by, adding what he calls lagniappe to an already well framed image.
“There is serendipity in what I do,” he said.