During 37 years in the news business, Moline photographer Terry Herbig said he always got the best reader feedback for his pictures of the serene beauty of area wildlife, not his "newsy" images.
Now, three of his photos of bald eagles flying over the Mississippi River will be part of a national photography exhibit at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. next week, highlighting the river's importance and need for greater protection and support from elected officials.
Mr. Herbig — the 64-year-old former director of photography at Moline Dispatch Publishing Company — is the Quad-Cities' representative among 26 photographers in the March 21 exhibit, presented by the new Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative (MRCTI).
Fifty large images will be displayed in the Cannon House Office Building on a 50-foot-long map of the 2,320-mile-long river, which winds through 10 states.
"It's quite an honor," Mr. Herbig said, noting that he was chosen by Dawn Wohlford-Metallo of Quad City Arts. His wildlife photography is displayed in a window of the downtown Rock Island gallery through the end of the month. He recently exhibited at the Quad City International Airport.
A native of Freeport, Mr. Herbig developed a lifelong love for nature and the outdoors while hunting and fishing with his father. He graduated from Southern Illinois University, and after five years at the Freeport Journal Standard, he moved to the Quad-Cities in 1975 and joined the photo staff of The Moline Dispatch. He retired in 2007.
"One of the things I found was that a lot of readers enjoyed seeing the nature photos," he said. "It's peaceful. You really can enjoy the blessings you've been given. Look out your window. I've been blessed with that. I think I see things differently than most people do."
On his website, terryherbigphotography.com, Mr. Herbig wrote:"We step out of our residence each day and fail to notice the world around us, no matter how small or how big. I enjoy photographing all of nature, from closeups of blooming flowers, to eagles soaring, to misty morning sunrises.
"I believe that I was given a talent by God to share His beauty through my photography," he writes. "I hope that those who see some of my images will 'stop and smell the roses' for a moment and enjoy the beauty that has been given to us each day."
The MRCTI photos (in which the group asked local arts councils to recommend photographers)were taken last year at Lock and Dam 14 in LeClaire. Mr. Herbig said the eagles "congregate below the dam there quite a bit. Also South Concord Street in Davenport, by the 280 bridge."
Since retiring, he's focused his photography on Midwest wildlife and landscapes — the smallest hovering hummingbird to the majestic eagle, a beautiful sunrise and sunset, or butterflies fluttering from flower to flower.
MRCTI, a new mayoral-led effort to create a coordinated voice for the Mississippi River, willdisplay photos representing cities from the river's entire length, to show the impact and importance of the Mississippi to the nation.
The group wants to draw attention to areas of mutual concern along the river, including river water quality and habitat restoration, flooding and floodplain issues, river-focused recreation and sustainable economies.
"The mayors wanted to come up with a way to physically bring the Mississippi River to Washington, D.C.,"MRCTI director Colin Wellenkamp said. "We can say a lot more with images — a picture is worth a thousand words. It's much more powerful than a policy document."
The photos solicited were based on themes — beauty of the river, life on the river, and challenges of the river, and include images such as Corps of Engineers dredging activities, river pollution, houseboats, and celebrations on the river, he said.
"The Mississippi River has been going through sort of a benign neglect on the national level, for the past 15 years or so," Mr. Wellenkamp said, adding that it needs greater federal funding. "Given the economic footprint of the Mississippi, that is a waterway in desperate need of attention."
The MRCTI is the only river-wide organization made up exclusively of mayors (now 45, including several local mayors) and there aren't many river groups that represent the whole river, he said.
It advises a new Congressional caucus for the river, which includes U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa."We're excited about it," Mr. Wellenkamp said. "It's a new urgency, a new level of organization along the waterway that hasn't existed before."
The photography exhibition also will serve as a unique backdrop for a press briefing to be held by MRCTI mayors during their first three-day meeting in the nation's capital.
MRCTI is a local government-led effort, housed at the Northeast-Midwest Institute and funded by the Walton Foundation. It soon will move its headquarters to St. Louis, Mr. Wellenkamp said.
Although Mr. Herbig won't be able to go to Washington to see the exhibit, his son Kyle lives there and will photograph it for him. Kyle is a manager for Signature Flight Support at Washington's Dulles Airport.
For more information on MRCTI, visit nemw.org/index.php/current-initiatives/mississippi-river-cities-and-towns-initiative.
Today is Tuesday, Dec. 10, the 344th day of 2013. There are 21 days left in the year. 1863 -- 150 years ago: We give "the government" the benefit of our circulation free of charge, for two advertisements for mules, horses and forage. 1888 -- 125 years ago: The official board of the First Methodist Church voted to build a new church. 1913 -- 100 years ago: W.A. Reid was elected commander of Siboney Bay Camp No. 8, United Spanish War Veterans. 1938 -- 75 years ago: Mrs. Blanche S. Osborne, of Rock Island, is the only woman in the city who is a member of the American Legion. 1963 -- 50 years ago: The Rocket Barbershop Chorus, under the direction of Howard Mesecher, will present a concert of barbershop songs at the December meeting of the Woman's Club of Moline at 2 Saturday afternoon in Scottish Rite Cathedral. 1988 -- 25 years ago: Helen A. Stone, of Moline, traded her organ's bench for a seat in the pew when she retired as church organist of Union Congregational Church, Moline, recently. She's been playing either piano or organ for the church for 61 years.