Stephanie Sokol for The Oakland Press
Rick Lieder knows beauty and nature can be found right in your own back yard.
In his latest children’s book, “Among a Thousand Fireflies,” created with award-winning poet Helen Frost, the long-time photographer, artist and former photojournalist captured fireflies outside his home.
“Helen did a great job telling the story,” says Lieder, who is originally from Detroit but has lived in Berkley for 25 years. ““I’m taking world-class pictures, as good as anybody in the world is doing and I’m doing it in my back yard.”
While Lieder has a lot of experience in photography and designing book covers, he says he enjoys nature photos because they are challenging and different from what he usually works on. His goal is to make unique pictures, capturing birds and insects he sees in the wild.
“I’m always trying to challenge myself, if it’s hard to do I always want to do it more strongly,” Lieder says.
His science background, including studies at the University of Michigan, helped him with the technical side, but paying attention to lighting and details of the outside world gives him a more creative outlet. Many other photographers have captured fireflies in flight, for example, but by studying the insects intently, Lieder figured out how to catch them in static images.
The two also collaborated on “Sweep Up the Sun” last year, and “Step Gently Out” in 2012. Frost and Lieder hope their books encourage readers’ appreciation of the world around them.
“I’ve always loved nature, and I think we all appreciate nature — maybe none of us are as close to it as we’d like to be,” Lieder says. “Most of my work is not the nature books. Most of my photography is very urban and deals with lots of subjects and people. Much of what I do is completely different than this, but I like to express myself and these books are a good way to do it.”
While Lieder’s images are strong, Frost’s words bring them to life even more. Ever since she was little, Frost says, she loved writing. The former teacher from Fort Wayne, Ind., has written many different kinds of books, but especially likes putting pictures together with her poetry.
“I think for me, I love poetry and I love children, so it’s a really good combination when I write poetry for children. It’s a joy for me,” she says. “Children really like the sound as well as the meaning. I try to make it lovely and exciting.”
Her writing process is different for each book, but she never just sits down and writes it — it takes time and work.
While she has worked with illustrators in the past, she says having actual photos and creating these stories with Lieder has been a different, more collaborative experience.
Lieder’s photos and Frost’s poems are arranged in a way that both children and adults can enjoy.
When they created the stories, they chose a subject in Lieder’s photos, and Frost told the story through a poem.
She worked with him and their editor to put together the poem and figure out which lines went with each photo, in addition to adding information in the back of the book about the story.
Frost and Lieder return to The Book Beat bookstore in Oak Park on March 12, to promote “Among a Thousand Fireflies.” They met at the store 10 years ago, which started their book-making journey.
“We have a special feeling towards the Book Beat,” Frost says. “We loved doing our first book event there.”
With Lieder’s love for nature photography and repertoire of photos, “Among a Thousand Fireflies” won’t be their last book. The two have many more in the works.
“Helen did a great job telling the story,” Lieder says. “A lot of people think that what I do requires a lot of expensive equipment, but it doesn’t. It’s not the equipment, it’s how I’m looking at the world.”