Nature takes Tabernacle resident to Arctic tundra, other locales

Photographer’s day job is gastroenterology at Jersey Shore

When two coastal brown bears head for a salmon and one makes a successful catch, tempers can flare. Taking the time to observe nature not only gives one an understanding of animals in the wild but of domestic animals and humans as well. Much of human behavior is closely linked to the natural world of which we are a part (Daniel D’Auria/Special to The Sun).

Known by day as a trained and established gastroenterologist, Daniel D’Auria has spent his off hours capturing animals in their most natural habitats with his camera equipment in tow.

D’Auria has a passion for nature. His younger days were spent playing outdoors and in the countryside, far away from the hustle and bustle of life. A degree and medical license later, he officially entered the medical field to focus on his other passion for health care at Jersey Shore Gastroenterology.

Then came a suggestion from his wife, Kimberly, to restart photography.

She had her sights set on sports photography and attended a conference in Colorado to learn from experts, one of whom was esteemed photographer Rich Clarkson. Kimberly returned with a proposition for Daniel to attend one of Clarkson’s upcoming events in wildlife and landscape photography, noting how he had always adored photography.

“It was an epiphany for me,” he recalled. “It was very uplifting for me and over the years, I bought better equipment and became skilled in it. It remained a hobby of mine and my one true vice.”

Awards and national recognition resulted from the Tabernacle resident’s hobby, but none was a goal. He simpIy shares the beauty in nature and captivates curious minds with his photos of natural animal habitats.

A recent August trip to Anchorage, Alaska, submerged the 63-year-old in such natural habitats. D’Auria and a team of wildlife photographers toured the city, Chugach State Park, Katmai National Park and Preserve and nearby peninsulas to observe Alaskan coastal bears, who are more tolerant of humans than inland grizzly bears. The coastal bears feast on rich vegetation and shellfish along the coast and are unlikely to hunt humans for food.

It was not D’Auria’s first trip to the Arctic, and it won’t be his last. He loves to see the animals interact with others of their kind, and often set his camera on a tripod to film the bears while he sat back and watched with the naked eye.

“We were able to get out on the beach when the bears were clamming for clams and salmon,” D’Auria said. “Their behavior while hunting, with other cubs and interacting with other bears, is very inspiring.”

Photos of his on Facebook, his website and a Flickr account are accompanied by a caption where he interprets the “philosophy of nature” or whatever subject piques his interest as he gazes at the images. Some of his thoughts were compiled into a children’s book, notably on the subject of “Nani na Nene,” a goose kept in Hawaii’s national parks.

Each of D’Auria’s children’s books, published in coordination with National Wildlife magazine, are rhymed and teach young readers about animals and nature. Most profits from the books go to state park systems or the U.S. National Park Service.

Internationally, D’Auria was overwhelmed by Tanzanian safaris in Kenya,  where he described the wildlife as being like New Jersey’s, but “on steroids.”

“You go to the zoo and see a lion or elephant,” he shared. “To see them roam freely, with you being in the cage and them outside, is different.”

The photographer’s favorite U.S. spot is the Grand Teton National Park in  Wyoming. Nearly all of the land there is owned by the federal government, with 3 percent available for citizens to buy. But he believes everyone should visit the “breathtaking” park.

New Jersey is also a subject. D’Auria often captures native birds seen around Tabernacle and finds animals large and small.

“You’re creating something that emulates what you see,” he explained of his passion. “I bring my photos home to my wife because I want her to see what I see. It teaches us to forgo certain things, like mining for gold, for better things, like the bears.”