The former executive editor and design director for Kiawah Island Legends magazine, author and designer Karen Bacot, and Charleston freelance photographer, Jason Stemple, worked collaboratively to produce A Bird’s Eye View of Kiawah. Stemple spent five years faithfully watching and waiting to photograph and compile this anthology of stunning images in a pictorial “bucket list” of 120 things to see and do on Kiawah Island.
Located 21 miles south of Charleston, SC, Kiawah Island is favored by migratory birds as a stopover place along the Atlantic Flyway to rest and refuel. A Bird’s Eye View of Kiawah illustrates the Island’s splendors from every vantage point, organized in five chapters. From the Surf, it depicts 10 miles of beaches and rambling dunes. On the Wing, you get to know the many species of year-round and seasonal avifauna. From the Links, panoramic landscapes of championship golf are pictured, where birdies and eagles (of a different sort) land. From the Marsh follows shimmering waterways winding through grassy tidal basins. Into the Wild, you see the Island’s original inhabitants share its beauty, together.
Stemple became interested in photography while growing up in a small farming town in the Connecticut River Valley of Massachusetts. His father, David Stemple, was a professor and head of the Computer Science Department at the University of Massachusetts, and an avid birdwatcher. His mother, Jane Yolen, is an award-winning author of over 300 books. Growing up in a world of birds and books helped chart Jason’s path toward a career in nature photography.
After earning a degree in photography and graphic design, Jason followed his passion for natural history to Colorado, and he began collaborating on book projects with his mother. Together, they published 15 books including 2002 National Outdoor Book Award winner, Wild Wings, 2009 John Burroughs Young Readers Award winner, A Mirror To Nature and 2010 National Outdoor Book Award Honor Book, An Egret’s Day (which features many images from Kiawah Island). After a decade of shooting in Crested Butte, Colorado, Jason moved with his future wife to Charleston, South Carolina. The move to the Lowcountry opened up a new world of inspiration.
Bacot began her relationship with Kiawah Island in 1992 as a freelance graphic designer for Kiawah Island Legends magazine. She joined Kiawah Development Partners shortly thereafter, serving in many roles and garnering many design awards over an era of 15 years — as Creative Director and Director of Marketing for KDP, as well as Executive Editor and Design Director for Legends magazine. In her quest to record and depict the Island’s bountiful wildlife, she contracted a young nature photographer to shoot homes for sale and Kiawah Island Club events, suggesting that he shoot what he loved best between routine assignments.
Stemple took the bait like a night heron to menhaden. As a matter of fact, he went wild. Jason set his “office hours” to the tide tables and Atlantic Flyway migration patterns, shooting from sunup to sundown several hundred days a year. Over time, he became a bona fide naturalist, studying the habits of the birds and wildlife of Kiawah and documenting his discoveries on camera. He explored the island from the mud flats and dunes of Captain Sam’s inlet to the Ocean Course and beaches beyond. He shot from helicopters, boats and canoes, often with plough mud-covered boots or sandy bare feet. Stemple’s dedication paid off in a treasure trove of images including over 150 bird species and a wide variety of animals – from tiny crustaceans and butterflies to bobcats prowling, deer enjoying the beach and dolphins strand feeding.
What happens when you approach work with such passion and perseverance? A Bird’s Eye View of Kiawah is a chronicle of Stemple’s discoveries.
Bird’s Eye View of Kiawah is published by Wild Hair Press. wildhairpress.com. It is available for purchase at The Kiawah Island Resort Sanctuary Shops and Pro Shops, The Kiawah Island Club, SeaCoast Sports, and Indigo Books and online at kiawahbook.com.
Jason Stemple lives with his wife, Joanne, and twin girls, Caroline and Amelia, in Charleston, South Carolina, and continues to work as a freelance photographer. Email: Jason@jasonstemple.com; Web:
Karen Bacot currently lives with her daughter, Kelly, in Greenville, SC, but returns to Kiawah Island as often as possible.