An Eye for Inspiration

Photographer Maryfrances Berger’s work captures natural beauty and coastal moments, frame by frame

Written by Kristen Hampshire  Photo by Marci Ryan

Curiosity and wanderlust guide photo excursions of all kinds for Maryfrances Berger. Some involve a meandering walk up the road to capture images of wildflowers she notices — weeds, too, since they can be quite interesting, she maintains. A natural playground awaits at her doorstep in Ocean View, DE. 

“We have the beach, the bay, marshlands, Assateague National and Henlopen State Parks,” she says, naming a ticker of locations that prompt picture-taking close to home. “I can walk on one of the trails and see scenery I want to capture as a landscape.”

Sometimes, she heads out searching for a specific subject and pivots when an entirely different image enters the viewfinder. “I could be looking for wildlife and never see a bird but be taken by the environment around me,” says Berger, who started photography after retirement as a way to “keep my mind busy.”

What developed from there is a passion and now a professional pursuit, with Berger creating a studio, earning invitations to juried shows and displaying works at a growing number of venues. Berger, who is a member of Coastal Camera Club out of Lewes, has displayed at Rehoboth Art League and is often called on to capture beachside family portraits.

“Photography has taught me patience,” she says. “It has taught me to see the world.”

Berger compares this newfound vision to walking into a furniture store, where displays show how to arrange a room, what fabrics to choose, which accessories to select. “In my youth, I would have said, ‘I’ll take that living room right there,’” she relates. “I didn’t have the imagination to see for myself what I could do.”

Berger’s body of work indicates her development and how she has clearly found her style. “If you could see my house now,” she quips. “I now know I can put things together and it’s all because of photography.”

These are some life lessons she has learned from her works that have nothing to do with the mechanics of shooting photos. “I’m always learning and developing my craft,” she says.

Cultivating a Following. Berger recalls the first print she sold—a blue heron. “Now, I have people come to my home, see something they like and we might tweak it a bit,” she says.

Her Facebook and website presence has resulted in inquiries from near and far.

Berger is on a quest for continuous learning and now sharing her work, which is increasingly in demand. She never imagined when she picked up her first Nikon box camera about 10 years ago that it would click into an encore career during retirement. 

She rewinds to two years ago when painter Damon Pla invited her to set up a tent and display her work at a fine art show.

“I said, ‘I don’t have a tent,’” Berger relates.

“He said, ‘I do,’” she says. “I said, ‘I don’t have any product.’”

Pla suggested, “Take the photos off your walls from home.”

Berger says, “That was the first time I showed my work and last year, I did 10 shows. I’m heading into a busy season this year.”

To novice photographers or anyone interested in giving it a try, Berger recommends joining a camera club. “Ask for help,” she advises.

“You don’t always have to find the beautiful rose,” Berger says, revealing how she finds beauty in natural imperfection. “A petal missing could be a very creative piece. If you see that rose, turn around because you never know what you will see behind you.”

Taking time to soak in surroundings is how Berger has developed an eye for subjects that move people to bring home a print to display in their homes.

Berger says, “In relation to photography, somehow, I see things that captures
others’ interest.”

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