Photographer Mark Drawbridge in the field. His new exhibit at the Civic Center Gallery looks to tell the story of nature. Photo courtesy of Mark Drawbridge
Arts Rancho Santa Fe Lead Story

Encinitas photographer shoots to tell story of nature

ENCINITAS — Mark Drawbridge’s dazzling exhibit of wildlife photographs, many in natural florescent colors, titled “Bugs, Birds and Beasts of North County, San Diego” is on display at the Civic Center Gallery through July 16. Admission is free. 

Drawbridge is able to offer a unique perspective of local critters as a senior research scientist at Hubbs SeaWorld Research Institute at the Agua Hedionda Lagoon.

A more casual interest in photography for several years, he said, rose to an intense level in 2005 after the arrival of the digital camera.

“Once you have your equipment, it’s fairly inexpensive because you don’t have to worry about getting your film developed,” he said. “I like the fact that you get immediate feedback when you look at the screen and are able to see what you have.”

Drawbridge’s passion for capturing one-of-a-kind images has taken him from the shores of the Pacific Ocean to local lagoons and east to Lake Hodges.

One of his favorite places to shoot is San Diego Botanic Garden, particularly the bamboo gardens where he captured an image of a green heron snatching an unsuspecting frog relaxing in a pond.

“I love catching action or interaction, depending on the subject,” he said. “Telling a nature story with an image is pretty powerful.”

His photographic collection also includes turtles, dragon flies, bees, caterpillars and butterflies. These days he says his favorite subject is birds.

“Growing up I paid attention to birds,” he said. “Here (on the coast) they are plentiful and there are all kinds of them.”

In exploring local lagoons, Drawbridge has stumbled across some unlikely inhabitants beyond egrets, herons, terns and ibises.

“I live near the San Elijo Lagoon where, at night, there are deer certain times of the year,” he said.

Drawbridge says he’s been interested in wildlife since his childhood, which was spent in Naugatuck, Conn.

“If I wasn’t playing sports, I’d be out with my friends hiking through the woods catching things,” he recalled. “That has a lot to do with my nature photography. We didn’t live close to ocean, so I’m not sure where that fascination came from — maybe watching Jacques Cousteau.”

Drawbridge did his undergraduate work at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania. He continued his studies at Duke University in North Carolina and the University of Queensland in Australia. In 1985, he moved here and earned a master’s degree in marine ecology at San Diego State.

“I settled down and had a family,” he said. “I’ve been in Encinitas for about 15 years and love it.”

Drawbridge joined the North County Photography Society a few years ago when photography became “a serious hobby.” He was recognized for his efforts last fall.

“Mark won Best of Show at the 2011 Members’ Exhibition of the North County Photography Society,” said Jim Gilliam, Encinitas arts administrator. “The Selection Committee was so impressed with the caliber of his work they invited him to exhibit. He’s another brilliant Encinitas artist.”

Drawbridge’s exhibit includes approximately 28 images. Framed 16-inch-by-20-inch photographs are for sale, and priced at $115.

The Civic Center Gallery is located at Encinitas City Hall, 505 S. Vulcan Ave. Hours are 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. City Hall is closed on alternate Fridays. For more information, call (760) 633-2600. To view more of Drawbridge’s work, visit

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