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Thomas G. Barnes

Outdoor and Nature Photography by Tom Barnes, Ph.D.

Dr. Tom Barnes, Ph.D., has been photographing the natural world for more than 25 years. His images have been used in publications around the world including Germany, Australia, Africa, England, Canada, Japan, Africa, and the United States. He is an award-winning photographer who specializes in nature photography in Kentucky and the United States. Tom has written and photographed three books and Kentucky’s Last Great Places was nominated for the Kentucky Literary Award in non-fiction the year it was released. Another book, including Gardening for the Birds, was quoted in a review by American Gardener magazine as the first realistic book on attracting wildlife to the backyard that has been written. His other book is the very popular Wildflowers and Ferns of Kentucky. Dr. Barnes is currently working on several book projects including a plant atlas with Dr. Julian Campbell and a coffee-table book on the rare plants of Kentucky with Deborah White and Marc Evans of the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission.

His interest in photography began in high school and during college he signed up to assist with photography for the school yearbook. He began shooting with an old Pentax SLR camera and learned the craft of black and white photography and printing during those formative years. One of the art professors at his undergraduate school told him he had a “good eye” and should pursue this creative endeavor. Upon completion of a bachelor of arts in Biology with a minor in Chemistry, Dr. Barnes purchased his first camera while working on his master of science in Wildlife Conservation at South Dakota State University. While in graduate school he entered numerous local competitions and won several awards, even capturing grand prize in one major national competition. After graduation and while working for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in western South Dakota, he purchased his first Nikon camera and has been shooting with Nikon equipment since that day in the early 1980’s. His photographic style and technique continued to improve while pursuing a Ph.D. at Texas A&M University and he began photographing wildflowers and developed an interest in native plants at this time. Since arriving on the faculty at the University of Kentucky, Dr. Barnes has been fortunate to use his photographic talents and academic training to bring the splendor of the natural world to the public.

Dr. Barnes is a self-taught photographer who has never taken a formal class in photography although he has learned the craft by reading and experimenting on his own. He has more than 50,000 images on file, mostly from his adopted state of Kentucky and is well known for his wildflower portraits. More than 700 species are included on the USDA Plants and University of Tennessee herbarium websites. He uses Nikon equipment, primarily an F100 body with lenses ranging from an 8 mm fisheye to a 500 telephoto. He still prefers to use film, primarily Velvia, although he has used a D100 for his Eco-Explorer work with the Louisville Science Center. The images contained in the galleries on this site are a sample of his work. All images are protected by copyright laws and may not be used without the express written permission of Dr. Barnes. He has a policy of allowing not for profit environmental organizations and educational institutions to use the images free of charge, however, written permission must still be granted for the use of the images.


His photographs have been published in books, calendars, album covers, miscellaneous publications, text books, web sites and for corporate uses for the likes of Time-Life, Inc., McGraw Hill, Thompson Publications, Book Production Resources, Prentice-Hall, Lippincott, Williams, and Wilkins, American Forest Foundation, Lone Pine Press, Chelsa House Publishers, Great Smoky Mountains Natural History Association, Audobon.org, The Audubon Institute, Oxford Financial Group, American Society Microbiology, Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, Aveda Salons, ABC New England, NatureServe, Wikipedia, and others. Various governmental agencies have used his images including the National Park Service, Western National Parks Association, Fish & Wildlife Service, Forest Service, Corps of Engineers, NRCS, the National Institutes of Health, National Research Council, National Academies, Royal Ontario Government of Canada, Canadian Forest Service, CRC for Australian Weed Management, Agriculture, Food, and Forestry Minister, British Columbia, St. Lawrence Islands National Park, Algonquin NP, Canada, and the KY Dept. of Fish & Wildlife Resources, KY Environmental Protection Cabinet, KY Dept. of Agriculture, MD Dept. Natural Resources, MI Natural Areas, Montgomery CO. MD, AZ Game & Fish Commission, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Swaziland National Govt., the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission, and Lexington FUCG.

His images grace the pages and covers on various magazines including Farmer’s Almanac, Time for Kids, Scientific American, Organic Gardening, PlantWatch Newfoundland and Labrador, Freedom Magazine for Jeep/Cherokee, American Gardener, YES Canada, Natural Health and Beauty, Weekly Flower Library Japan, Highways, ChicagoLand Gardening Magazine, The Horse, Land & Water, Forest Landowner, Blue Ridge Magazine, Wild Neighbor News, Erosion Control, The Wildlife Society Bulletin, Native Plant Journal, Wildland Weeds, Quail Unlimited, Chemical & Engineering News, Roswell England Library Newsletter, Birdscapes, Homeopathy Today, American Bee Journal. Regional publication credits include Appalachian Heritage, Kentucky Living, Back Home in Kentucky, KY Afield, Land, Air & Water, Georgia Encyclopedia, The Nature Conservancy News, Kentucky Gardening, SD Conservation Digest, Oklahoma Nongame News, Wild Ones Journal, RLEP News, NJ Pinelander, Huron River MI Watershed Newsletter, Kentucky Native Plant Newsletter, Trunkline, Alabama Wildlife, Carolina Gardener, and City Magazine.

Not for profit groups that have used his images include the Smithsonian Institution, Nature Conservancy, Chicago Field Museum of Natural History, Bronx Zoo, Ueberseemuseum Bremen Germany, National Honey Board, Center for Biological Diversity, National Soil Survey Center, Chicago History Museum, National Nutritional Foods Association, Kentucky Natural Lands Trust, Wild Ones, Bernheim Forest, Little Traverse MI Conservancy, Henrico County Virginia Government, Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center MN, Grand Traverse MI Conservation District, Friends of Chicago River, Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust, Central Indiana Land Trust, Northville MI Parks Dept., Wisconsin Dept. Transportation, Virginia Institute for Marine Science, Irvine Nature Center, Longwood Gardens, Adirondack Park, Friends of Troy Gardens, Tamarack Nature Center, Chicago Botanic Garden, Florida Native Plant Society, Dunwoody Nature Center, Rural Action Forestry, Blandy Experimental Farm, Lake Waco Wetlands, Houston Wilderness, Ohio Landscape Association, Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District, Portland Water District, Wisdom of the Elders, Reflection Riding Arboretum and Botanical Garden, Watch Tower Society, Iowa Living Roadway Trust, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Phytomedical, Teratology Society, AL Forestry Association, TX Beyond History, ID Fish and Game Watchable Wildlife, Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program, State Botanic Garden of Georgia, New Mexico Natural Heritage Program, NJ Natural Lands Trust, Snohomish Conservation District, IL State Geologic Survey, Palo Alto Historic Battlefield, and North American Native Plant Society, University of Rhode Island Botanic Garden, Fairfax VA County Government, Benton Oregon Soil & Water District, Buffalo Mtn Park TN, Lake County IL Forest Preserves, Ontario Nature, Calusa Nature Center, North Carolina Botanic Garden, Georgia Native Plant Society, Ohio Farm Bureau, Maine Ag Experiment Station, FL Dept. Environmental Protection, and Jefferson County Public Schools. His photos have also been published in several newspapers include the Lexington Herald-Leader, Louisville Courier-Journal, Ft. Wayne, IN, Charleston, SC, Mobile, AL Register, Knoxville News Sentinel, Charlotte Observer, and Winston-Salem Journal.

Native Plant Nurseries and other commercial vendors using his photos include Wayside Gardens, Fairweather Gardens, Scenic Hills Nursery, Native-By-Design, Shooting Star Nursery, Prairie Moon Nursery, Holes Greenhouse and Gardens, Pacific Rim Native Plant Nursery, Tropicalesque, CanadaWay Wildflowers, Acorn Nursery, Go Wild Consulting, Heritage Seedlings, and Wetland Supply Company. The following Universities and educational institutions have also used his images, University of Kentucky, Cornell University, Texas A&M University, Univ. CA – Berkley, Univ. IL – Chicago, University Massachusetts, Boston, Ohio State University, Virginia Tech., Indiana University, NC State University, East TN State Univ., Clemson Univ., Penn State Univ., Arizona State Univ., University of AZ, Oregon State University, University of Calgary, Grinnell, Univ. North Dakota, UBC Centre for Plant Research, University of Michigan, Washington State University, University of Regina, University of Rhode Island, St. Louis University, Yale University Peabody Museum, George Mason University, University MN Crookston, Southern University and A&M, University of Alberta, and Samford Univ.

To contact Thomas G. Barnes: email: tbarnes@uky.edu