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Jim Fowler gives back through calendar

By Staff | Nov 8, 2017

Jim Fowler discovered Sanibel on a motorcycle one humid August afternoon in 1972. It wasn’t until the early 1980s that Fowler fell in love with the island.

“It was J.N. ‘Ding’ Darling National Wildlife Refuge that piqued my interest in wildlife and the natural world,” Fowler said.

When Fowler started coming to Sanibel from Kentucky on a regular basis, he noticed that gift shops didn’t carry any calendars or much local photography, so, he set out to change that. After talking to several store owners to see if they’d be interested in selling them, Fowler released the first Sanibel-Captiva Nature Calendar that featured local photography by him and two other photographers in 1989.

Fowler recalls South Seas Island Resort buying 1,000 of them the first year.

“They really helped me get started,” he said.

Over the years, many aspects have changed about the calendar. Some of those changes include changing the layout and expanding the narrative.

“One of the best things I did was expand the writing to full-feature narratives,” Fowler said. “The goal of the calendar is not just to be beautiful, it’s also to be educational and interesting.”

Fowler also expanded his list of photographers over the last 28 years. The photographers for 2018 include Theresa Baldwin, Marianne Barigiotti, Cliff Beittel, Angela Brain, Dick Fortune, Al Hoffacker, Robert Kimbrell, Sara Lopez, Lorraine Sommer and Don Thompson.

Fowler said that he has 15-20 photographers submit photos every year. Last week, he went through at least 500 photos for the calendar for 2019.

“A lot of them are repeat photographers,” he said. “I prefer to use photographers who are like me, they love Sanibel or live on Sanibel for all or part of the year, live in the area, or like me, just come down for a week at various times of the year. Most of them are naturalists first then photographers second.”

Instead of using his photographs like years prior, Fowler is more involved with the moving parts of the calendar.

“Over the years, I’d do less and less photography – I never made the transition from film to digital,’ Fowler said. “I have a digital camera but I don’t do much nature photography anymore. I just love to go out in ‘Ding’ Darling and SCCF, sit down, relax and enjoy.”

Every year, the calendar typically showcases pictures of birds and at least one marine shot.

“That way I can get in some information about water quality and discharges from Lake O,” Fowler said.

The 2018 calendar features art work by Sue Stephens. The cover features a photograph of American white pelicans by Al Hoffacker. Betty Anholt, Charles LeBuff and Lorraine Sommer contributed to the narratives.

A custom Blind Pass edition featuring the tides is also available.

In 1990, Fowler began using his calendar to give back to the community. So far, he’s contributed over $23,000 to the Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium, the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society the Sanibel-Captiva Audubon Society, Save the Manatee Club, The Conservancy of Southwest Florida, The International Osprey Foundation, the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation and Turtle Time.

When Fowler isn’t working on his calendar, you can find him fixing up an old house he bought outside of Lexington, Kentucky, and dabbling in electrical work.

The 2018 calendar can be purchased from sancapcalendar.com and at gift shops around Southwest Florida.