If someone asked you to describe the Marriottsville/Sykesville/Woodstock region, how would you do so?

Would you mention the main thoroughfares, such as Routes 32 and 99? Or perhaps the schools, the neighborhoods, and the Waverly Woods Village Center? Maybe you would describe the topographical features — the breathtaking, wooded hills near Patapsco State Park or the rolling Sykesville farmland?

Ellicott City resident Cary Crocker sees the area somewhat differently. It is not the larger features that catch his eye, but the smaller ones that are nearly invisible in the daily rush to reach one's destination. It is these tiny bits of nature, Crocker says, such as "the dandelion whose last bits of seeds are stuck to the crown waiting for a good gust of wind to blow them" upon which he trains the lens of his camera and captures sights that the rest of us may overlook.

Crocker was born into an artistic family, and his interest in photography developed quite early. In his youth, his subjects were what he described as "anything that would sit long enough in front of my slow lens." He used the earnings from his paper route to buy rolls of film as he honed his craft and ultimately recognized a passion for photographing insects and flowers.


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Several years ago, Crocker became friendly with Meir "Memi" Pluznik, a photography teacher at Glenelg Country School and professional portrait photographer who had recently moved into Crocker's neighborhood. Pluznik taught Crocker how to self edit and use his lens to focus closely, thus helping him refine the quality of his pictures.

Since Crocker is currently a stay-at-home dad, his routine means frequent travel along local roads. He finds photo inspiration during these jaunts and has snapped some beautiful shots along Marriottsville Road and in the Patapsco Park area, as well as on some Sykesville farms.

He says, "If there is a moment I can take to dropping to my stomach, holding the camera at a wide angle to photograph a grasshopper sucking on a dew drop on a single blade of grass, I'll consider it a spectacular moment in my otherwise busy day."

As much as he enjoys documenting insects and flowers, he takes even greater pleasure in watching viewers' faces when he tells them where he took his pictures: "These aren't the wild landscapes of the Amazon; [they are scenes] from our own backyards."

Crocker's photos are on display at three area locations: Capitol Mailboxes, 9319 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City; Nika's Hair Studio, 3600 St. John's Lane, Ellicott City; and State Farm Insurance, 10724 Little Patuxent Parkway, Suite 201, Columbia. He obtains the wood for his handmade frames locally, from Timberline Farm Sawmill in Sykesville.

Crocker also has an online gallery at http://www.petitenature.net/#.

The Howard County Beekeepers Association has witnessed a boom in its annual Beekeeping Short Course, with more than 100 residents in attendance last year. Registration has begun for this year's session each Tuesday, Feb. 19 to March 19, 7:30-9 p.m., in the dining hall at the Howard County Fairgrounds. One field day will also be scheduled when weather permits, probably in mid-April.

Course topics include honey bee biology, beekeeping laws in Howard County, obtaining and installing bees, obtaining and setting up beekeeping equipment, inspecting bees, bee diseases and products of the hive.

To register, go to http://www.howardcountybeekeepers.org and select the "Classes" tab. The short course costs $30 per person or $45 per family, plus $20 for the required textbook.

Additionally, the monthly meeting of the Howard County Beekeepers is Tuesday, Feb. 12, at 7 p.m. in the 4-H building of the Howard County Fairgrounds. For more information, contact the association's president, Tom Wilson, at 443-801-0530 or hocobeekeepersassoc@gmail.com.