Feathered Friends: La Jollan’s bird photos nest in exhibit at theNAT

Dr. Cliff Oliver, an integrated healthcare professional, did not set out to become a wildlife photographer. As a student at San Diego State University, he was focused on learning to take care of people and on sailing with his college team to a championship at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

“Then one day I was driving by Torrey Pines and I saw 12 dolphins in the waves. That got me going,” the La Jolla resident explained. Since then, Oliver has been passionate about photography and gone on to win several awards for his images.

Currently he’s one of 14 photographers featured in the “Birds of the World” photography exhibit at the Natural History Museum in Balboa Park. The exhibit, which opened Feb. 7, includes images of birds from around the world, from the Arctic to India. Oliver’s six photographs in the show feature birds in La Jolla, Santee Lakes, Lake Hodges and New Mexico.

Since taking up photography, Oliver has been drawn to nature shots. “Nature has been my No. 1 interest and I got interested in birds while trying to get a good pelican shot.” In addition to appearing in exhibits, his images have been on the cover of Wild Bird magazine and on display at Scripps Institute of Oceanography.

Oliver also enjoys sharing the joys of photography with others. He has taught classes at theNAT and recently a class in iPhone photography at the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library in La Jolla. A big fan of iPhone photography, he likes to help others “share their vision of the world.” He said he has moved away from hauling around various models of Canon cameras and big lenses and now uses his iPhone 98 percent of the time.

He teaches his students how to create works of art and albums using various mobile phone apps and has produced his own series of books called “Zen I-A Photographic Journey,” “Zen II,” “Zen III-Japan” and “Zen IV-Windansea.” Their purpose is to promote inner peace.

Oliver’s other main passion is helping people stay healthy. At SDSU, he earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing, and then went on to earn a doctorate in chiropractic medicine. He runs an integrative healthcare center on Moraga Avenue in San Diego, The Center for Balance, with regular workshops on holistic nutrition, food allergies and stress. He also lectures to groups and corporations around the world. His “Stop Stress NOW” class features proper breathing, eating and power napping techniques. His other popular two-hour class is called “Empowered Walking – the antidote to Sad Saggy Butt Syndrome.”

A former surfer, Oliver has also shaped thousands of surfboards and holds one of the few patents for surfboard design in the United States. When he isn’t helping others stay in shape, or out photographing wildlife, he plays the Native American flute, the Australian didgeridoo and the slide guitar — and is thinking of taking ukulele lessons. Wildlife photographers with work in the show: Daniel

Cox, Montana; Todd Gustafson, Illinois (originally Tanzania); Arash Hazeghi, San Francisco; Denise Ippolito, New Jersey; Tim Laman, Massachusetts; Paul McKenzie, Hong Kong; Arthur Morris, Florida; Clifford Oliver, La Jolla; Kiran Poonacha, India; Marie Read, New York; Blake Shaw, San Diego; David Tipling, England; Roy Toft, Ramona; and Markus Varesvuo, Finland.

If you go: “Birds of the Wild” runs through Sept. 13 in the Ordover Gallery on Level 4 of the Natural History Museum, 1788 El Prado in Balboa Park, San Diego. Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission: $11-$17. (619) 232- 3821.