Having grown up in Central Illinois, Michael Holtz sees the majesty in the rural landscape.
His photographs show the area’s beauty, from a statue silently standing guard over a tombstone in a rural cemetery to a lightning storm and from wildflowers to a snow-covered barn.
Holtz, of Monticello, began taking photographs in college. But with a busy career, he got away from it. Now semi-retired from his structural engineering job at Archer Daniels Midland, he’s gotten back into photography in the last decade or so.
His work is primarily landscape and nature photography.
“I just like to be outside and walk through the woods or watch the sunset. I guess maybe I’m kind of a loner, but that’s what I like to do,” Holtz said.
“I like the challenge,” he continued. “It’s a lot of hard work but when you do finally get one you are really in love with, it is so very rewarding.”
Holtz has photographed Allerton Park near Monticello extensively, and his photographs appear in two books, written by his wife, Maureen Holtz – “Robert Allerton: The Private Man and the Public Gifts," co-authored with Martha Burgin,  and “Allerton’s Paradises.”
“The sculpture is so beautiful out there. And the arrangement and the gardens,” he said. “It’s so peaceful and relaxing to get away out there.”
One of his favorite subjects at Allerton is the Fu Dog Garden. He’s particularly proud of one shot showing a line of Fu Dogs, with flowers blooming underneath. With the nature and the sculptures at Allerton Park, “you just can’t take a bad photo,” Holtz said.
He has found photography has made him more observant about the world around him.
“You really study things visually and you see so much more, because you’re always thinking about the next photograph,” he said. “Learning to see is probably the toughest part of it. There is great camera equipment but you have to train your eye. That’s the key.”
Holtz and his wife operate The Red House Gallery at 315 W. Washington St., Monticello, where they display Holtz’s photographs as well as the work of other artists. For more information, go to www.redhousegallery.net or call 217-762-8248.