Lynn Decker can often be found walking along the Bayville shore with her trusty Canon in hand, waiting for the right moment to snap a scene of the sun rising or setting.
Decker began sharing photos she had taken over the years on her Facebook profile and a personal website while her mother, Emma, was in the end stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
On a recent Saturday, Decker pushed open a gate from her childhood street in the Oak Point private community and walked through the remains of an old trail several hundred feet to the shore. Her feet crunched frozen seashells as she moved toward a giant rock.
She cupped the camera’s lens and double-checked its settings. As the bitter breeze pushed her hair back, she raised the camera to her eye and captured the local landmark.
Decker has loved photography since she was 7, when her parents gave her a Mickey Mouse camera, her first. She has been preserving Bayville scenes since, and she mostly kept the pictures to herself in albums.
As she pointed her lens at a capsized boat bobbing in the Oyster Bay, she explained when and why that changed.
A year after her mother’s death in April 2009, Decker said an overwhelming response to her old photos spurred her to dissolve her website into the “I <3 Bayville NY” fan page on Facebook, which she updates with a new photo nearly every day. The page has attracted more than 1,000 fans.
Decker romped through the abandoned Harrison Williams estate as a teenager with her friends in the 1970s, snapping pictures as they walked through the property, which was built when Bayville was still called Pine Island. She shared some of those shots on the Facebook page, which has rekindled memories of Facebook fans.
“Wow, I played in there in ‘72,” Larry O’Connell commented on one of the Harrison Williams estate photos.
Remarks like that inspired Decker to take her camera on trips to the shore.
”People are very kind,” she said. “It encourages me to want to continue and do more.”
Fans soon started calling for published work.
“They wanted me to put a book together,” she said. It proved to be too expensive, so she dismissed the idea. Then a friend suggested she put together a calendar.
“I picked 27 photos – tried to make it seasonal – and now it has really taken off,” she said.
Decker said she has generated more revenue than expected from the $18 calendars. She is splitting her profits with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and local animal shelters.
The calendar features old and new shots of colorful Bayville scenery.
One image is of a bolt of lightning that seems to bisect an empty lifeguard's chair before striking the bay. It’s one of her favorites, especially because she captured it by accident.
Decker and her partner, Heide Leuthner, had argued while sitting in their car during the thunderstorm over Decker’s frustration with her new digital camera. She said she couldn’t get the camera to take a picture the way she wanted and Leuthner was upset with her for not reading the manual. She left the camera propped up against the window with her finger on the shutter button while they bickered and “click.”
“I was like, ‘Oh my God!’ ”
Although she is happy with her success and would love to be a full-time photographer, Decker said for her the photos mean more.
“Memories are fun, and photographs are memories,” she said.
A photo, taken by Lynn Decker, of the boat that capsized in the Oyster Bay, is seen above.