A Thankful Photographer

While the heron is thankful for a meal, I’m thankful for places like Huntley Meadows Park where I can photograph wildlife. © Frank Gallagher

By Frank Gallagher, NANPA Blog Coordinator

As we head into the Thanksgiving weekend, I am reminded of a relative who used to make each guest at her holiday table say what they were thankful for. But, in year two of a pandemic that’s taken so many lives and disrupted travel and business, are there things we’re still grateful for? Yes, Virginia, there are many things for a nature photographer to be thankful for. Vaccines, for one, that are gradually helping life, travel, and our businesses return to a more normal state, and, in no particular order:

Continually improving gear

This might be a golden era for camera gear. After being a little late to the mirrorless table and letting Sony get a head start, both Canon and Nikon have been putting out terrific new camera bodies and amazing lenses. The big three, along with Fuji, Leica, Olympus, Pentax, and Panasonic, are locked in a fierce battle to make better cameras and photographers are the beneficiaries. Whether it’s better sensors, eye autofocus, in-camera focus stacking, or faster write speeds, the capabilities of new cameras are astounding.

And don’t forget that camera in your pocket. Mobile phone camera technology has also improved by leaps and bounds, with some of the advancements in mobile making their way into traditional cameras.

Competition is also pushing the development of sharper, lighter, better lenses from companies like Tamron and Sigma, along with the native lenses of camera manufacturers. The same is true for filters, tripods, backpacks, and all sorts of gear. Kickstarter campaigns have made it easier for new brands to launch and have increased the variety of choices available to photographers.

Photo of an old Leica camera and two extra lenses on a black background. Today's cameras have come a long way from this circa 1949 Leica IIIc, though it's still fun to shoot with! © Frank Gallagher
Today’s cameras have come a long way from this circa 1949 Leica IIIc, though it’s still fun to shoot with! © Frank Gallagher

Better processing

Whether you’re a long-time Adobe user, a CaptureOne aficionado, swear by ON1 or something else, software is also improving by leaps and bounds, with each new feature in one application pushing more innovation from the other companies. And plugins from companies like Topaz Labs and NIK from DxO are critical parts of my workflow on a lot of photos. So many choices, unlike the big social media platforms we use to showcase our work and reach clients.

And the hardware that runs everything is getting better, too. Whether it’s Apple’s new M1 chip, 4K (even 6K) monitors, ever-improving tablets, or faster and cheaper storage, the technology we use to process our photos is better than ever.

Virtual connections

Did I mention Zoom? How would we have survived without Zoom and other videoconferencing and meeting apps that allowed us to do our jobs and stay in touch when we couldn’t meet or travel? Zoom kept me close to my far flung relatives and engaged with my local camera club, it helped NANPA’s Marketing and Communications Committee do its work and enabled a hundred other things.

I’m also grateful for virtual conferences, like NANPA’s 2021 Nature Photography Virtual Summit and upcoming one in March, 2022. Organizations like NANPA and local camera clubs had to rethink their meetings, pivot in new directions, adapt unfamiliar technologies and they did, keeping us engaged, educated, and entertained. I’m also thankful for NANPA’s webinars (archived in the Members’ Area of the website) and Sip & Share Conversations that helped keep us all connected.

Photo of a rustic bridge over a rushing creek with colorful fall foliage in the background. The road through this part of Rock Creek Park was closed to traffic during the pandemic. © Frank Gallagher
The road through this part of Rock Creek Park was closed to traffic during the pandemic. © Frank Gallagher

Pandemic and public policy

I’m grateful that the coronavirus pandemic that kept me from traveling also inspired me to explore areas close to home that I’d taken for granted. It reminded me that some of the best moments can be found in the places you least expect them.

In my neighborhood, several segments of roads through parks have been closed to traffic during the pandemic, encouraging people to walk, bike, or jog through the parks. I hope that increases their appreciation for and willingness to support parks and public lands. And I’m thankful to see the resilience of nature, as parts of the landscape recover from overuse and wild animals return.

In a politically polarized country, the congress came together to approve the Great American Outdoors Act in 2020. I’m thankful to see that some of the billions of dollars appropriated in this legislation are now being spent on deferred maintenance in parks and public lands, improving the visitor experience, and protecting the land for future generations.

People

I’ve met a lot of nature photographers through NANPA—at Summits, contributing articles for this blog, through NANPA’s Facebook group or Instagram account. I’m grateful for these friendships, whether we’ve gone out shooting together or just traded a bunch of emails. The community is what makes a membership organization like NANPA special and my fellow NANPA members have enriched my life and my photography.

Then there are NANPA’s Executive Director Susan Day and volunteers like NANPA President Dawn Wilson and all those who work on NANPA’s Board of Directors, serve on committees (especially my colleagues on the Marketing & Communications Committee), manage the Showcase competition, plan Summit and Regional Events, advocate for conservation, ethics, and our copyright and intellectual property rights, sit on the board of the NANPA Foundation, on and on.

And that’s just talking about nature photography. There are many more things to be grateful for, from health to family to well, you get the picture.

What are you grateful for? What made a difference in your life this year? Tell us and we might include your story in a future article. And, if you, too, are grateful for what you receive from NANPA, consider a donation to the NANPA Foundation during this season of giving. After all, #GivingTuesday is coming up soon!