A great online course offers something bigger than technical knowledge: it offers time hanging out with YOU. It offers the chance to experience your world, to join you in the field, to see, first-hand, your unique approach to the photography process. Here, filmmaker Peter Hoffman is on assignment in California.
Story and photos by Kika Tuff
The world of online education is a new frontier for nature photographers and one that can be quite lucrative. But making money isn’t as simple as building an amazing course and setting it free on the internet. Plenty of thoughtful, well-designed courses go undiscovered every day.
So, before you invest your time and energy into building a course, I wanted to offer some ideas on how to ensure you don’t get lost in the ocean of internet content.
The following Showcase images have been selected to appear on the NANPA home page for the week beginning Monday, January 21, 2019. We recently began highlighting the best photos from NANPA’s 2019 Showcase competition. To view all of the top 250 photographs, see the photo gallery on the NANPA website.
Lou Nettelhorst will receive one of NANPA’s 2019 Fellow Awards. This award is presented to members who have made significant contributions to the professional nature photography industry over a period of at least 20 years.
Nettelhorst is a widely-published nature and fine art photographer. The awards committee noted that, “for eight years, he led the NANPA’s high school scholarship committee, in essence establishing the efficient way the committee continues to work today. Lou shares his talent through community college courses, field trips, presentations and nationwide workshops and private instruction.”
Still debating whether you should come to NANPA’s Nature Photography Summit and Trade Show, February 21-23 in Las Vegas? Here are five compelling reasons to pull out your credit card and start making reservations. And, hey, there’s still time to get pre-conference pricing . . . but only ‘till midnight, Sunday, January 20th.
White-cheeked gibbon (Nomascus leucogenys) seen through bars, dangles from the door frame of his enclosure evoking a sense of frustration, boredom, loneliness at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Story & photo by Haley R. Pope
Most of what makes a wildlife photograph great is the photographer’s ability to get inside the head of the animal and show the world through their eyes. What are they thinking? How do they see their environment? How do they see us? What is their story? In other words, a photographer needs to create an emotional connection to the subject or elicit an emotional response in the viewer. Emotion creates a layer of dimensionality that help us suspend judgments and see honestly.
The rest of what makes a great photograph is the photographer’s ability to correctly, and technically, control the camera so as to represent the scene as one saw and felt it. How am I going to tell the story? What landscape elements should I include? Do I need a shallow or wide depth of field? Should I over or underexpose the shot? How fast should I set my shutter speed? Do I have enough lighting? Where should I physically be positioned? These questions should be in your mind as you think about how to communicate your message and how to set yourself up to create your photo.
The two questions I ask myself before and during every photo shoot is: 1) what story do I want to tell and 2) how am I going to craft my image so the story is clear to viewers?
A Day at the Zoo
I have never been a fan of zoos, but on a warm day in June I decided to go. After I arrived, it wasn’t difficult to decide what story to tell. I wanted to tell the story of what it’s like to be locked up against one’s will. I wanted us to put ourselves in the animal’s shoes, so to speak, so I needed the emotional connection to be strong and our similarities to be obvious. I wanted us to consider what role we should play in other animals’ lives and whether or not there is even a need for animal exhibits like zoos.
As I passed through each exhibit and looked at the faces and body language of the animals inside, I was overcome with emotions of loneliness, sadness, boredom, and frustration; emotions I felt emanating from the animals themselves. Emerging from the kangaroo exhibit, I crossed the paved walkway and entered the primate center. No animal that day seemed to express the story so noticeably or poignantly than the white-cheeked gibbon. I knew this is where I would find my shot.
I watched the male gibbon for several minutes without picking up my camera and took note of his environment and behavior. I noticed whether the gibbon made eye contact with me and how he moved around the space. Then I circled the enclosure while thinking about how I’d like to compose the shot. What elements will help drive home my message and how I should represent the being inside?
I decided to include the metal bars of the enclosure as a frame for my subject since that’s exactly what they are. I also wanted to include both man-made and natural elements to provide context and juxtaposition. Focusing on the gibbon’s body language would illustrate both how similar our bodies are and how misplaced his own seems in contrast to the surrounding concrete and metal.
At one point, the gibbon stood up from where he sat and walked towards the interior door. With his back to me, he dangled from the door by its hinges and swayed back in forth in the characteristic way of under-stimulated animals. This was it. I raised my camera and snapped the shot. But I felt guilty as I turned and left him, embarrassed that I could just walk away while he stayed there, hanging and swaying.
Nature photographers don’t typically strive to capture disturbing situations. We want to show how beautiful the natural world is, in its raw form, and how we are all connected. But that is only half the story. If we never represent the other side of reality, we can become passive and complacent. I wanted to capture the other side of reality during my zoo visit. Because all animals are part of nature and zoos are not filled with happy carefree animals. They are filled with captives.
Haley R. Pope is a zoologist and conservationist with a passion for photography and writing. She uses those mediums to explore wildlife conservation topics and share biological knowledge in a visual story-like format to inspire awe of our planet’s inherent beauty and encourage the responsible treatment of nature. As the president and owner of TerraLens Photography LLC, she offers freelance photography, writing, and photo archiving services to other companies.
Haley is also a trip leader for Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village program, which operates in more than 40 countries and builds houses for those in need. In the future, she’d like to lead ecological and photography focused trips. Connect with her below!
2019 NANPA Lifetime Achievement Award winner John Shaw
Professional nature photographer John Shaw was the recipient of NANPA’s first Outstanding Photographer Award in 1997. This year, he’s being honored with NANPA’s Lifetime Achievement Award and will also become a NANPA Fellow. Registered for the 2019 NANPA Nature Photography Summit? You can see John Shaw interviewed by Kathy Adams Smith on Saturday, February 23, at 10:30 AM.
He’s written seven books and ten ebooks and his work has been featured in numerous books and magazines. He’s photographed on every continent and has been recognized by Nikon as a Legend Behind the Lens, as an Icon of Imaging by Microsoft and, since 2001, has been part of Epson’s Stylus Pro fine art print makers group. Last month we had the opportunity to ask him a few questions.
The following Showcase images have been selected to appear on the NANPA home page for the week beginning Monday, January 14, 2019. Starting last week, we began highlighting the best photos from NANPA’s 2019 Showcase competition. To view all of the top 250 photographs, see the photo gallery on the NANPA website.
Sunrise behind “The Wheel” on Steel Pier, Atlantic City Beach, Atlantic City, NJ
Story and photos by F. M. Kearney
Webster defines serendipity as “the faculty of making providential discoveries by accident.” In photography, it’s more like capturing that once in a lifetime shot that could not be recreated again in a million years. The internet is full of these types of images, usually classified as “Photos Taken at the Perfect Moment,” or “Things You Have to See to Believe.” Of course, almost anything you see on the internet should be viewed with a certain degree of skepticism, and even more so when it comes to photos and videos. The old saying, “The Camera Never Lies,” has never been less true than in the digital age in which we live. However, assuming that even if a fraction of these photos are, in fact, real, they truly are serendipitous moments caught on camera.
I recently spent several days in Atlantic City, NJ shooting ocean views. Most of my visits in the past have been day trips lasting only a few hours – just enough time to grab a quick lunch, lose all my money and head back home. On this occasion, I had the luxury of time on my side – time to see the real beauty of this town, beyond the bells and buzzers, and the glitzy flashing lights within its casinos’ walls.
One morning, I took a walk along the beach to The Steel Pier – a 1,000-foot-long amusement park built on a pier of the boardwalk. Its latest attraction is a 227-foot tall Ferris wheel, known as The Wheel, which began operating in 2017. I arrived just as the sun was rising behind it. My main objective was to get the surf in the perfect position – far enough into frame to be a dominant foreground element, but not so far in that it covered up the sun’s reflection on the wet sand. I also wanted to get the rising sun directly between the spokes of The Wheel. The sun’s position changes quite rapidly when it’s this low on the horizon. I took several shots and the photo above was the only one where the sun and the surf lined up in the perfect positions. This was the result of careful timing (and a little bit of luck). However, the serendipitous aspects were the inclusion of the seagull and the woman – things I had absolutely no control over. I saw when the seagull walked into the reflection during the shoot, but I didn’t even notice the woman in the background until I was reviewing the images back home on my computer. She had walked into one of the openings of the pier directly beneath The Wheel at precisely the right moment.
Another serendipitous moment was the inclusion of the honeybees in the daylily image below. I was all set to shoot the flowers when I suddenly found myself surrounded by a small group of bees. Like little helicopters on a mission, they methodically visited each flower in the area – hovered for a few seconds, then landed to pollinate. Since I already had my camera locked down on a tripod and focused on one particular bloom, I decided to wait and see if they would pay it a visit. Eventually, two bees flew into the shot and hovered close enough for my flash to cast a catch-light in their eyes. When they landed, they went down too deep into the flower to be seen, so I was lucky to get this photo of their approach.
Honeybees “photo-bombing” daylily image.
Serendipitous moments in photography are unplanned and often referred to as “lucky shots.” But you can increase your luck if you’re prepared, have a little patience and are aware of specific patterns of behavior – as in the case of the honeybees. Sometimes, however, you just get a pleasant surprise. Careful planning made the image of The Wheel a good shot. Serendipity made it one-of-a-kind.
From the Editor: This article has consistently been one of NANPA’s most popular blog posts, despite being originally published in 2015. We bring it back in case you missed it the first time and to kick off an occasional series of articles on the business side of nature photography. If you have tips or ideas on running a successful nature photography business, share them with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am often asked if it’s possible to make a living as a nature photographer. No matter whether you attempt to do it as a full-time professional or a part-timer to supplement income from an existing job, there are many things to consider. Nature photography is a tough way to make a living. However if you do it right, you can make it work.
Both full-time and part-time photographers need to remember and understand these concepts:
You need to get really (and I mean really) good as a photographer. This takes many years of working hard. As the late, great Henri Cartier-Bresson famously observed, “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.”
Be prepared to spend as much or more time in your office as in the field.
You must deal with rejection.
Full-time photographers can add these to the list:
If no one buys your work or attends your workshops, you don’t eat.
You have to know your market and change when necessary.
Develop business savvy.
Be able to justify expenditures such as travel, equipment and extensive marketing (website, social etc.).