I think it’s safe to say that 2020 was a rough year for everyone, and one that made many look inward to who and what are important to us. For me, it was family and my love of nature. There is comfort in knowing I can pick up a camera and escape into its beauty. This photograph of San Diego’s bioluminescent bloom was from one of my first outings after the initial panic of lock down. I had seen algae blooms before, but the intense blue glow of the crashing water felt as if I had stepped into a dream. Although microscopic, the shear numbers of phytoplankton created an ephemeral dance of light among the darkened coast. Standing in frigid water I felt a buzz of excitement. Nature had found a new way to surprise me. In that moment, with my eye to the camera, the stress of the world disappeared.
The Nature Photographer episode #7 on Wild & Exposed podcast
What happens an hour, a month, a year, or a decade after we get our image and go home? How is that animal, wildflower, or habitat changed as a result of our actions in the field? What do the photographers around us that day perceive? And what conclusions do viewers make when they see the final published image? These are the questions that guide Jennifer Leigh Warner’s work as Chair of NANPA’s Ethics Committee—not a black and white list of rights and wrongs—and this is what Jennifer hopes we’ll keep in mind when deciding what’s the right photo for us—and the right way to get it and share it.
Florida-based conservation photographer and underwater photojournalist Jennifer Adler will receive one of NANPA’s Outstanding Young Photographer of the Year Awards during the 2021 Nature Photography Virtual Summit, April 29-30. She earned a degree in marine biology from Brown University and a PhD in interdisciplinary ecology from the University of Florida. “Having a background in science allows me to communicate science accurately and impactfully,” she says. “I often write and photograph stories, so understanding science and being able to read complex peer-reviewed papers helps me ask the right questions of the researchers and then use the more creative part of my brain to tell a visual story that brings science to a wider audience in a compelling way.” She’s given TED Talks and presentations for museums and conservation organizations, has an extensive list of publication credits, and has been awarded Young Explorer and Storytelling grants from National Geographic.
If you mention the topic of commercial film permits to most professional photographers, the response may range from an irritated growl to a wall of invective that would make a sailor blush. And for good reason, too. The statutes and regulations governing when a photographer needs a commercial permit are confusing at best and vary depending on factors such as whether or not the activity involves stills or video, is considered commercial filming, uses props, sets or models, and more. They are sometimes even prone to inconsistent and arbitrary application and even abuse when applied by park rangers and administrators in the real world
For those reasons, NANPA has long advocated for reform and simplification of the commercial film and still photography permit laws and regulations.
New Jersey native Ashleigh Scully will receive one of NANPA’s Outstanding Young Photographer of the Year Awards during the 2021 Nature Photography Virtual Summit, April 29-30. Ashleigh was one of the 2017 NANPA High School Scholarship Program participants, though she’d been photographing wildlife since she was eight years old. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including winning the 11-14 age category in the 2017 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition and in the Nature’s Best Windland Smith Rice International Awards Youth Wildlife Photographer of the Year in 2017 after receiving Highly Honored recognition the previous three years. Her photos have been shown in galleries from Jackson Hole to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC, to London’s Natural History Museum. She’s led workshops and was named a spokeswoman for Girls Who Click.
Back in the early days of the pandemic, I had just received notification that my home state of Colorado was considering putting stay-at-home orders in place. I was visiting Yellowstone National Park when I heard the news, so I scrambled to pack up and head home. As I left the hotel, I found a trailer of bison parts—heads on the bottom, legs missing hooves in the center, and these plastic-wrapped legs tied to the sides. It was so disturbing, yet I couldn’t help but ponder what I was seeing. In the winter, when bison leave the safety of the park and venture into the surrounding ranches, they can be slaughtered because they may transmit brucellosis to domesticated cows. It seems such a horrid thing to do to animals just looking for food away from the deep snows of Yellowstone. Seeing the fresh carcasses made my gut wrench in pain and sadness.
by David Cook, NANPA Conservation Committee Volunteer
Most NANPA members have countless photos of the natural world in their catalogs. Shots of a bird in-flight, a bear fishing, a bison grazing, or a delicate wildflower blooming. As photographers we are quick to see what is wrong with an image: the composition isn’t compelling, or the light isn’t dramatic. You may not consider them “Showcase worthy,” even if they’d get “likes” on Facebook or Instagram, but that doesn’t mean the images don’t have real and significant value. This year, resolve to give these photos a new life in iNaturalist.
If you are unfamiliar with iNaturalist, it’s many things.
Story & photo by Jennifer Leigh Warner, NANPA Ethics Committee Chair
As I drive down the Colorado mountain road searching for wildlife, I spot a red fox (Vulpes vulpes) foraging off the shoulder of the road. I pull off to see if I can get a picture before it darts back into the woods, but as soon as I open my car door, I realize something is very wrong. The normally shy fox is approaching my vehicle.
I think one of the main lessons I have learned as a photographer is to be in the moment and be open to what is presented to me. While it is good to have a basic plan, and there are times when I really need to prepare for a particular shoot (for example capturing the Milky Way) I certainly didn’t plan this photo. But I feel it makes a strong statement. I am not a specialist, but rather I like to photograph a wide variety of subjects.
Well, 2020 is finally in the rear-view mirror. Assaulted by a non-stop barrage of civil unrest, lifestyle changes, political uncertainty, economic hardships, and devastating heartaches, it was year none of us will soon forget – no matter how hard we may try! It was a struggle just to maintain one’s sanity in the midst of such utter chaos. The toilet paper shortage alone could easily have caused even the calmest of individuals to lose their composure. As a photographer, that got me thinking. Although, at times, certain situations may make it hard for you to properly compose yourself, you always have total control over how you compose your photographs.