Top 24 Nature Images Revealed

2021 Showcase winners take home $6,000 in prizes plus publicity opps


Every year NANPA’s Showcase competition recognizes the most stunning images created by nature photographers who live and/or work in North America—including both hobbyists and professional photographers. In recent weeks, we revealed portions of the Top 250 and Top 100 images in the 2021 Showcase. Today we’re excited to reveal the prize-winning Top 24.

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The Fruitful Rewards of Bare Trees: Using Nature to Enhance Urban Winter Photography

Ominous-Looking Tree Overlooking Manhattan Skyline © F. M. Kearney
Ominous-Looking Tree Overlooking Manhattan Skyline © F. M. Kearney

Story and photos by F. M. Kearney

Aside from the cooler temperatures, which I greatly prefer over the blazingly hot, dog-days of summer, I look forward to winter. There’s something magical about capturing the fleeting beauty of a winter wonderland, festooned with snow-covered fields, sparkling ice crystals and dangling icicles. However, the weather’s been a bit on the mild side here in the Northeast. Some people are still running their AC’s! Indeed, winter can be unpredictable. In some years, you may be inundated with a steady stream of snowstorms, and in other years, there may not be a flake in the forecast for the entire season. But, no matter what, the one thing you can always depend on each winter is the abundance of bare trees. After they shed their fall foliage, most people usually don’t pay too much attention to them in the winter – unless they’re coated with snow and ice. But bare branches can provide excellent framing and/or foreground elements for a number of photography subjects in natural and urban environments as well.

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Artistic Pelican Photo Drives Social Media Engagement

Photo of a pelican floating on water that reflects tjhe colors of nearby boats. © Susan Manley
Pelican © Susan Manley

Interview with Susan Manley

NANPA member Susan Manley lives in Maywood, close to Los Angeles, California. When she posted this photo (of a pelican in water that was reflecting colors from a nearby boat) in NANPA’s Facebook group, she wasn’t thinking it would be one of the top performers. But it generated a lot of engagement, garnering more than 700 likes, 37 shares and 128 comments. With almost 21,000 members and dozens of posts each day, it isn’t easy to generate a lot of buzz there but, with the right kind if image, it’s possible. In a continuing exploration of what drives social media engagement, we checked in with Susan.

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Young Photographers to Follow: Jonah Parker-Hanson

Red-Winged Blackbird Greets the Day © Jonah Parker-Hanson
Red-Winged Blackbird Greets the Day © Jonah Parker-Hanson

Interviewed by Frank Gallagher, NANPA Blog Coordinator

The coronavirus disrupted many things when it burst onto the scene this past spring. Among them was NANPA’s High School Scholarship Program, funded by the NANPA Foundation. Jonah Parker-Hanson was one of the scholarship winners and was looking forward to spending a week at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont in Townsend, Tennessee, in June. Instead, he spent it at home, in the Florida panhandle.

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Dreaming of Argentine Patagonia

Evening Light on Mt. FitzRoy and Cerro Torre © Jerry Ginsberg
Evening Light on Mt. FitzRoy and Cerro Torre © Jerry Ginsberg

By Jerry Ginsberg

This month, allow me to describe not a trip that I have already made to a place that I have photographed, but travel that I have carefully planned to a place that I have not yet been with plans first postponed and then canceled – thanks to the coronavirus that has stalled most of the world for the past year: A dream trip to the southernmost part of South America, the Argentine Patagonia. I have never done this type of article before. Never even contemplated going off on such a tangent. But in the very strange age of COVID-19, many once unforeseen things have become real possibilities. With fervent hope that this plague will soon be in our collective rear-view mirror, I expect to make this trip in late 2021 or early 2022. I’ll keep you posted.

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Happy Holidays!

Two brown bears play along the beach of Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, Alaska on my 2019 brown bear photo workshop. My 2020 workshop was canceled and I am hopeful the 2021 workshop will go as planned.
Two brown bears play along the beach of Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, Alaska on my 2019 brown bear photo workshop. My 2020 workshop was canceled and I am hopeful the 2021 workshop will go as planned.

Story and photos by Dawn Wilson, NANPA President

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving and opted to be outside for Black Friday.

As the year comes to a close, I can’t help but reflect back on the ups and downs of the year.

Because of the coronavirus, our lives came to a standstill early in the year and plans significantly changed and evolved. They still keep changing, and planning for 2021 remains difficult.

All of my workshops were canceled or postponed to 2021, as were many for our members. All of my in-person classes were canceled, but Zoom provided an alternative that opened up the ability to teach to a larger audience (and reconnect via happy hours with my sorority sisters back in New Jersey and other states).

We were ordered to wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID, yet it became a business opportunity to sell masks with my photos.

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More Nature Images to the Rescue: 2021 Showcase Top 100

In November we revealed a subset of the Top 250 images from our annual photo competition, reminding the world that being in nature—and even simply looking at images of nature—reduces anxiety and stress. This month we’re unveiling more wow-worthy images by some of North America’s most accomplished nature photographers.

The images featured below are winners in the Top 100 of the 2021 NANPA Showcase. The Top 24, including Best in Show awards, will be published in mid-December.

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Alaska’s Chilkat River Bald Eagle Preserve

Our National Symbol © Debbie McCulliss

When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. – John Muir

By Debbie McCulliss

The Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve is a world-famous, 48,000-acre area in which one of the world’s largest gatherings of bald eagles feast every fall on spawned-out chum salmon. As winter moves in, the eagles migrate into this open water reservoir in which the water temperature remains somewhat warmer than the surrounding waters. It is a place full of photographic opportunities and offers countless chances to make lifelong memories.

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Cute Raccoons Lead to Facebook Engagement

Photo of two baby raccoon faces in a tree.  © Keith Freeburn
Looks like the local raccoons had a recent litter of two little rascals. I love looking up at this nest and seeing curious little faces looking back at me. © Keith Freeburn

Interview with Keith Freeburn

Certain photos get tons of engagement on social media—likes, shares, comments. Others don’t. Why? What is it about these photographs that grabs viewers’ attention enough to comment or share? What can we learn from them? NANPA’s Facebook group has more than 20,000 members and dozens of posts each day. It’s an active community of nature photographers and people who enjoy great nature photography. This article is the first in a series in which we take a closer look at the most engaging photos from the group and see if we can tease out why they had such an impact.

Keith Freeburn posted his photo of two raccoons on September 13th and it was an immediate hit. To date, it’s garnered more than 1,300 likes, 109 comments and 191 shares. We asked Keith to tell us a little about himself and reflect on why this photo just took off.

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Young Photographers to Follow: Justina Martelli

Photo of mother bird flying down to branch where her young are waiting © Justina Martelli
I vividly remember encountering these six young barn swallows under the blue skies of Ithaca, New York. The cattails that surrounded the pond were dancing with the wind. In a heartbeat, a pair of majestic wings crashed into the scene, causing a beautiful blur of rusty orange feathers. It was the curious eyes twinkling under the sun through the parent’s perspective, as it dove and kissed its young ones, regurgitating the wings of a crunchy blue damselfly. In another heartbeat, she was gone. The younglings fluffed and stretched as they smirked at their own begging performances. Now and then, they would turn to look at me in wonder. This moment was among the greatest photography experiences of my life. © Justina Martelli

Interviewed by Frank Gallagher, NANPA Blog Coordinator

Like most of us, Justina Martelli was not expecting 2020 to turn out like it has. She had been chosen as one of NANPA Foundation’s High School Scholarship Program participants and was looking forward to a week at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, immersed in nature photography with NANPA instructors and other participants. Instead, the coronavirus outbreak forced the cancellation of that event. Justina did not let the global pandemic stop her from achieving her goals.

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