In nature photography is the preservation of the world

Text by Gordon Illg. Photography by Cathy and Gordon Illg.

.NANPA recently posted a blog, “The 6 Myths That Frustrate Aspiring Photographers” by Tom Horton that offered advice to new nature photographers. The post reiterated advice I’ve heard from established pros many times over the decades, and every point he made was valid. Following his guidelines will almost certainly help neophytes augment their craft and become more noticed. But there are other issues that were not considered, quite possibly because there’s just not enough room in a blog.

Mesa Arch frames Washer Woman Arch, Arches National Park, Utah. You can’t blame people for wanting to photograph icons like Mesa Arch. Canon EOS 40D, 28-135mm @ 30mm, f14, 1/15 sec, ISO 800, -2/3. ©Cathy & Gordon Illg

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NANPA Weekly Wow: June 12-18

Oystercatcher Feeding Time, Fort Myers Beach, FL © Ursula Dubrick

Each week www.nanpa.org highlights 7 images from the top 100 submissions of the 2017 NANPA Showcase competition. This week’s images are by:

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The life of the sea otter

Story and photography by Frank Toller

These marine mammals live mostly on the North Pacific coast and typically weigh between 31 and 99 pounds. They are able to live their entire life in the water, in part because of a massive fur coat, the densest in the animal world. They feed on invertebrates such as sea urchins, clams, crab, and abalone as well as octopus and some species of fish. The otters will use rocks to scrape their prey and open shells, making them unique among marine mammals as tool users.

The sea otter population has risen from 1,000 to 2,000 years ago to 100,000 now. © Frank Toller

The sea otter population has risen from 1,000 to 2,000 years ago to 100,000 now. © Frank Toller

They can go onshore and occasionally will do so. The otters are very friendly and while taking these pictures on Jetty Road at Moss Landing, California [55 miles south of San Jose on the coast], I observed the animals allowing children to approach within six feet. The kids and pups seemed equally curious about each other. Continue reading

NANPA Weekly Wow: June 5-11

Hot Spring Terrace at Sunset, Yellowstone NP, Wyoming, USA © Tom Horton

Hot Spring Terrace at Sunset, Yellowstone NP, Wyoming, USA © Tom Horton

Each week www.nanpa.org highlights 7 images from the top 100 submissions of the 2017 NANPA Showcase competition. This week’s images are by:

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Ruddy ducks—leading a double life

Story and photography by Budd Titlow

Depending on where you live in the world, the ruddy duck is either a cute bundle of fun or a despised nuisance.

In the United States, this perky duck is beloved for both its peculiar name and its unique appearance. Arthur Cleveland Bent provides this perfect description of the ruddy’s personality: “. . . the little gem of bird life that floats gently on its surface, his back glowing with the rich, red brown of his nuptial attire, offset by the pure white of his cheeks, his black crown, and above all his wonderful bill of the brightest, living, glowing sky blue. He knows he is handsome as he glides smoothly along, without a ripple, his saucy sprigtail held erect or even pointed forward till it nearly meets his upturned head.”

The ruddy duck, hated in Great Britain, loved in the United States and Canada. © Budd Titlow

The ruddy duck, hated in Great Britain, loved in the United States and Canada. © Budd Titlow

Ruddy ducks are a common migratory species throughout the United States and Canada and can be found in marshy ponds, lakes and bays. Even though ruddies are one of our smallest ducks, they lay eggs that are the size of those of the great blue heron and wild turkey.

Wonderful divers and swimmers, ruddies often submerge to considerable depths to capture shellfish, crustaceans, aquatic plant roots, and aquatic insect larvae. With their chunky bodies and short wings, they must patter for some distance across the surface of the water before finally becoming airborne. Their small wings stroke so fast that these birds resemble bumblebees in flight. During courtship, male ruddies engage in a highly entertaining “water bubbling display” while delivering a funny sound reminiscent of a lawn mower starting up.

The ruddy duck is shot by hunters in Great Britain, and by photographers in North America. © Budd Titlow

The ruddy duck is shot by hunters in Great Britain, and by photographers in North America. © Budd Titlow

Now—for those folks living in Europe—here’s the dark side of the ruddy duck’s story. Due to escapes from wildfowl collections imported from North America starting in the 1950s, the ruddy duck became widely established as an invasive species in Great Britain. Since that time ruddies have spread throughout southern Europe, where problems first arose in 1999. Spanish biologists began complaining that ruddy ducks migrating down from Great Britain were threatening the survival of their globally endangered white-headed ducks. In response, British biologists concocted a controversial plan to extirpate the ruddy duck as a breeding waterfowl species throughout Great Britain.

In the March 8, 2012, online edition of the Guardian, environmental editor John Vidal wrote that the British government has killed more than 6,500 ruddies at a cost of more than £900 (approximately $1,173) each, making the ruddy duck some of the most expensive ducks in the world. Although the ruddy duck has bred happily in British ponds for more than 60 years, Vidal notes that bird lovers hoping to see this species should “hurry because the government is about to spend £200,000 (approximately $260,720) trying to shoot the last hundred to finally exterminate this invasive species.” Their only crime: being “American, oversexed, and over here.” Other European countries with ruddy duck populations have abandoned their eradication efforts, believing that a complete culling of the ruddies is both impractical and impossible.

Europe is hardly a safe haven for the ruddy duck. © Budd Titlow

Europe is hardly a safe haven for the ruddy duck. © Budd Titlow

For now, the ruddy duck will continue to live its double life—loved on one side of the Atlantic and hated on the other.


A wetland scientist and wildlife biologist, Budd Titlow is an award-winning nature photographer and author in Tallahassee, Florida. His credits include: 2003 Wildlife Photographer of the Year, BBC Wildlife Magazine, Outdoor Photographer, National Wildlife, Audubon, Outside, Nature’s Best, Travel/Holiday, Time/Life Publications, Sierra Club, Popular Photography, and Petersen’s Photographic. He has authored four books: Protecting the Planet—Environmental Champions from Conservation to Climate Change, Bird Brains—Inside the Strange Minds of Our Fine Feathered Friends, SeashellsJewels from the Ocean, and Rocky Mountain National Park—Beyond Trail Ridge. He also writes a weekly birding photo-essay for the Tallahassee Democrat, teaches ecology, birding , and photography courses at Florida State University, and serves as president of the Apalachee Audubon Society. See his web site at www.buddtitlow.com.

 

 

NANPA Weekly Wow: May 29 – June 4

Sandhill Crane sunrise over frozen pond, Bosque New Mexico © Stan Bysshe

Sandhill Crane sunrise over frozen pond, Bosque New Mexico © Stan Bysshe

Each week www.nanpa.org highlights 7 images from the top 100 submissions of the 2017 NANPA Showcase competition. This week’s images are by:

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From the President

Clay Bolt

Clay Bolt

Transitions are beautiful:

Darkness turns to dawn. Birdsong breaks the silence of early morning. Wind-folded leaves shimmy before the arrival of a summer thunderstorm. Earthy smells rise up after the deluge has passed. The first spring wildflower breaks through a warming forest floor. Leaves blush into fall. A child is born. A baby’s stumbling first steps. The euphoria of a first crush and the pains of a first heartbreak. All of these moments contain seeds of beauty worth cultivating into art.

Even the passing of a loved one from this life can summon beauty to walk alongside the pain. Photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson famously understood the beauty that exists in moments of transition: the decisive moments that briefly materialize in the space between two passing planes of existence.

If you take a moment to mentally flip through the photos that really move you, I suspect that many of them are of transitional moments. In this regard, photography has an advantage over other forms of media. Film, for example, may be able to document processes in ways that are impossible for the naked eye, but photography can take that single “throw away” moment and make a monument of it.

A photographer who has the patience and discipline to observe, anticipate and capture these moments stands a high probability of creating images that will spellbind audiences and teach us something special about the world around us. The glue that binds two concurrent events together is as important as the events themselves.

Perhaps this is our art form’s greatest gift to the world.

Best Wishes,

Clay Bolt

NATIONAL PARKS: Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

Story and photography by Jerry Ginsberg

Towering Wrangell Mountains in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

The Wrangell and St. Elias mountain ranges contain some of the largest volcanoes in North America. © Jerry Ginsberg

Ever wonder which of our 59 national parks is really the biggest? No, it’s not mighty Yellowstone or even sprawling Death Valley. Measuring a vast 13,200,000 acres, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, tucked into the southeast corner of Alaska, is far and away the biggest national park around, equal to six Yellowstones! It is larger than Massachusetts and New Hampshire combined, and includes two entire mountain ranges – the Wrangells and the St. Elias. Together with contiguous Kluane National Park across the border in Canada, the combined cross-border tract totals more than a whopping 25,000,000 acres and is the biggest wilderness area in the world.

While size does indeed matter, there is more to this sprawling wilderness than volume. Stunning peaks such as Sanford, Drum, Blackburn, Wrangell, St. Elias and others fill this rugged park. Continue reading

NANPA Weekly Wow: May 22-28

Palmetto Gecko, Namib desert, Namibia © Wendy Kaveney

Palmetto Gecko, Namib desert, Namibia © Wendy Kaveney

Each week www.nanpa.org highlights 7 images from the top 100 submissions of the 2017 NANPA Showcase competition. This week’s images are by:

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FIELD TECHNIQUE: Season of the rose

Story and photography by F.M. Kearney

Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden New York Botanical Garden Bronx, NY (HDR 5-image compilation)

Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden at the New York Botanical Garden. © F.M. Kearney

I wondered if I had made a mistake.

The weather forecast called for a light shower in the morning, followed by mostly cloudy skies — perfect conditions for flower photography. The showers were light at first, but they gradually increased in intensity to the point where I was forced to seek shelter. It was beginning to look like my plans for the day were going to be a total washout, literally. After about an hour, however, the showers began to subside, and I was back in business.

I was at the New York Botanical Garden to shoot roses. At this time of year, the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden is at its peak with 4,000 rose plants in bloom in more than 600 varieties. I like to get there early to avoid the crowds and to survey the overall scene. On this particular day, I had plenty of time to do that because of the rain delay. It was still early when conditions improved, so I took advantage of the fact that I had the whole place to myself. Continue reading