Southern Illinois – Spring 2017

SIllionois2017logo608NANPA Regional Event – Southern Illinois

April 27-30, 2017

Event Details –

Join Dave Hammond and Richard Day in the Shawnee National Forest and surrounding state parks and natural areas of southern Illinois to photograph spring wildflowers, landscapes, limestone bluffs, waterfalls, wildlife, and more. The Shawnee National Forest totals 286,000 acres where six natural ecological regions meet, resulting in a diversity of plant and animal species and unique geological features. This area of Illinois includes the northernmost tupelo and cypress swamp in the United States.

Southern Illinois is home to more native wildflower species than the Great Smoky Mountains; and we’ll visit prime locations known for spring blooms, such as the Giant City Trillium Trail, the LaRue-Pine Hills area, and the Rocky Bluff Waterfall area.

The Southern Illinois Regional Event will introduce participants to several iconic locations including Camel Rock at Garden of the Gods Recreation Area and Heron Pond, a water tupelo and bald cypress swamp with some of the oldest trees in Illinois.

Photographers Dave Hammond and Richard Day have lived in southern Illinois all of their lives. They grew up hiking and picnicking in these parks as children and have photographed them extensively in their adult years. This Event is timed for peak wildflower bloom, spring bird and reptile migrations, and early spring landscapes in the rocky and swampy regions.


Rocky Bluff Waterfalls--©David Hammond

Rocky Bluff Waterfalls–©David Hammond

What to Expect –

This tour is designed for anyone interested in improving their photography skills and receiving valuable coaching, as well as professionals interested in capturing images of this unique region of Illinois. Participants will be divided into groups to ensure top shooting locations in the area. This tour is limited to 30 participants (We have additional leaders standing by if needed) to give time with each instructor and to retain flexibility based on weather and the best opportunities.


Great Blue Heron between Cypress trees--©Richard Day

Great Blue Heron between Cypress trees–©Richard Day

Just the Facts –

Date: April 27-30 (Check-in Thursday, April 27 @ 6:00 p.m.)

Cost: $395 NANPA member, $595 non-members (Sunday Brunch included)

Location: Southern Illinois Parks & Shawnee National Forest (Marion, IL)

Last date to register: April 17, 2017

Maximum number attendees: 30


Lodging –

Exterior1Quality Inn & Suites
2600 W. Main Street
Marion, IL 62959
Phone: 618-993-6221

NOTES: A block of rooms has been reserved under NANPA.  Call the hotel to make reservations and mention NANPA Photography Group rate when registering.  This room rate is not available online.

Rooms: $89.00/night (+tax)
Cutoff date for room rate is April 17, 2017 (or when block is full)

Map & Directions

Leaders –


Dave Hammond

Dave lives in southern Illinois and has been exploring the beauty of its state parks and the Shawnee National Forest for most of this life. He’s has been a professional photographer for over 25 years. His award-winning nature and landscape photos have been published in numerous magazines, books, calendars, and projects through the years. Photo credits include Birds & Blooms, Country Magazine, National Geographic Calendars, Zebra Publishing, and more. He was a Top 100 winner in NANPA’s 2015 and 2016 Showcase Competitions.

Dave’s fine art prints have appeared in solo exhibitions, galleries, and received many Best of Show awards. He sells prints throughout the Midwest in juried art shows where he has also won numerous awards. Dave’s primary portfolio of work is entitled “Everyday Miracles” and focuses on the beauty of the earth.

A long-time member and past president of the Southern Illinois Photographic Society, Dave continues to serve on its board of directors. He is a popular speaker and presenter on a variety of topics including landscape, black and white, and photo techniques. He’s spent countless hours with his camera and led photo tours to the locations we’ll visit during this southern Illinois Regional Event.

Dave’s Website:

Richard Day

A professional nature photographer, Richard has been publishing photos and teaching photo workshops since 1984. He specializes in birds, mammals, insects, and landscape images. His work has been published in Audubon, Birds & Blooms, National Wildlife, National Geographic and hundreds of other nature-related publications, calendars, and books worldwide. Richard leads photo tours throughout North America, teaches butterfly and dragonfly workshops, and was a guide for Frontiers North to photograph polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba for 14 years.

Richard is an Adjunct Research Associate in Zoology with the Illinois State Museum and an Associate Research Scientist at the Illinois Natural History Survey. He has conducted Odonata and Lepidoptera research since 2005 for the states of Illinois and Missouri, including research work on the Hines emerald dragonfly, a Federally Endangered species.

Richard owns Daybreak Imagery, a stock photography and writing business, near Alma, Illinois. He presents numerous programs throughout North America on backyard wildlife, nature photography, and the photo business. He’s a charter NANPA member, has been a Summit Breakout Speaker, Road Shows Speaker, and a NANPA Regional Events leader.

You can learn more about Richard at

Photo Locations – 

Garden of the Gods Recreation Area—
Site of Camel Rock, a Southern Illinois iconic image in the Shawnee National Forest. The rock formations and bluffs in Garden of the Gods are about 320 million years old, and over the years this area has been sculpted into a garden of sandstone sculptures. A ½-mile well-maintained trail winds through the forest to several rocky overlooks that are popular locations for sunrises and sunsets. Other photo ops include interesting rock formations, macro subjects, spring wildflowers and native blooming trees.

LaRue-Pine Hills Otter Pond Research Natural Area in the Shawnee National Forest—
One of the most unique and diverse areas in Southern Illinois containing 14 natural communities and home to 1,350 species of plants and animals. Here, 150-foot limestone bluffs rise above the Mississippi River floodplain offering vistas of the landscape below. Spring wildflowers and blooming spring trees are located throughout the area, and this is prime location for spring songbird migration. Half of the 102 species of reptiles native to Illinois hibernate in the bluffs during winter and feed in the swamps across the road during warmer months. Many are involved in “migrations” across what has become known as Snake Road. The U.S. Forest Service closes off the road between the swamp and the bluff to vehicular traffic from the first of September to mid-October to allow snakes, toads, frogs, lizards, and turtles to cross the road unmolested. The Forest Service closes the road again from mid-March to mid-May to allow the creatures to return to the swamp. We will be able to walk on the road to photograph reptiles during this Event.

Heron Pond-Little Black Slough in Cache River State Natural Area—
Is the northernmost cypress swamp in the United States. The swamps are dominated by water tupelo and bald cypress, some of which are among the oldest trees in Illinois. This is critical habitat for several threatened and endangered species and includes a heron rookery. Our Event is timed during spring songbird migration and wildflower bloom. A boardwalk in Heron Pond allows access to the cypress swamp where if we’re lucky, we could also photograph herons and songbirds.

Giant City State Park—
Nestled in the Shawnee National Forest near Carbondale, Giant City State Park was named for the unique impressions made by its massive sandstone structures. Besides unusual rock formations, the park is also known for ferns, mosses, flowering mints, hundreds of species of wildflowers and more than 75 varieties of towering trees. Trillium Trail meanders through some of the best wildflower displays in the state. Also located in the Park, Giant City Lodge was constructed of sandstone and wood in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. It’s a classic old photogenic building on a bluff overlooking the forest.

Rocky Bluff Waterfall and Wildflower Trail—
Located in Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge near Marion, Rocky Bluff Trail is one of the most well- known wildflower hikes in Southern Illinois. Famous for its display of celandine poppies, the trail provides great opportunities to also view a wide array of spring wildflowers. Rocky Bluff Waterfall is intermittent, but beautiful to photograph if we have a wet spring.

Mermet Lake State Fish & Wildlife Area—
Is one of the oldest cypress swamps in Southern Illinois. Many photo ops are available here from birds to landscapes. It’s common to see bald eagles, herons, egrets, and waterfowl at Mermet Lake.

Horseshoe Lake State Fish & Wildlife Area—
Has some expansive views of bald cypress, tupelo gum, and swamp cottonwood trees, which make for beautiful photos especially near sunset when the light shines through the trees and reflects on the lake. Besides the southern landscapes, other photo opportunities include herons, bald eagles, ducks, geese, woodpeckers, and other birds.

Schedule –

Basic 2017 Southern Illinois Regional Event Schedule
(subject to change depending on weather, etc.)

Thursday, April 27, 2017: 6:00pm: Registration, orientation, and evening program in the Quality Inn & Suites in Marion, IL.
Please eat dinner prior to the meeting.

Friday, April 28, 2017 and Saturday, April 29, 2017: Morning and afternoon field trips to photography locations.

Sunday, April 30, 2017: Morning field trips followed by a group brunch/lunch (included in your event registration fee).

Meals: all meals are on your own except Sunday brunch/lunch, which is included in the event registration fee. Attendees are encouraged to eat together with their groups as part of the overall experience.

Transportation: is on your own. We will be based at the Quality Inn & Suites in Marion, IL.