Text and Images by Mark Kreider
I have been a NANPA member for a year and a half. Even in that short time, NANPA and its supportive community have influenced me in many meaningful ways. Life seems to be full of wonderful flukes, and my introduction to NANPA was one such instance. One morning in November of 2012, when I was a high school senior, I received word from a fellow photographer of a great photographic opportunity that existed for high school students. Though just three days away from the deadline of NANPA’s High School Scholarship Program application, I immediately jumped at the opportunity. I quite honestly remember thinking it looked too good to be true – a chance to spend a week in the field and at the NANPA Annual Summit, all the while learning and being inspired. I wondered to myself a little incredulously, How could I not have heard of NANPA before? It looks awesome!
And awesome it was! First upon being accepted into the 2013 Scholarship Program and then much more so upon attending NANPA’s Summit in Jacksonville, Florida this past year. I and nine other high school students were thrust into a world of talented photographers, passionate conservationists, and supportive and caring people. From that day onward, I have been increasingly aware of how NANPA is influencing my life, both as a photographer and in a much broader sense.
The most tangible effect of my interaction with NANPA has been the relationships. I honestly cannot imagine a more solid group of people than those with whom I came into contact at the Summit – and especially those of the High School Scholarship Program. It is amazing how close a group of people can come over several wet and rainy days camping and photographing together! I highly value these friendships and it is to this group that I first turn with photographic questions, new images in want of critique, and photographic success and difficulties. Our leaders, and in particular Mac Stone, are mentors, friends, and perpetual sources of inspiration, and continue to support and challenge us long after the Summit. I sincerely believe that NANPA’s involvement with young people, primarily through the high school and college scholarship programs, is one of its most important aspects. It remains true that the future lies in our young people.
My initial involvement with NANPA at the Summit opened the door to a much larger network and community of nature photographers. After graduating high school in the spring of 2013, I chose to take a “gap year” and do voluntary service through a church organization in Anchorage, Alaska before attending college this fall. It was great to realize that NANPA’s membership is far reaching and includes many near Anchorage! I decided to create, along with another local NANPA member, the NANPA Nature Photography Meetup Group of Southcentral Alaska, adding to the growing number of such Meetup Groups. Though after my gap year I left Alaska, I found it a great way to interact with other nature photographers and introduce non-members to NANPA and its mission.
I came away from the 2013 Summit with a new held conviction of the importance of using my photography to empower conservation and environmental advocacy. Whereas photography had before been a fun pastime primarily concerned with the search for beauty and order, it now became a medium with the potential for inspiring action and lasting change. As I watched photographers such as James Balog, Clay Bolt, and Robert Glenn Ketchum at the Summit, I saw the energy, passion, and love that were evident in their words and images. I thought to myself “I want to be like them.” I want to use my photography to empower action and conserve and protect our wonderful natural world. For me, this means my decision to pursue a major in environmental science in college. I look forward to pairing the art of photography with this scientific background, two fields that will mutually benefit each other.
Looking back, I am so pleased to have come into contact with NANPA and its community. I am excited to see how NANPA continues to shape me as well as my photographic colleagues. My hope is that NANPA will continue to inspire, educate, and nurture those with whom it comes into contact.