Story and photography by David DesRochers
It was September of 2006 when I walked into a Tri-County Camera Club meeting in Nutley, New Jersey to judge my first photo competition. As a member of my own camera club, I had spent the previous six years listening attentively to other judges score and critique our own competition entries, some even offering suggestions on how to improve them. Not all judges are created equal and I didn’t always agree with what they had to say but I developed a thick skin and used many of their suggestions to help improve my own work. And now it was my turn in the hot seat.
Tri-County invited me back to judge future competitions so I guess I didn’t offend to many members that night. Over the next 10 years I made the rounds of northeast camera clubs, offering my own suggestions and I found that critiquing the photos of other photographers helped me see new ways I might approach a subject. I’ve enjoyed my years of judging but I never imagined that my experience would take me beyond my own back yard.
In the summer of 2015, I received an email from the BioArt Visual Association in Budoia, Italy. After a brief introduction, I was asked if I would be interested in judging the 2016 BioPhoto Contest. At first I thought the message was a hoax but agreed to review a detailed proposal. The competition was to be held in Italy so I assumed I would judge the images online. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I was being invited to travel to Budoia, Italy (all expenses paid) to be one of five judges. After doing my research, I decided to accept the invitation.
One thing I learned during my years in the advertising industry is to always ask a new client “how did you find me?” I was told that my profile on the NANPA web site, which includes my web address and an overview of my experience, was the key that opened the door to this opportunity.
My wife Cathy joined me and our experience was nothing short of amazing. Along with judges from England, Poland and Italy, I had the opportunity to evaluate photos from around the world. Selecting the winners was no easy task. Opinions among the judges were as varied as the countries we represented but in the end, I believe we selected some impressive photographs.
Once the competition was completed, our hosts gave us an enjoyable tour of Northern Italy and the Dolomites. Along with wildlife conservation photographer Neil Aldridge, we photographed the beautiful villages and landscapes. Cathy and I concluded our visit with two days in Venice.
Nature photography is rewarding and very competitive and I was fortunate to have such a wonderful opportunity. Whether you are an amateur or a pro, putting yourself in the spotlight is critical if you want potential clients to discover you and your work. The North American Nature Photography Association is recognized around the world as an important nature photography organization and being a member can pay big dividends.
The success of NANPA depends on the work of its volunteer members. There are many opportunities to get involved in the organization at various levels of time commitments. An easy way to help is by recruiting new members. If you judge at camera clubs or present your photography programs to other photographers, spend a few minutes telling your audience about NANPA. Valuable tools to help promote NANPA are available on the NANPA web site.