NANPA’s 21st Summit and Trade Show ended today, and as I sit in my hotel room, I’m tired, but still feel the high of another great event. Long days of pre-summit board meetings, short nights with little sleep, early morning coffee to prop my eyes open, seeing old friends, making new ones, and dealing with inevitable glitches that pop up, no matter how much we plan for the unexpected. After two long years of preparation, it’s hard to believe that the whirlwind is gone. Kaput. Just like that. A few short days ago, we were checking people in at the registration desk, hugging friends we hadn’t seen in a few years, and picking up where we left off on conversations from our last meetings. We were watching presentations by some of the world’s greatest photographers—Joel Sartore, James Balog, Sue Flood, Florian Schulz, John Shaw, and George Lepp. OMG! Where else but NANPA can you see all those people in the same room? I hadn’t seen John Shaw since the mid-90s and he saw me first in a hall and reached out to me. I have to admit to being a little starstruck that he would even know who I am, much less be so gracious and friendly to me, like an old friend!
But this was a NANPA Summit, after all, and it’s easy to sense the feel of family from the moment the doors open and people start filtering in and seeing each other. This year we welcomed 94 people who attended their first summit. I talked to as many of our new members and first timers as I could. It’s always interesting to see them at their first Meet & Greet and watch how their smiles change as the summit progresses. Similar to the College Scholarship students who met for the first time in Vegas, photographed together at the Clark County Wetlands Park; then worked together all week to prepare an incredible video for the Park to use to promote their amazing center. Last night there were hugs and tears as they said goodbyes. I have no doubt that lifelong friendships were made during their short time together—and for many other first timers.
I also counted 25 Charter Members on our attendee list. These are members who joined NANPA the first year and who have maintained their membership all those years. George Lepp is a Founding and Charter member who, over drinks one night with a few other photographers, conceived the idea of a nature photography association, which was how NANPA came to be. It was fitting that George would give our closing keynote presentation this week, and that it would be a retrospect of 50 years of his photographic career. What an amazing life he’s had, and it’s impossible to fathom how many people he’s touched and taught during that time—many who are NANPA members. Near the end of his program, he showed some of his recent work and some favorite subjects and images. The colors! The creativity! The technical skills he uses to create what he sees in his mind when he photographs are second to none! He may have been at this for 50 years, but he’s always been a step ahead of the crowd and continues to remain relevant and progressive. I could have listened to his stories all night!
We filed out of the general sessions room to The Gathering Place, a room we’d set aside at this summit for people to hang out between sessions, portfolio reviews, or to plop down bags and purchases from the trade show. To chat with new and old friends. To talk about our next photo trips. The literal icing on the cake was a big birthday cake to kick off NANPA’s 25th birthday this year. President Gordon Illg cut the cake that we sampled before final hugs and goodbyes.
In the coming months, we’ll continue the 25 Years theme, and I’ll be sharing some old photos and articles from past newsletters as a little retrospect of NANPA’s past. But for now, I just want to hold on to my summit glow.