From the President: Gordon Illg

In the wildflower bloom at Peridot Mesa in Arizona © Cathy Illg.

In the wildflower bloom at Peridot Mesa in Arizona © Cathy Illg.

This is my last blog as NANPA president, the end of a year of maundering over the past, present and future of nature photography. It turns out my fear that the organization would suffer under my leadership, or lack thereof, was unfounded, just as many of my fears are. Not only is NANPA doing well, but its membership has reached a new high point. It’s tempting for me to take credit for our success, but the truth is I’m riding on the coattails of an incredible herd/school/pride/pod of talented and hard-working staff and volunteers. Without them I would have been president of nothing, and I’m extremely grateful for my addiction to nature photography if for no other reason than it introduced me to these wonderful people who have guided and supported me.

Nature photography is also directly responsible for the life my wife, Cathy, and I lead, both the good and the bad. It has allowed us to work together for the past two decades, and shown us countless utterly wild landscapes and wondrous wildlife spectacles. In fact, it did more than show these wonders to us, it forced us to see them, regardless of our health or desire to relax with a cold beer or our need for sleep. Without the cameras, there is no doubt we would have missed out on most if not all of these wonders. Whether we’re working or not, it is the cameras that drag us out of bed to witness the glory of sunrise, or keep us out at night to gaze at the disappearing grandeur of the Milky Way.

It was our cameras that forced us to squeeze in a long road trip between two photo tours, even though we were both fighting vicious colds. In between Alaska’s aurora and Florida’s birds we drove a couple of thousand miles to catch a glimpse of the incredible bloom occurring over much of the Southwest. We had one full day to revel in the poppies, lupine and bladderpod blossoms that covered the desert for a few weeks. This was the landscape I grew up in, and I had precious few photos of the desert decked out in its gaudiest colors, probably because I didn’t pick up a camera until after I left Tucson. If I had been a serious photographer back then, the camera would have dragged me out to capture such a special occurrence. Not a day goes by that I don’t give thanks for those small computers with lenses, terrible taskmasters and indispensable guides that they are.

Perhaps your relationship with your cameras is not as warped as mine is. Perhaps you naturally get up early and stay up late to witness nature’s offerings. I believe NANPA’s next president, Tom Haxby, may be this kind of photographer, and even though it makes me dislike him just a little, please join me in welcoming him to the office. I can’t wait to see what great things are in store for NANPA under his leadership.