From the President: Gordon Illg

Shooting Elephant Rock under a full moon.

Shooting Elephant Rock under a full moon. Photograph by Cathy Illg.

It’s that time of year again, the season we set aside for giving thanks. And even in these days of environmental degradation NANPA members have much to be grateful for. For the time being at least, we still have an incredible wealth of both locations and species just begging to be captured with a camera. How long we’ll have them is anyone’s guess, but for today let us be thankful we still have subjects to point a lens at.

The news is not all bad. Countries, states, provinces, counties and cities all over the world are working to save natural habitats, and even restore habitats that had been lost. We just returned from Costa Rica where much of the beautiful rain forest and cloud forest is secondary growth. The primary forests had been logged several decades ago, but the forest is returning, and it’s returning much faster than someone from the Northern Hemisphere would have ever thought possible. One of the most outstanding places where we photographed birds was a palm oil plantation only fifteen years ago. The owners cleared out most of the palms, replanted with native vegetation, and it now looks like an outpost on the edge of the jungle. Seedlings they planted a few years ago are now more than 30-feet tall. Degraded places can be saved. In Denver, two ex-Superfund sites are now National Wildlife Refuges full of subjects for wildlife photographers.

Las Vegas, Nevada, the location we picked for February’s summit, has a public image that’s the antithesis of anything natural. However, public images are not always accurate. Recently, the Metro Area has constructed a series of wetlands as part of its water treatment facilities. These wetlands have well-maintained, extensive networks of trails, and more importantly many wildlife species are taking advantage of these wetlands. Only minutes from the summit hotel, avocets, stilts, grebes, hummingbirds, roadrunners…well, you get the idea. There’s a lot for wildlife photographers nearby. Landscape photographers have only to leave the city limits to find colorful rock formations. The accompanying photo of me was taken by my wife, Cathy, as I was shooting Elephant Rock by the light of the full moon. In spite of its reputation, few NANPA summit locations have more nature photography opportunities than Las Vegas, and I’m looking forward to doing some more exploring both before and after the summit.

It may be a losing battle, but I’m truly encouraged by the efforts I see to save and restore natural habitat. Sure, there’s a heckuva lot more that could be done, but you can’t constantly dwell on setbacks or you just give up. There’s an amazing amount of good work that’s been done, and that’s being done. It’s a wonderful gift at this time of year, whether you celebrate the birth of the Christ child, the miracle of the long-lasting oil, the returning sun or whatever. Try not to lose faith. There is always beauty forever beyond our reach, miracles we can never harm. Have a great holiday season!