From the President: Gordon Illg

The photographer at the end of the rainbow, Bandon Beach, Oregon.

The photographer at the end of the rainbow, Bandon Beach, Oregon.

This photo of a rainbow on the beach at Bandon, Oregon, is pretty much the perfect picture of me. My image is small enough to be totally unrecognizable, and it captures the way I feel about myself—the treasure at the end of the rainbow. Unenlightened photographers tend to see me as a distracting picture element, but that’s another story. One thing is certain. Putting a person at the end of the rainbow makes the image different, and making images look different may be important to you.

You’ve probably noticed that most nature photos look pretty similar to ones you’ve already seen. Unless you have the means and the ability to chase after seldom-seen species living in the wildest reaches of the planet, your subject has been photographed … a lot. To make your images stand out, you can no longer merely concentrate on less popular subjects because just about everything and every place have been photographed a great deal. Let’s face it. Nature photographers are a nosy and inquisitive bunch, and we want to point our lenses at everything. There is simply no stopping us.

So, if it has all been photographed already, what’s the answer? Give up and find another avocation? How is that even possible when there are so many subjects just begging to be photographed? I don’t know about you, but I can no more stop taking pictures of the natural world than I can fly. It doesn’t matter how many people have photographed whatever I’m pointing my camera at. I not only want to do it myself, but I need to do it myself. Regardless of how many times your subject has been photographed though, there are always new interpretations. They may be harder to come up with, but there are always new interpretations. There is different weather, different light, different compositions, new behaviors, new techniques. I know you’ve heard it all before, but it’s worth repeating. Don’t let yourself become jaded. There is still magic waiting in every subject, magic that has yet to be captured with a camera. It’s up to the photographer to figure out how to share it with the world.

That’s a big part of why I so look forward to the NANPA Summits. Some of nature photography’s most innovative practitioners will be sharing their secrets in keynote presentations and breakout sessions. An unbelievable wealth of knowledge is right there for anyone willing to soak it in. Possibilities that I had never even considered (and many that I will never consider) pop into my head during these programs. I have no doubt that many of my most inspirational photos were, at least indirectly, the result of these presentations. Every summit sends me out into the field with renewed focus. You owe it to yourself and your photography to be a part of next February’s Nature Photography Summit in Las Vegas, and I hope to see you there.

Author Anthony T. Hincks once wrote, “When you get to the end of the rainbow, you haven’t even started yet.”  There’s always a new way of seeing and of doing, once you start looking.  And, maybe, that’s the pot of gold we’re always seeking.