Geena Hill and the NANPA College Scholarship Program

Many northerners like to migrate to Florida in the winter to escape the cold, but few realize that they should stick around until late spring. May/June in central Florida is one of the most beautiful times to visit Florida, mostly because of the wildflowers that bloom en masse along the roadsides. There is an incredibly high diversity of wildflowers that can be seen, but some areas are completely dominated by a native wildflower, Coreopsis, which is also Florida’s state wildflower. © Geena Hill.

Many northerners like to migrate to Florida in the winter to escape the cold, but few realize that they should stick around until late spring. May/June in central Florida is one of the most beautiful times to visit Florida, mostly because of the wildflowers that bloom en masse along the roadsides. There is an incredibly high diversity of wildflowers that can be seen, but some areas are completely dominated by a native wildflower, Coreopsis, which is also Florida’s state wildflower. © Geena Hill.

One of the highlights of NANPA’s 2019 Nature Photography Summit & Trade Show was seeing the work of NANPA’s College Scholarship Program participants.  Now that the event is over, it’s a good time to learn a little more about them and their experiences at Summit.  Today, we meet Geena Hill, who recently graduated with her master’s degree from the University of Florida, with a focus in wildlife ecology and conservation.

“My interest in nature, biology, and photography predates my time as a biology student and photographer” says Geena. “As a child exploring in the woods with my sisters in northwest Pennsylvania, I always found myself taking pictures of various animals we found with a disposable camera. I wasn’t sure of the reason why I needed to take a photo of everything, but I felt the persistent urge to document our discoveries. Eventually, I was able to take a photography class in high school and finally fulfilled my aspiration of taking photos by learning the technicalities of film photography. While I did not study photography for my undergraduate degree, the constant impulse to always have my camera in my bag persists to this day.

“During my time as an undergraduate student, I explored my passion for biology by majoring in Biological Anthropology and Archaeology. I had an opportunity to assist on an excavation of an Ancient Maya site in the Yucatan, Mexico the summer following graduation. My professor quickly realized my passion for photography and assigned me the task of digitizing artifacts from the site. Additionally, while traveling throughout Central America, I observed how natural populations are being impacted by habitat destruction, climate change, invasive species, and harvesting. I spent much of this time photographing and pondering these observations. Since this time, my interests have evolved into studying the effects of human land use on the environment, and eventually to conserving species that are affected by human activities.”

Beekeeping in Florida is tough work, especially in the summer when it’s nearly 100 degrees and the beekeepers need to wear a thick suits for protection. However, one of the benefits of Florida summers is magnificent clouds that help to add depth to photos. This specific work was done with the University of Florida Honey Bee Lab. The beekeepers were sampling for a common parasite in the hives, called varroa, that attacks honey bees and transmits diseases. Many bee colonies that succumb to varroa infestations will do so in the late summer. © Geena Hill.

Beekeeping in Florida is tough work, especially in the summer when it’s nearly 100 degrees and the beekeepers need to wear a thick suits for protection. However, one of the benefits of Florida summers is magnificent clouds that help to add depth to photos. This specific work was done with the University of Florida Honey Bee Lab. The beekeepers were sampling for a common parasite in the hives, called varroa, that attacks honey bees and transmits diseases. Many bee colonies that succumb to varroa infestations will do so in the late summer. © Geena Hill.

What was the highlight of the program for you?

The highlight of the program was being able to network with so many different nature photographers at the conference, and to work side-by-side with other students and learn from them. .

What was your biggest takeaway or “ah ha” moment?

My biggest takeaway from the program was learning how photographers can make a significant impact on legislation and conservation policy. Also, it was very rewarding to learn how to produce a video from start to finish.

Has participating in the program changed you, your photography, or the way you look at the natural world and, if so, how?

Coming back from the summit, I definitely felt very different than I did going into it. Before the summit, I was feeling very rundown and overwhelmed with everything going on in with school and work, but this program helped to set my brain on a different track. Being able to talk with other photographers at the summit helped me to realize that we can make a difference in the conservation field: you just have to focus really hard on one thing (as Joel Sartore said) and master it. It was a really fun and interesting task to work with other students and create an entire project in just a couple days, and I really enjoyed being able to storyboard the video and collaborate on the media production.

Found on only two locations in the world, the milky Silversword is one of the rarest plants in the world. It exists only in Haleakala National Park on Maui, HI, and Mauna Kea on the Big Island, HI. Silverswords grow only on volcanic cinder and are subjected to freezing temperatures in high winds. I was lucky enough to see these plants in full bloom and managed to photograph them at night with the milky way in the back at the summit of Haleakala, one of the best places for star gazing. © Geena Hill.

Found on only two locations in the world, the milky Silversword is one of the rarest plants in the world. It exists only in Haleakala National Park on Maui, HI, and Mauna Kea on the Big Island, HI. Silverswords grow only on volcanic cinder and are subjected to freezing temperatures in high winds. I was lucky enough to see these plants in full bloom and managed to photograph them at night with the milky way in the back at the summit of Haleakala, one of the best places for star gazing. © Geena Hill.

What would you say to someone considering applying for the program?

This program was a great opportunity! It was fantastic to be able to network with various photographers, receive a free portfolio review, have our gear cleaned for free, and have mentorship from other incredible photographers. It was an intense experience but well worth it.

Learn more about NANPA’s College Scholarship Program and see the video created this year by the students.  The biennial program takes place during NANPA Summits, so there’s plenty of time to build a strong portfolio for the next application period in 2020!  Scholarships are funded by the NANPA Foundation.