Networking, Lessons in Life and Nature Photography on Tap for New Podcast

In a few short weeks, NANPA will officially launch The Nature Photographer Podcast in collaboration with the cast of Wild and Exposed, so we asked one of the co-founders and co-hosts to tell us what he’s gained from hosting and participating in nature photography podcasts, and what he hopes the new NANPA podcast brings its listeners.

Photos and story by Ron Hayes

I’m all about networking in wildlife photography. Networking is critical to being able to find good locations to shoot, but it’s also how you find people you respect to review your work and give you honest input. You might not want to hear the feedback, but it will help you improve your image quality.

One thing I’ve learned in many years as a wildlife photographer is that it doesn’t matter where you are—physically or in your career as a photographer—there are people out there that share your love of nature and are willing to help you out. For instance, my car broke down in a small town in Wyoming on the way to a shoot in the spring, and I was able to connect with another photographer that I knew was on the way to the same location and catch a ride. People are willing to live and work outside of themselves, to help somebody else that might be struggling with anything at all, even car trouble. But you aren’t likely to find that support if you aren’t networking and getting to know other nature photographers.

That’s what I enjoy most about Wild and Exposed and one reason I’m excited about our new project with NANPA, The Nature Photographer Podcast. We get to know people from around the country—international photographers, too—and we come together around a shared passion for nature photography.

About Wild and Exposed

I first met Michael Mauro through Doug Gardner, because we both had been co-hosts with Doug on Wild Photo Adventures, a TV show that used to air on PBS. Then in 2017 Michael and I reconnected in Lake Clark, Alaska, photographing bears. We hit it off right away, cracking each other up just having some fun, and at the end of the trip, Mike asked if I’d ever given any thought to doing a nature photography podcast. He introduced me to Mark Raycroft, and the three of us went on a trip in Colorado together, talked through ideas about how we envisioned things going. We did practice podcasts for 3 ½ months before we developed a style we were comfortable with.

We’re in our third season now, over 100 episodes and still picking up steam. Jason Loftus joined us more recently, and it helps to have four co-hosts to share responsibilities. This way we’re confident at least two of us can be available for any recording.

I have a lot of favorite episodes. I enjoy marine life and underwater photography—which is odd because I’m from Wyoming— so one of my favorite episodes was with underwater photographer/videographer Jorge Hauser of Mexico. We talked a lot about photographing the great white sharks off of Guadalupe Island and free diving with orca, too—those two stories from that podcast stick in my mind as highlights.

Another one of my favorite episodes was with Scott Wilson, a photographer out of Denver. Most of what he posts on Instagram and Facebook is wildlife, but he’s originally from Scotland, where he was well established as a world-class landscape photographer. What drove him to wildlife was a stage IV cancer diagnosis and treatment. We had a fantastic conversation with Scott that really moved us and pulled at our audience’s  heartstrings too—how he’s overcome cancer and even been able to get back into landscape photography.

What I’ve learned from co-hosting a podcast

I’ve learned a lot from co-hosting this podcast. Not just about photography but about life. As photographers, we get to be our own boss, so one challenge of a podcast is learning to work together. Our visions for how we want a conversation to go or how a project might go, may not all look exactly the same. Compromise is the name of the game on a project of this scale. Being able to work through challenges and move on to the next one has stretched me.

There’s a lot about this podcast that mirrors the work of photography. We do a lot of research about guests before they’re on the show. We try to envision an angle and how the conversation might go, but the discussions always evolve and go someplace we didn’t expect at least once during an episode. It doesn’t work if you don’t have a plan, but you also have to be flexible with your plan, willing to go where you didn’t intend.

And then, even after the recording is done, Michael spends hours editing, coordinating with the guest to get the right images for the conversation, writing show notes…it’s like post processing your images. We probably spend 12-15 hours total just creating a one-hour episode. Charles Glatzer talks about how it took a thousandth of a second to get the image, but how long did it take to make the photograph? That feels true here, too.

Why Wild and Exposed has partnered with NANPA

NANPA stands for what we stand for, not only in the love of nature photography, but in networking—the events and education that NANPA offers are a great fit for what we try to do with the podcast. NANPA is not the first organization that we’ve talked to about partnering, but it’s the first that we felt comfortable aligning ourselves with. We know that NANPA believes in putting the subjects first. It’s not always about getting the image. We’ve got a responsibility to take care of the natural world.

I hope listeners will gain a better understanding of how many opportunities are available to them. With every photographer that we’ve talked to, the biggest thing we’ve learned is that there is no recipe for becoming a nature photographer. Everybody comes at it from a different perspective, from a different walk in life, and something different drives each of us. I think NANPA will reinforce that.

The events that NANPA hosts are an extra benefit to our listeners at Wild and Exposed. Lots of photographers out there don’t understand the benefits of belonging to an organization like NANPA, so I think this will be mutually beneficial to our existing listeners and NANPA members.

What to expect from The Nature Photographer Podcast

We have four hosts at Wild and Exposed because none of us can be available all of the time. We’ll be joined for The Nature Photographer episodes by a rotating cast of NANPA hosts, too, although initially we’re doing a lot of episodes with Dawn Wilson, NANPA’s President. That rotating format is about more than just convenience and logistics, though, it’s something that was important to us from the start.

A larger group allows us to have people that all see things a little bit differently. When you are listening to the pro tips that we offer, you’ll often hear somebody chime in with a different slant on it. We all have different experiences, different amounts of time in the field, and we’ve all come up with systems that help us do what we do. That’s something we hope listeners take away from the show. There’s more than one “right” way to be a nature photographer.

When you go on a shoot, even though you might not be shooting with others, at the end of the day, you sit around with other photographers, and you share stories from the day—talk about the season, sit around and joke with one another, get to know each other. That’s what we hope to capture in our podcasts.

Stay tuned for more information coming soon about when and where you can listen to The Nature Photographer.


Photo of Ron HayesRon Hayes is a wildlife photographer and one of four co-hosts of Wild and Exposed that is partnering with NANPA to produce The Nature Photographer podcast. A fourth generation Wyoming native, Ron has a biology degree and worked on both the biological and law enforcement sides of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department before pursuing photography on a semi-professional level. Drawn to photography as a means of storytelling, Ron hopes his images help educate viewers about the simple and complex subtleties of wildlife behavior and our contributions to the ecosystems in which wildlife live. Visit him at westernwildlifeimages.com.

Two female members in the field looking at images