DON’T WORRY, BE HAPPY by Gordon & Cathy Illg ©


© Gordon & Cathy Illg

© Gordon & Cathy Illg

Don’t Worry, Be Happy
by Gordon & Cathy Illg

A seemingly endless supply of uncontrollable factors. Will the weather cooperate with our group of photographers? Are we going to have an aurora? Is a spirit bear going to show up? Will the filling in my right, rear molar last until my next visit to the dentist? The list goes on and on. Why do we worry so much about a future we cannot control? Why is it so hard to simply prepare as best we can, leave the future in the hands of the fates, and sleep as if we had no cares in the world? Sometimes having a big brain is not all it’s cracked up to be.

© Gordon & Cathy Illg

© Gordon & Cathy Illg

While photographing orcas along British Columbia’s Inside Passage we happened upon a pod of transients. Transient orcas survive by eating other marine mammals, and the pod needs to average one or two kills each day, depending on the size of their prey. Usually transients are always on the move, making them difficult to keep up with and photograph. However, this particular pod was loafing in the same area for the entire morning and early afternoon. These orcas had just made a kill that morning and they were in high spirits, especially the two juveniles. We watched them for almost five hours as they rubbed against each other, spyhopped, taillobbed, breached and rolled on their backs. Sometimes they would approach right up to our boat or to a researcher’s zodiac (a researcher was usually with the whales), and it looked like these intelligent creatures were showing off. Many times they would leap out of the water and then poke their heads up to make sure we had seen what they did. It’s understandable that the orcas were jubilant after having fed well, and were able to keep flesh and spirit together for another day or so. But what about tomorrow? Tomorrow meant another patient stalk in pursuit of seals, sea lions, dolphins, porpoises and small whales, all of which are wary, hard-to-catch prey. Shouldn’t they be worried about making it through tomorrow…and the day after that, ad infinitum? Or just maybe the orcas have it right, and humans need to learn to lighten up.

© Gordon & Cathy Illg

© Gordon & Cathy Illg

Granted, as intelligent as they are, killer whales have nowhere near the brain power humans do, and rather than being a handicap, this seems to give them an advantage in the worry-free nights department. It’s another example of humans using their brains for the wrong purposes. A lack of genius has allowed orcas, and by extension every wild thing, to stumble upon the enlightened path, something spiritual humans have been seeking for millennia. The answer we’ve been searching for appears to be the fact that every day on this side of the dirt is a day for celebration. For nature photographers, any day that finds you looking at the natural world through a viewfinder should be greeted with spyhops and breaches. Read the rest of this entry »

Facing the Howling Blizzard with Your Camera by Hank Erdmann ©

Peninsula Ice © Hank Erdmann

Peninsula Ice © Hank Erdmann

Facing the Howling Blizzard with Your Camera by Hank Erdmann

Winter is a wonderful time to pursue the art of nature and outdoor photography. Too many photographers put their cameras away once the leaves have fallen and don’t take them out again until cherry trees blossom. Photographing in winter does however take some dedication or at least enjoyment of the outdoors regardless of the weather. Just as when weather changes and rain begins to fall, some of your best shots will be made when those weather changes start or end. But as with rain, snow and cold weather require some precautions to protect your equipment and yourself.

Hank Erdmann ©

Hank Erdmann ©

In cold weather you have to get to the subject and safely back. Common sense says if you are cold, wet, shaking and miserable, the quality of your photographs will reflect your mental and physical state. Your comfort zone is a range of temperature that your body can operate effectively in and be relatively unaffected by uncomfortable conditions. That zone is different for all of us, narrower for some and wider for others. If you are not reasonably comfortable, your photography will reflect that fact. Its hard to get tack sharp, correctly exposed images if you are shaking, even with your camera mounted securely on a tripod. It will be impossible to concentrate on exposure and composition if your mind is preoccupied with keeping your body warm. Remember, you are supposed to be enjoying yourself, only those crazy enough to pursue nature photography as a full-time profession actually need to be out taking photographs in the winter. Whether it is for a vacation or occupation it makes sense to spend some time preparing yourself and your gear to stay within your comfort zone in cold weather. Read the rest of this entry »

Being a Mom and a Photographer Story and photographs by Margaret Gaines


Sarah attempting to get all wet without rolling on the ground. I took this image at the end of a hike celebrating the last day of summer vacation.

About five years ago, I was taken aback when a female professional wildlife photographer somewhat condescendingly told me she didn’t think it was possible to be a professional nature/wildlife photographer and be a mother of young kids. I’d never met a woman who discouraged other women from following their dreams and trying to make it work, no matter what the obstacles. I was somewhat taken aback. While I can understand and admit that it’s sometimes challenging to get out in the field to photograph, I do not consider having kids a liability to anything I’ve wanted to do. When I met this lady I was near the beginning of my path, seriously following my heart to become a good photographer, and I’m glad I didn’t give up on the idea of being a photographer.

So in honor of the first day of the school year and having the house to myself, I thought I’d share a few ideas on how I’ve been able to mesh the two pursuits and make it work. Read the rest of this entry »

NATIONAL PARKS: Biscayne National Park Story and photographs by Jerry Ginsberg

Colorful tropical sunset over Biscayne Bay on Elliott Key, Biscayne National Park, Miami, FL.

Biscayne Bay on Elliott Key


The bustling, eclectic, urban city of Miami, Florida, with the pulsing rhythms of its day and night life, is not your typical location for a national park. Yet, the southern portion of Miami’s Biscayne Bay is indeed a wonderful tropical wilderness. Read the rest of this entry »

FIELD TECHNIQUE: Capturing the Holiday Spirit Story and photographs by F.M. Kearney

Photographing outdoor holiday decorations is fun. It’s even better if you don’t have to deal with hordes of tourists tripping over your tripod. Probably best of all is when the decorations are in a natural setting that most tourists (and residents) don’t know about.

In addition to the annual, world-famous lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in New York, there’s also the lighting of a slightly smaller display in Central Park. Each year, a flotilla of 13 trees is launched on a tiny “island” in the less-visited, northern section of the park. When I first saw it years ago, I actually thought it was a real island. I shot it at night and used the usual combo for best quality, i.e., low ISO and small aperture. As you may suspect, the results were less than successful. Although I didn’t detect it at the time, the subtle but constant movement of the artificial island ruined every shot due to the long exposures.

That was in the days of film when you were locked into a single ISO setting for all the pictures on the roll. Thankfully, today’s digital cameras are much more versatile. Not only can you change the ISO at will, but the resulting noise at the higher settings is much less than what you would have gotten with film. Additionally, more detail can be pulled out of the highlights and shadows due to their greater dynamic range capabilities. If the contrast is too strong, however, you may need to turn to HDR software.

Floating Christmas tree display at sunset Harlem Meer in Central Park New York, NY (HDR compilation of 5 images)

ISO 400, f/8

Read the rest of this entry »

How the NANPA Program Impacted Me by Jorel Cuomo ©


Tiger in Madhya Pradesh, India. © Jorel Cuomo

How the NANPA Program Impacted Me

by Jorel Cuomo, 2004 NHSPP Participant

When I attended NANPA’s High School Scholarship Program (NHSSP) in 2004 in Portland, my eyes opened to exploring wildlife photography as a medium. I greatly benefited from the one-on-one instruction and support of fellow photographers, both peers and mentors. Before attending this program, I never knew all this support existed; I felt that I was exploring nature and my camera by myself. Being a scholarship winner gave me the opportunity to harness my potential. Being surrounding by world-class photographers that shared their knowledge and experience opened my eyes to the possibilities that awaited me in our magnificent world.


Leopard, Southern India. © Jorel Cuomo

The intensive workshop improved my photographic skills, knowledge and daily workflow. The hands-on experience increased my love of photography and helped me understand what it takes to be a nature photographer. NANPA helped me realize there are other nature photographers out there that share a similar passion, and has since been fantastic in helping me network and motivate me to continue my lifelong passion.


I have become quite fascinated with Asia over the past year. Some of my most memorable moments have been photographing rhinos in Nepal, tigers in India, leopards in Sri Lanka, and orangutans in Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo). I find the excitement of traveling and photographing wildlife to be the most rewarding thing I can do with my life.


© Jorel Cuomo


Traveling the world has given me insight into the natural world and its diminishing habitats. I am greatly affected by where our planet is headed and would like to focus my attention on protecting natural areas through photography. I hope that by creating images that evoke emotions about the beauty and importance of nature, I can help others feel this connection and take action to conserve critical habitats and wildlife for future generations.

To give this same type of experience to other high school students, please make a donation to NANPA Foundation’s High School Scholarship Fund by December 4th. Visit our campaign page to make an online donation. If you prefer to make a gift by check, make it payable to NANPA Foundation with “High School Program” in the memo line and mail it to NANPA Foundation, 6382 Charleston Rd., Alma, IL 62807.


Online fundraising for High School Student Scholarship Program

Do Your Shadows Have the Blues? By Tom Horton ©


Fig. 1- Image from micro-4/3 sensor in Olympus E-M1, without color correction, demonstrating blue cast to background shadows. © Tom Horton


Do Your Shadows Have the Blues?

by Tom Horton
Further To Fly Photography
Park City, Utah

Human vision has a lot to take in and process, with the result that our brains are constantly on the lookout for low-risk shortcuts as they assemble our visual representations. Magicians and other entertainers routinely use this fact to trick us into seeing what should be there, rather than what really is there, and making a visual error.

Photographers are as prone to this problem as anyone. Several years ago I recognized a subtle way this was happening in my photos: Shadows in many were distinctly blue, whereas the shadows seen by my real vision were more like shades of gray. Biology reminded me what was going on. Reality had taught my brain that shadows are shades of gray, so when I looked at the camera’s representation of reality, my brain assumed shades of gray, when the camera was actually showing me blue. (Fig. 1)

Fig.2 - Photoshop color balance functions showing enhanced yellows and reduced blues in shadows.

Fig.2 – Photoshop color balance functions showing enhanced yellows and reduced blues in shadows.

These blue shadows increased with altitude, and although some could be attributed to haze increasing skylight scattering, haze was not a factor in many others. Could this be an ultraviolet effect? Common wisdom is that all digital sensors have built-in ultraviolet filtering, but this is only partially true. (Rista, 2010) There are portions of the far ultraviolet spectrum, around 200 to 300 nm, that sensors typically don’t filter. And, the recent trend in sensor design has been to cut back filtration generally, in order to maximize dynamic range.

Fig 3 Selective Color Screen

Fig. 3 – Photoshop selective color functions, showing reduced yellow and black in the green tones, to compensate for “leakage” in the earlier color balance corrections.

Once this picture came together and I began seeing the true color of my shadows, I was blown away at how common blue shadows are. Fortunately, after some quick experimenting in Photoshop, I found a simple way to move shadow renditions back towards grayscale. Photoshop’s color balance menu (Image > Adjustments > Color Balance) allow selection of shadows, midtones or highlights for correction. (Fig. 2) Check the Shadow button and move the yellow/blue slider a tad toward yellow. Trial-and-error will show you the right amount, and it is easy to go too far. You’ll easily see the blue come out of the shadows and the neutral come back in.

Unfortunately, this Photoshop filter is rather imprecise and you’ll see some correction leak over into the midtones, particularly saturating the greens. There are a couple of ways to compensate for this. One is to use Photoshop’s saturation control to select the greens and pull the saturation back a few degrees. The method I like to use is Photoshop’s Selective Color menu (Image > Adjustments > Selective Color)to do something similar — to pull some yellow out of the greens and perhaps lighten them up, getting them back to normal. (Fig. 3)

Following this path on the shot above yields the result below. Shadows are much more natural and the photo has gained depth and realism. You probably won’t be able to kill all the blue in shadows without affecting other yellows and greens in the photo, but you’ll see a significant improvement.

Fig. 4 - Corrections have rendered shadows less blue, more neutral and realistic, without significant effect on other parts of the image.

Fig. 4 – Corrections have rendered shadows less blue, more neutral and realistic, without significant effect on other parts of the image.

In summary, incomplete ultraviolet filtering in most digital sensors put blue casts on many outdoor shadows. Our brains’ visual habits allow us to assume these shadows are gray, when they are not. Using Photoshop or other editing software to subtract blue from these shadows by adding yellow brings them more toward neutral, and reality, making the prior blue cast even more obvious by comparison. When this correction affects other colors in the image, separate corrections can be applied specifically to those tones to bring them back to normal.


Rista, Jon; 9 August 2010,

Tom Horton is the proprietor of Further To Fly Photography in Park City, Utah. He specializes in very-limited-edition photo art of nature and ethnographic genres. His portfolio coves the western US, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.









Igniting the Passion for High School Nature Photography- NANPA Foundation


I collect caterpillars at one of my field sites in California, using a 'beat-sheet' - a simple tool used for collection of insects on plants. © Moria Robinson

I collect caterpillars at one of my field sites in California, using a ‘beat-sheet’ – a simple tool used for collection of insects on plants. © Moria Robinson


Lifelong friendships – Opened my eyes to a diversity of perspectives – Inspiring – Everlasting impact – Remarkable environment – Cemented my passion for protecting the environment – Drastically changed the way I approach photography

This image with two caterpillars is of an uncommon color morph of a lovely little moth - Drepanulatrix falcataria. The caterpillars are feeding on a plant (Ceanothus jepsonii) endemic to serpentine soil - a unique soil type in California. © Moria Robinson

This image with two caterpillars is of an uncommon color morph of a lovely little moth – Drepanulatrix falcataria. The caterpillars are feeding on a plant (Ceanothus jepsonii) endemic to serpentine soil – a unique soil type in California. © Moria Robinson

According to past participants of the NANPA High School Scholarship Program (NHSSP), these words and phrases above describe their experience in the program.

In July, ten more students will get to experience the same community and learning opportunities as they participate in NANPA’s 2016 program in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Combining classroom and field-based instruction, students will have the chance to improve their nature photography skills, learn about NANPA, meet industry professionals, and gain an appreciation of the Smoky Mountains’ rich natural history.

The program is based at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont (GSMIT), a nonprofit resident environmental education center in the heart of the national park. Participants are selected through a competitive application process that opens on November 20. Scholarship recipients are responsible for a $150 registration fee and their transportation to/from Knoxville, TN.

Headshot of an underwing moth caterpillar, Catocala aholibah. In addition to the fun of bringing people 'face to face' with caterpillars, these angles capture the facial area of the insect - known as the head capsule - which have patterns valuable for identification. © Moria Robinson

Headshot of an underwing moth caterpillar, Catocala aholibah. In addition to the fun of bringing people ‘face to face’ with caterpillars, these angles capture the facial area of the insect – known as the head capsule – which have patterns valuable for identification. © Moria Robinson

All other program costs including events, lodging, food, local transportation, and photo instruction are covered by the NANPA Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.

Seeing the different results that we students could create while working the same area was eye-opening. After the first shoot when we shared our pictures, I was astounded by how many different shots there were among the group that looked nothing alike. I also learned more about post-processing from the instructors, and the quality of my LR-edits when up significantly.” – Johan Doornenbal, 2011 NHSSP participant

Program Highlights

  • Photography Field Trips
  • Biodiversity Education
  • Classroom Instruction
  • Group Project
  • Pro for the Day

The structure of NHSSP encouraged a unique degree of contact and communication between high school participants and adults across a range of careers. I can remember meeting one woman who was both a wildlife and cultural photographer, as well as an advocate for human rights and development around the world. She spoke to us as though we were junior colleagues and capable of following any of the paths we were exposed to at NANPA.” – Moria Robinson, 2006 NHSSP Participant

High school participants have gone on to have a number of varied careers – some including photography, some not. Here’s a sampling of what former NHSSP students are now doing:

  • Environmental Photojournalist
  • Fashion Photographer
  • Accountant
  • Owner, Jewelry Design Business
  • Wildland Firefighter
  • Filmmaker
  • Adjunct Professor of Photography
  • Captain in the US Army Special Forces
  • Full Time Nature/Conservation Photography
  • Cinematographer
  • Information Technology Professional
  • Owner, Photography Business

Help Make the 2016 Program Possible

NHSSP has been life-changing for many students since the NANPA Foundation began supporting the program in 1997. It has helped create another generation of nature photographers and enthusiasts who truly embrace an awareness of and appreciation for nature through photography.

Consider making a tax-deductible gift to NANPA Foundation to bring in 10 more students for an inspiring and everlasting experience. Through December 4th, the Foundation is running a campaign to raise $10,000 for the 2016 program. Visit our campaign site and invest in the future of nature photography.

 Online fundraising for High School Student Scholarship Program




PHOTOGRAPHER PROJECT: A Really BIG Project Story and photograph by Gary Crabbe

One of the more challenging photographic projects I’ve had the privilege to work on came about several years ago as a result of an assignment for an architectural design firm. It started off the same way most incoming assignments do, with me sitting quietly in my office when the phone rings.

When I answered the phone for this project, a gentleman on the other end told me that he had looked at some images of redwood trees on my website. He was working on an interior design project for a hotel renovation in the coastal town of Santa Cruz, California. The theme of the redesign was nature-oriented, and since Santa Cruz is situated more towards the southern end of the 400-mile-long habitat belt for the redwood trees, his design team wanted to include the redwoods as a predominant part of their plans. The registration desk in the lobby was going to be modeled after a fallen redwood tree, and they wanted to create a meeting room that would embody being inside a redwood forest. Read the rest of this entry »

Hidden Rivers: The Freshwater Biodiversity of the Southern Appalachia by David Herasimtschuk ©

Bright orange Tennessee shiners surround a stoneroller on a chub nest in the West Fork of the Pigeon River in Smoky Mountain National Park. Both species take advantage of nests built by chubs, and use them to deposit their eggs in.

Bright orange Tennessee shiners surround a stoneroller on a chub nest in the West Fork of the Pigeon River in Smoky Mountain National Park. Both species take advantage of nests built by chubs, and use them to deposit their eggs in. © David Herasimtschuk


Hidden Rivers: The Freshwater Biodiversity of the Southern Appalachia

By David Herasimtschuk

I awkwardly clamber up the cobble and bedrock of a swift Southern Appalachian River. My senses and thoughts are continually captivated by the life that call these forests home. Small slimy salamanders scurry along the bank as the heavy buzz of cicadas flood the sweet Southern air, all a pleasant reminder of the unique diversity that is supported by these ecosystems. However, to truly understand how special Southern Appalachia is you have to look below the water’s surface.

As I hike up river, occasionally looking for glimpses of what might be lurking in the small rapids and pools, all I see from above are fleeting dark shadows that seem to blend in with the patterns of the water. From the surface, these rivers can appear as lifeless bands of bedrock and boulders, as if that’s where the forest’s life stops. But looks can be deceiving, and as every photographer knows, perspective is everything. Hidden beneath the surface of Southern Appalachia’s rivers and streams lives one of the greatest assemblages of freshwater life found anywhere on this planet.

With one hand gripping the river bed and the other clinched tightly to my camera I slowly duck my head below the surface and am instantly greeted with a celebration of life. Springtime in these rivers spark festivals of spawning fish, with colors and behaviors that would be more easily imagined over coral reefs than riverbeds. From the craftsman-like river chub, who carry stones and build gravel nests so immaculate they trigger large aggregations of fishes to spawn, to the vibrant darters who flash flamboyant colors as they battle over territory and the chance to mate. These river environments support the world’s richest temperate fish fauna, and are home to the highest diversity of freshwater mussels, snails, crayfish, and salamanders on the planet.


Once extirpated from Southern Appalachia, lake sturgeon are now making a comeback due to efforts to reestablish the species. Eggs and milt collected from adult fish in Wisconsin are now being reared in hatcheries to help restore this ancient fish back into its native Southern waters. © David Herasimtschuk



Many of the most biologically rich rivers in the world can also be found in Southern Appalachia, but unfortunately most occur in some of the most human dominated landscapes in the US. Tragically, these waters are hotspots for some of the North Americas dirtiest extractive mining and some of its worst environmental disasters. From coal ash spills and mountain top removal to dams and steep slope development, the threat of extinction is real and imminent for many of these species, yet very few people actually realize what’s being lost.

For the passionate individuals working to conserve this great diversity, the toughest part is often the lack of awareness – nobody knows it exists. As the demand on these rivers continues to grow, imagery of the environments and species affected will play a critical role in visually connecting freshwater ecosystems to their would-be stewards. With the potential of helping to build a growing community of river stewards, creek cleaners and fish watchers, Hidden Rivers was created to provide an immersive look into some of these seldom seen worlds, and encourage the long term benefits of having healthy freshwater ecosystems.

In partnership with Freshwaters Illustrated, a non-profit that uses film and photography to educate the public about the importance of freshwater, this project has begun to boost public understanding and support through educational media that illustrates the life that exists in these environments, and does so strategically through grass roots organizations and educational centers that work to conserve these rivers. Photography and films produced so far have had great success in engaging local and global audiences, connecting thousands with these incredible underwater worlds and educating them on ways to become more river friendly and responsible.

These ecosystems and the species that inhabit them are among the most imperiled on the planet; however what many don’t realize is that much of what is being lost is often right in our own backyard. With the help of NANPA Foundation’s Philip Hyde Environmental Grant a traveling educational exhibit is now being created to help engage local audiences, celebrating the uniqueness of their aquatic neighbors and bringing to light the vulnerability of these ecosystems. Freshwaters Illustrated is also in the production stages of a feature length documentary film that will highlight this irreplaceable assemblage of aquatic life and the individuals who are working to conserve it.

By creating a large media campaign that combines both photography and video we hope to facilitate in the foundation of a public that has a more appreciative perspective toward freshwater conservation and an increased respect for these environments. The rivers and streams of Southern Appalachia support one of the greatest freshwater ecosystems that few have ever seen, for a glimpse into these hidden underwater worlds check out the short films below, and to learn more about the project and stay updated on its progress visit

Hidden Rivers – Preview –

The Last Dragons – Protecting Appalachia’s Hellbenders –

Bringing Back the Brooks – A Revival of the South’s Trout –

A Deeper Creek – The Watchable Waters of Appalachia –


David Herasimtschuk is the 2014 Recipient of the NANPA Foundation Philip Hyde Environmental Grant. Applications are now available for NANPA’s 2015 Philip Hyde Environmental grant, a $2,500 award given annually to an individual NANPA member actively pursuing completion of a peer-reviewed environmental project featuring natural photography as a medium of communication, nature appreciation and environmental protection. Application deadline is October 30, 2015 at midnight PDT. Apply online here.

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