NATIONAL PARKS: Yellowstone in Winter by Jerry Ginsberg Photographs by Kevin Horsefield ©

Winter wonderland

Winter wonderland.


Yellowstone, the world’s very first national park and one of the most popular, was established in 1872. Most of us think of it as a place to visit in spring, summer and fall, but certainly not in winter.

Wyoming winters can be brutally cold with great snow accumulations. The Yellowstone Plateau where the park sits averages 8,000 feet of elevation. This high elevation makes the sun more intense and the alpine weather patterns more dynamic and unpredictable.

Sound forbidding? Well, it can be. Indeed, the park was pretty much devoid of wintertime visitors until the advent of specialized cold-weather tourism several years ago. Since the cold is often intense and the snows deep, what’s the point, you might ask? Read the rest of this entry »

NATURE’S VIEW: The Chattering Songbird of the Salt Marsh Story and photographs by Jim Clark ©

In an earlier column I gave praise to the seaside sparrow, a species common to the salt marshes of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, but rarely sought after by nature photographers. This column is on one of my all-time favorite songsters: Cistothorus plaustris, the marsh wren, a denizen of freshwater and tidal brackish marshes with robust stands of bulrush, cattail and cordgrass.

The marsh wren is every bit as inconspicuous as the seaside sparrow, but two qualities make it stand out. It is curious as all get-out, and it loves to sing.

Marsh wrens have to figure you out, and they will approach as near as arm’s length to do so. Even when you can’t see them, they are likely watching you; sometimes closer than you think.

Marsh Scene 4 HDR Nik NX2 05292015 Blackwater NWR MD

The domain of the marsh wren, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Maryland. © Jim Clark


The other giveaway is its song. Once you hear the marsh wren’s bubbling repertoire of chattering melodies, you will have little trouble recognizing it on future ventures into its wetland domain. A marsh is not a marsh without the wren’s enthusiastic and rapid chatter resonating throughout the tidal landscape. And this little feathered ball of dynamism not only sings during the day, but also at all hours of the night. Read the rest of this entry »

Photo Contests, Story and photograph by Kathy Adams Clark

Strawberry cactus bloomMany photographers view photo contests as a way to achieve recognition for their work. Landing a big prize can be a great way to get your photography in front of the public and potential buyers. Yet, not every photo contest is a winner. There are photo contests and there are photo scams. Smart photographers learn the difference.

Legitimate photo contests are fairly easy to spot. They are sponsored by a reputable magazine, organization, public park or government agency. The winning entries are guaranteed a prize and prestige. The prize can be money, merchandise or something as simple as a ribbon. The prestige can be publication of the image in a special issue of the magazine, an exhibition of winning prints in a public place, a traveling exhibit of the prints, and maybe an all-expenses-paid trip to the awards ceremony.

National magazines like Nature’s Best, National Wildlife, and Audubon run annual photo contests that attract the best images from photographers of all skill levels. One of my images won an honorable mention in a Nature’s Best contest in the mid-1990s, and I still brag about it to this day.

NATIONAL PARKS: Haleakala National Park, Story and photographs by Jerry Ginsberg

Stunning Oheo Gulch in Haleakala National Park on Maui, Hawaii.

Ohe’o Gulch


The island state of Hawaii boasts two national parks. Hawaii Volcanoes is on the Big Island and popular Haleakala National Park, the subject of this column, is found on Maui.

While Haleakala volcano, along with its vast flanks, dominates Maui, Haleakala National Park has just two access areas. The more popular and heavily visited is the slow, winding 38-mile drive up to the summit of the volcano. There, you stand on the very edge of the crater. Haleakala’s 10,000-foot summit is your prime destination for sunrise. The place will likely be crowded with couples wrapped in blankets hastily snatched from their hotel rooms. Read the rest of this entry »

Photography Close To Home: Backyard Butterflies Story and photographs by Robert and Jorja Feldman

Great spangled Fritillary, © Jorja Feldman

Great spangled Fritillary, © Jorja Feldman


Last month our article on backyard bird photography was published in NANPA eNews, and we described some benefits of shooting in your own backyard. This article is a continuation on backyard photography and includes three attributes of the backyard that make photographing butterflies in this venue especially appealing.

These attributes are immediacy, intimacy and control. Read the rest of this entry »

FIELD TECHNIQUE: Autumn Colors in the Digital Age, Story and photographs by F.M. Kearney

The morning started out under foggy conditions in the New York Botanical Garden. The autumn colors were at their peak, but they looked somewhat subdued as they disappeared into the mist. By mid-morning, the fog had almost completely dissipated and the sun was struggling to make an appearance. As I approached a couple of Japanese Zelkova trees, I noticed that a thick stand of bushes that used to be there had been completely cleared. This allowed me to view the trees from a totally new angle, which had previously been inaccessible. I positioned one tree directly behind another one—making the one in front appear as though it had far more branches than it actually did. From a wide-angle, ground-level perspective, I was able to include much of the colorful background. Also, the trees on the far left and right leaned inward just enough to create the perfect framing elements.

The sun wasn’t quite at full power yet, but it was strong enough to create some areas of high contrast. I did an HDR compilation of five images (+/- 2 stops, 0) to balance out the difficult light.

Fall foliage Japanese Velkova tree New York Botanical Garden (HDR compilation of 5 images)

Regular HDR


Read the rest of this entry »

WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER, by Cathy and Gordon Illg

flies on a wildflower blossom

The plant is communicating with the flies, calling them to pollinate its blossoms.

There’s always something new under the sun. There are always surprises waiting for us in the most unlikely places. Recent studies are showing plants may be far more than the yard decorations and colorful picture elements we’ve taken them for. These beings that we’ve always considered to be merely ground cover are capable of movement, communication–yes, they can talk to their neighbors–and even arithmetic–some species need to know the hours of darkness and calculate if they have enough starch to survive the night. Charles Darwin recognized intelligent, purposeful movement in plants, and he even wrote a book on it. The scientific community ignored his findings for more than 120 years.

We don’t even know how intelligent plants are because we are not smart enough to communicate with them. The problem is they use chemical cues rather than auditory ones to talk to the plants and animals around them, and this is a language Rosetta Stone© doesn’t cover. Plants are as aware of our presence as any animal, more aware than many. They are even self-aware, which puts them way above most animals in intelligence, at least by the way we measure such things. There is also considerable evidence they feel pain. Any time plants are wounded, they emit ethylene, a familiar pain killer. There may another answer, but it seems logical to assume they emit a pain killer when they feel pain.

Roosevelt elk with grass on antlers

The grass suffered no lasting damage, but it’s possible there was a lot of pain involved.

What are the implications of these discoveries? Well, one of the big arguments for the vegetarian or vegan lifestyle is that it is kinder to feeling creatures, and that was a valid point until these recent discoveries. It turns out that even though plants don’t have faces, and even though their seat of intelligence may not be a brain per se, they do feel and they are aware. Harvesting fruit or grain may be just as painful for them as plucking off pieces of us would be. We raise many plants just to kill them so we can survive. There is simply no getting around the fact that for one being to live, other beings, whether they are animals or plants, must die. We are utterly dependent upon other living beings paying the ultimate price so that we may live. We are more closely tied to the rest of creation than we can possibly imagine.

Rock squirrel eating phacelia blossoms, Pima County, AZ

Eating flowers seems such a cute and harmless activity, but the animals are eating the plants’ sexual organs and limiting the plants’ ability to produce offspring.

Whether we are aware of it or not, almost anywhere we point a lens in the natural world, we are photographing a life and death struggle. The struggle may not be obvious. It may even appear completely harmless–a porcupine nibbling on a flower or a field of many species in bloom–but there is a struggle occurring. Of course, just to make things more complicated, at the same time as this struggle for available resources is going on, there is also a constant discussion or dialogue between the protagonists, establishing boundaries, making or breaking treaties, and deciding who to cooperate with and who to fight tooth and nail.

Moose eating willow

When denuded branches become obvious, the damage herbivores do to the plant life can easily be seen.

The idea that we are better or more evolved than other species because we don’t need to kill thinking, feeling beings no longer holds water. What’s more, the knowledge of whether it’s better to kill animals or plants to survive is forever beyond our grasp. The fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is forbidden to us, and consequently, just like every other plant and animal we see, all we can do is muddle through as best we can. For me at least, being a nature photographer helps. The camera lens makes me an intimate part of the ongoing conflict/cooperation, and makes it easier to rejoice in our connection to it. This is what makes the world go round.

Meadow of wildflowers in the Rocky Mountains

The amount of activity going on here is mind-boggling and pretty much invisible because most of it occurs at the root tips.


Cathy and Gordon Illg have been full-time nature photographers since 2000. Now their livelihood is dependent upon their ability to share the magic of wild things and wild places with other photographers. Their work is widely published and includes numerous covers of magazines like Backpacker, Defenders, National Geographic Young Explorer, Ranger Rick and National Wildlife. Several of their images decorate the tails of Frontier Airlines’ jets, and they’ve done well in photo contests, the highlight of which was being flown to London to accept awards in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Contest. Both of their first two books, Dynamic Wildlife Photography and Worshipping With A Camera, have been well received, and they lead nature photography tours under the name Adventure Photography. Information on their photo tours and blogs can be found on their website,

NATURE’S VIEW: Slowing Down, Story and photographs by Jim Clark

JClark-Autumn Morning along the Blackwater River 4 - CVI - Tucker County WV

Autumn morning along Blackwater River, Tucker County, West Virginia. © Jim Clark


We are all overbooked these days. Our lives are commandeered by everything we deem uncompromisingly critical. Add those electronic devices that have become as indispensable as an appendage, and we are saturated with an excess of things to keep us too preoccupied to even take a breath.

Remember a time when you hiked into a meadow, laid down and watched the clouds float across the blue sky? Did hawks and vultures glide into your view, and did you wonder what it would be like to fly? Watching, admiring, thinking and developing—that is slowing down at its essence. Read the rest of this entry »

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

The first rays of sunrise strike enormous West Temple in Zion Canyon


In the southwest corner of Utah lies one of our most scenic, accessible and popular national parks, Zion. In my view, Zion is a superlative gem of scenery and fun.

The red rock landforms towering over the canyon of the Virgin River will fill your images with great drama and brilliant color. This deeply eroded high desert plateau is studded with cliffs and buttes, many bearing the Biblical names bestowed upon them by nineteenth-century Mormon settlers.

Zion National Park has three entrances, all leading to different topography and unique compositions. Read the rest of this entry »

PHOTOGRAPHER PROJECT: Buddy, Carson & Me, a Journey of Discovery by Jim Clark

© Carson Clark

Beaver adult and yearling at Dry Fork River, June 2010. © Carson Clark

In 2007 my wife suggested that our son and I do a book together. I had already published a few, and although Carson was only eight years old, he had already won national and international awards for his nature photography. What better co-author, photographer and partner could I have asked for? It was a perfect combination.

So, during the winter of 2008, Carson and I decided to do a children’s book about a family of beavers at a local nature preserve. To give Carson the full experience of a nature writer and photographer, I had him do a bit of homework. The more he understood nature, the better he would become at photographing it. Read the rest of this entry »

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