VOLUNTEERS OF NANPA: Jeffrey R. Botkin

Jeff-BotkinWhat is your “day” job?

I am on the faculty of the School of Medicine at the University of Utah, where I chair the Division of Medical Ethics and Humanities. I am a pediatrician by training, although I no longer see patients.

Much of my time is devoted to ethical issues in medicine, particularly in human genetics, in pediatric medicine and in the conduct of biomedical research. Nature photography has been a long-standing interest of mine, and it has been fun to be involved in the many ethical issues in nature photography through NANPA. Read the rest of this entry »

NATURE’S VIEW: Capturing a sense of place – Story and photographs by Jim Clark

Berwind_Lake_in_July_07172014_HDR_WV_(c)_Jim_Clark_01Part I: The elusive “it” factor in nature photography

On a recent photo shoot in West Virginia I was reminded of how, as nature photographers, we strive to seek that elusive characteristic in our landscape photography: a sense of place. After all, it is the “it” factor in landscape photography to have our viewers feel the moment of the scene we photograph. Read the rest of this entry »

Wilderness: As It Was In The Beginning

The Bitterroot Mountains and Clearwater Basin

Proposed Wilderness in the Clearwater Basin of Idaho’s Bitterroot Mountains.

By Krista Schlyer

This week marks the 50th anniversary of The Wilderness Act. Americans will be greeting this occasion in myriad ways. Wilderness lovers and protectors will be lauding our foresight as a nation to recognize the value of wilderness and codify that value with strong protections; many will be celebrating the 750-plus wilderness areas now protected under the act. Some will assess the uncounted acres of wilderness that have been lost to development, exploitation, and political failure, as well as the floundering health of this landmark legislation. A few members of Congress will be devising new ways to skirt or dissolve the act, along with every other environmental safeguard. And many Americans will watch the week pass never knowing there was anything special about it.

To me, The Wilderness Act may be the most hopeful piece of legislation ever passed, based on one of the noblest ideas humanity has ever conjured. Wilderness as a valued concept, as a state of being that must be protected, acknowledges three important realities: that untouched, undeveloped, forever-wild land has value in and of itself; that we as a species if given the opportunity will destroy it; and that for so many reasons, impossible to articulate, we need to live in a world where large areas of wild land exist outside of our reach and exploitation. We need it, as Wallace Stegner said, for “our sanity as creatures.”

When President Lyndon Johnson signed The Wilderness Act into law September 3, 1964, he stated: “If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it.”

I have worked for more than a decade as a conservation photographer and writer, and during that time I have documented numerous locations that epitomize Johnson’s divergent states of the land, “the world as it was in the beginning” and the world “after we got through with it.” The wilderness, and the once-wilderness, and some places that exist in sad limbo somewhere in between. Each has something to offer to the story of wilderness.

The Anacostia River, in Washington DC, was once a wild paradise of rich diversity that nurtured a sustainable civilization of native people and abundant wild plants and animals. By the time we were finished with it, the native people were extinct, the river’s waters were so toxic and filled with human waste that 2/3 of the catfish now have cancerous tumors, and swimming in the river was pronounced illegal out of public health concerns. The building of a nation brought the Anacostia wilderness to its knees almost two centuries before The Wilderness Act was signed. It didn’t stand a chance.

catfish with cancerous lesion

Brown bullhead catfish with a cancerous lesion in the Anacostia watershed, Washington DC.

But a handful of designated wilderness areas along the US-Mexico borderlands, did stand a chance, and still do, in theory. Lines drawn by Congress, or at least approved by them, continue to demarcate roadless wild lands under the Wilderness Act, but in name only. Since 2005 and the Real ID Act, the borderlands have been stripped of environmental protections by the US Congress. The Wilderness Act no longer applies along 2000 miles of some of the wildest most biodiverse lands in the United States. It was a matter of political expediency. Despite the presence of many endangered species and imperiled ecosystems, (and despite ample evidence that border walls and militarization do not stop human migration), the government didn’t want environmental safeguards slowing down the military machine.

rabbit at border wall

Desert cottontail rabbit at the US-Mexico border wall under construction in southern Arizona.

A different type of machinery stands at the door of a third location, the Clearwater Basin in Idaho, one of the United States’ wildest remaining mountain landscapes yet to receive protections under the Wilderness Act. Advocates began proposing a wilderness designation for the Clearwater decades ago, only to see the acreage whittled away in the interest of timber extraction, road construction and off-road vehicle use.

salmon in river

Salmon heading upstream to spawn in the Clearwater Basin.

All three of these places present a different struggle and opportunity within the discourse about wilderness. The Anacostia offers a cautionary tale about what often becomes of a wilderness unprotected. In this watershed the most economically disadvantaged citizens of the nation’s capital continue to eat fish and swim in a river long ago abandoned by most as a toxic waste pit. But even now, despite centuries of abuse and neglect, there are opportunities to undo some of the harm we have done and re-create this river through restoration and in some places re-wilding.

Kayaker on the Anacostia River.

Kayaker on the Anacostia River.

In the borderlands, where every day the US government is eroding The Wilderness Act and wilderness itself, environmental protections could be returned to the land, if Congress were just to act in good faith and honor our most treasured environmental laws.

Kit foxes in the US-Mexico borderlands.

Kit foxes in the US-Mexico borderlands.

The Clearwater, its crystalline waters, salmon runs and old growth cedar forests, are on the precipice of protection, awaiting the state and local communities to express their faith in the importance of clean water and air and open wild spaces where people can get lost and learn to love the land in a way no other experience can afford them.

And all three of these places offer one singular hope for the wild species that inhabit them, the hope of a future to live their lives in this great ecosystem of Earth. The beaver, catfish and cedar waxwings of the Anacostia River; the jackrabbits, green jays and kit foxes of the borderlands; and the salmon, black bears and wolves of the Clearwater, all depend on us. Our pact with wilderness, made 50 years ago this week, and our commitment to honor that pact, will determine their future, and ours.

Beaver swimming in the Anacostia River.

Beaver on the Anacostia River.

 

Krista Schlyer is a photographer and writer living in the Washington DC area. She is a senior fellow in the International League of Conservation Photographers, and author of the book Continental Divide: Wildlife, People and the Border Wall, winner of the 2013 National Outdoor Book Award. View more her work on her website at www.KristaSchlyer.com.

Schlyer will give a presentation on “Nature At The Borderlands” in one of the breakout sessions at the 2015 NANPA Summit taking place in San Diego, California from February 19th – 22nd. To learn more about the Summit and to register for this exciting and inspirational event, please visit www.naturephotographysummit.com. Early bird registration ends on October 31st! 

 

 

 

NANPA Roadshow: What Makes Indelible Images? (Hawaii)

Pahoehoe Kahena

Pahoehoe Kahena by Scott Mead

As a professional nature photographer, one of the things I truly enjoy is fielding questions at my weekly shows and photo workshops. Of all the questions I receive (including email and social media), the two most frequent are:

“How do you create iconic images?” and “How do you choose the right paper to print your images on?”

While these two subjects may seem to lie at opposite ends of the process spectrum, they are actually intertwined: How the image is created has a direct effect on how it’s best presented, and how you present it can make or break the image.

In judging photography competitions, I’ve often seen good images with fatal flaws that kept them from being great – their creators may not have understood the critical nuances of light or may have been heavy-handed in their processing or printing on (gasp) copier paper. In nearly all cases, a subtle tweak or a different perspective would have taken the image from ordinary to extraordinary.

With that in mind, I’ll be hosting a North American Nature Photography (NANPA) Road Show on Saturday, October 11, 2014, at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center in the heart of Maui. The class is sponsored by Hahnemühle FineArt and Canon Image PROGRAF. I’ll be teaching the tools and techniques of crafting indelible images, editing for emphasis, choosing the right Hahnemühle papers to present them with the most impact, and finishing options that add drama, value and maximize your profit. At the end of this full-day event, you’ll leave with the knowledge to help you create your own iconic images.

Read the rest of this entry »

PHOTOGRAPHER PROJECT: And the Best Camera Is? Photos and text by Suzan Chiacchio Brand

The rivalry burns on. Which is better: Canon or Nikon? Or, these days, Fuji, Sony or Pentax? Before you get ready to argue the virtues of your beloved brand, hear me out. No matter where your allegiance lies, isn’t the best camera the one you have with you?

The one I always have with me these days is the HTC One M8. Yes, HTC of cell phone fame. And my new favorite medium for sharing photography is Instagram. The purists out there have probably stopped reading at this point—after all, what artistically viable photography could come from a cell phone, be posted on a frivolous social media platform and have any real merit? Read the rest of this entry »

The Apathetic Photographer by Daniel Stainer

Tao of the Turtle

Tao of the Turtle

Photos and Text by Daniel Stainer

At some point in our photographic lives, we all experience apathy. This demotivating condition can best be described as a state of indifference; the suppression of emotions such as concern, excitement, motivation or passion. Like any other psychological ailment, photographic apathy manifests itself in varying degrees of severity.

Taking some creative license in my definition, I view the opposite (or antonym) of photographic apathy to be inspiration – to be inspired in both action and thought.

When we’re inspired in action, we proactively seek out interesting subjects to photograph or personal projects to tackle; we get off that proverbial creative couch, never letting excuses like bad weather or lack of time get in the way of our passion or goals. When we’re inspired in action, we are driven to photograph – and are excited to do so, no matter what form this activity might take.

When we’re inspired in thought, creativity comes as a revelation and we are transported to a place where our ideas resonate freely with one another in our mind. To be inspired in thought is to see subjects in unique ways; to find that still point in ourselves where we’re photographing in the moment, allowing the essence of our subject to reveal itself to us in all its glory.

When I talk about apathy, I’m not necessarily talking about the lack of photographic activity that may occur during dreary winter months, for example. I think we can all agree that there’s a difference between seasonal inactivity and negative thinking. Everyone has an apathetic (or lazy) moment from time to time, but this doesn’t mean that we’ve reached the stage where this negative thought has become debilitating to our artistic growth.

Apathy is not a one-size-fits-all disorder, and will manifest itself in different ways depending on where we are in our photographic evolution. For the seasoned pro, apathy may be the result of photography becoming too much like work, and therefore, our once unwavering love of the craft has started to wane.  Read the rest of this entry »

FIELD TECHNIQUE: Watch your Back…Background that is! Story and photographs by F.M. Kearney

Daylily "Silken Touch" Hemerocallis (Hemerocallidaceae) New York Botanical Garden

Daylily
“Silken Touch” Hemerocallis (Hemerocallidaceae)
New York Botanical Garden

I was setting up atop a small hill when I heard the sound of quick footsteps. Seconds later, they stopped. I heard a click, and the footsteps sounded again followed by another stop and another click. This pattern repeated several times. With my curiosity stirred, I finally looked up and saw a man briskly walking through a cluster of daffodils. He would stop just for a moment to take a quick photo, then walk a few feet away and take another. That kind of “rapid-fire photography” usually results in mediocre snapshots. Creative photographs take time. Often, deciding what to do with your background can make the difference between a mediocre shot and a creative one. Read the rest of this entry »

Take It All In And Give It All Back by Dewitt Jones

Dewitt_97A3277 copy_01

by Dewitt Jones

I took the podium and looked out over the room: seven hundred men and women, some of the finest nature photographers in the world. This was the North American Nature Photographer’s Association’s (NANPA) Second Annual Forum and it was my job to bring it to a close.

That morning, I had holed up in my hotel room trying to come up with what I would say. My mind wandered back over my own career as a photographer — not so much the photographs but rather the experiences and the lessons I had learned.

I thought about the natural cycles I had so often witnessed while photographing – the seasons, the tides, the rising and setting of the sun. How many thousands of times I had I watched them? Like watching the smooth muscle of the planet — the things our little orb can’t help but do. Like watching the earth breathe.  

Read the rest of this entry »

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

Lovely Bridalveil Falls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio.

Bridalveil Falls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

Now that our long languorous summer is beginning to wane, particularly in the northern states, it is time to start thinking about fall photography. Let’s try something a little different.

Cuyahoga Valley, wedged between the urban areas of Cleveland and Akron, Ohio, is not your typical national park. Carved out of multiple semi-urban areas, several great tracts of land are now protected within the boundary of this relatively compact 33,000 acre park. Just two of the many highlights included here are wonderfully restored stretches of the historic Ohio & Erie Canal and the Cuyahoga River, once so badly polluted by chemical waste that it regularly caught fire.

Having been cobbled together from several disparate elements, when this park was established in 2000 it was part of an effort to bring the national park experience to more people. Located within a day’s drive of perhaps 40% of the American population, Cuyahoga Valley offers a wide variety of fun and great photography. This is particularly true around early-mid October when the woods are ablaze with brilliant autumn color. Read the rest of this entry »

Documenting Diversity: the Madrean Archipelago Biodiversity Assessment

by Charles Hedgcock

 

During the revolution Martín Luis Guzmán rode the train through Navojoa and looked over at the sierra and felt what we all do when we see its green folds rising up off the desert. We all wonder what is up there and in some part of us, that rich part where our mind plays beyond our commands, we all dread and lust for what is up there.

-Charles Bowden, The Secret Forest

 

In 2009 the Tucson based environmental group “Sky Island Alliance” launched a visionary initiative to explore, document and protect one of the world’s premier biodiversity hotspots, the Madrean Archipelago of the North American continent. This 70,000 square-mile region of sky-island mountain ranges, surrounded by “seas” of desertscrub and grasslands, straddles the borderlands of the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico.

Commonly referred to as the Sky Islands, the Madrean Archipelago is a globally unique region where several major biogeographic provinces overlap, creating a region of biological richness found nowhere else on Earth.  This richness caused Conservation International to name the region one of the world’s Biodiversity Hotspots in 2004.  Despite its proximity to the U.S. border, the Mexican portion of this remote and rugged area has received little biological study; thus the Madrean Archipelago Biodiversity Assessment (MABA) was born, an international effort to study a globally important region.

Arizona Walking Stick

Arizona Walking Stick. © Charles Hedgcock

With support from U.S. and Mexican experts in the fields of botany, entomology, ornithology, herpetology, mammalogy, and other disciplines, MABA expeditions are truly international and provide an opportunity to collect critical biodiversity data, foster graduate and undergraduate research, raise awareness about conservation in the region and develop important relationships with landowners, and land managers, on both sides of the border.

I have had the good fortune of being invited to participate in the MABA expeditions as the lead photographer since its inception. I often accompany a herpetologist into the field and provide photographic vouchers of the reptiles and amphibians we encounter. In addition, I document habitat types and capture images of the biologist at work.

After a day in the field, I continue to photograph herpetological, botanical, and entomological specimens brought back to camp by other teams of biologists. These animals must all be photographed that evening so that they may be returned, unharmed, to their point of capture the next morning. My images not only help document the diversity of life found in these remote mountain ranges, but also help to tell the story of this amazing project, its expeditions, and the many people involved.

Major findings from MABA expeditions include the discovery ofseveral new plant species as well as documenting many plant species previously unknown to the state of Sonora. MABA entomologists continue to make new discoveries, documenting more than 10 species of invertebrates that are new to science. Range extensions for a variety of species are frequently recorded.

Green Ratsnake

Green Ratsnake; Sonora, Mexico. © Charles Hedgcock

One of the greatest achievements of the Madrean Archipelago Biodiversity Assessment has been the development of a growing, online database of biodiversity. It is a remarkable natural history tool that provides access to the region’s foremost collection of specimen records and species observations for anyone seeking to learn more about the Sky Islands. This database currently contains nearly 78,000 animal records and almost 35,000 plant records for the states of Arizona, New Mexico, Sonora, and Chihuahua.  These data represent the products of MABA research expeditions as well as data from herbaria, museum collections, agencies and scientific literature. The database (www.madrean.org) is freely accessible to all.

 

Charles Hedgcock will share his experiences working with the MABA project and discuss some of the techiques he uses to document the amazing diversity of life found during the numerous MABA expeditions at the 2015 NANPA Summit taking place in San Diego, California from February 19th – 22nd. To learn more about the Summit and to register for this program and others like it, please visit www.naturephotographysummit.com

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