NATURE’S VIEW: My Seven-year-old Encounters a Bruin Story and photographs by Jim Clark ©

On the eve of my first trip to Churchill, Manitoba, to photograph polar bears and other arctic wildlife, I’m reminded of my son’s first encounter with a bruin. Carson was only seven, and his reaction to the experience serves as a lesson for all nature photographers. After all, it’s not the age from whence wisdom comes, but instead, it’s the true value of the wisdom that matters. But I digress.

Carson exploring at Canaann Valley0016_01For several summers, Carson and I would take a week-long trip to explore our favorite places in West Virginia. This became a time for father and son to have fun, discover new things, eat pizza nonstop (Don’t tell his mother!), and spend time as best buddies. Oh yeah, we photographed a bit, too.

One June, we visited the usual locations: Canaan Valley and Blackwater Falls state parks, Beartown Natural Area, Falls of Hills Creek, and Cranberry Glades Botanical Area. Carson’s love for nature photography (especially wildlife) had just begun, so he was hoping to find something special to photograph at one of the locations.

While walking on the boardwalk at Cranberry Glades, I showed Carson recent signs of a black bear—scat on the boardwalk, broken alder branches and partially eaten skunk cabbage. Well, that got him excited. So, with camera in hand, he decided we should walk the boardwalk several times that morning to see if we would actually see the bear.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.









Wildlife Photography ”Beyond the Perfect Portrait” by D. Robert Franz

Alaskan brown bear © D. Robert Franz

Alaskan brown bear © D. Robert Franz


Wildlife Photography ”Beyond the Perfect Portrait”

Text and Images by D. Robert Franz

For many aspiring wildlife photographers capturing beautiful portraits of their favorite birds or animals in the wild is often their primary goal. This is certainly an understandable and a worthwhile endeavor. When I began photographing wildlife over thirty years ago, I was inspired by the striking wildlife photos of Leonard Lee Rue III and Erwin Bauer. I carefully studied how they used the light, controlled backgrounds, and placed their subjects in the frame to create pleasing wildlife portraits. I pursued the perfect wildlife portrait relentlessly and over time accumulated a large collection of. As time passed I became less and less satisfied with my wildlife photography. I desired more evocative images with impact. I felt as though I really needed to elevate my images to a higher level. I will discuss some of the methods I’ve used to achieve that goal and continue in my evolution as a wildlife photographer.

Red Fox (Vulpes fulva) © D. Robert Franz

Red Fox (Vulpes fulva) © D. Robert Franz

A sure way to take your photography to a new level is to capture your subject in action and intense subject action can lead to a once in a lifetime photo. Capturing extreme subject action in still photography has never been easier. Most camera systems now have excellent autofocus capabilities which allow you to acquire focus of moving subjects. Modern digital cameras can now effectively utilize a higher ISO which allows you the ability to use high shutter speeds that were never before possible. Many cameras have frame rates of ten to twelve frames per second. This gives you the ability to capture the peak dramatic moments. Control of your shutter speed allows you to depict motion in a number of ways. Using a slower shutter speed can give your subject a bit of movement which helps depict motion whereas a high shutter speed will freeze everything. When the action starts fire away.

American elk or wapiti © D. Robert Franz

American elk or wapiti © D. Robert Franz

Dramatic weather also can lead to dramatic images. Falling snow, rain, fog and even wind driven sand can add interest to the wildlife image. Many photographers tend to avoid photographing in extreme conditions so when you capture images in such conditions they will be unique and that is highly desirable. Photographing wildlife when snow is falling is perhaps my favorite adverse environmental condition to work in. Dressing yourself as well as your cameras for the conditions allow you to work comfortably. There are some technical difficulties to overcome when the snow is falling. Autofocus becomes difficult. The heavier the snowfall the more likely the camera will attempt to focus on the falling snowflakes rather than your subject. I use a combination of autofocus and manual override of focus to achieve good results. Your camera will have a tendency to underexpose images during snowy conditions so using manual exposure or dialing in a plus compensation during auto exposure is required.

Exceptional light leads to exceptional images. The old adage of keeping the light source over your shoulder for a good photograph, while applicable in certain situations, is quite limiting. Most often now I try to capitalize on dramatic or unusual lighting situations. Today’s cameras allow me to get out earlier, stay out later and even photograph at night. Side lighting, backlighting, spotlighting and silhouettes are also great lighting techniques that help make your images stand out. The ability of today’s cameras to pull detail out of shadowed areas of an image while maintaining correct exposure on the highlights opens up many possibilities as well. With the advancements made in flash photography and the availability of infrared camera traps, never before seen behaviors and habits of nocturnal wildlife is another new and exciting genre of wildlife photography.

Mountain Lion in Yellowstone National Park © D. Robert Franz

Mountain Lion in Yellowstone National Park © D. Robert Franz

Spectacular surroundings will lead to spectacular images. Early in my career I used to adhere to the axiom of “less is more” in wildlife photography. I tried to isolate my subject from any distracting elements. While this is still a great approach for the perfect portrait I now find myself searching for a great animalscape. When you strategically compose wildlife in an already fine landscape image you create an image that will stand the test of time. These days I never go into the field without a second camera with a shorter lens attached, such as a 70-200mm, slung over my shoulder. You don’t want to miss a chance to capture a memorable animalscapes, as they don’t come around often.

Remember, always be looking for exceptional light and be ready for action. When it occurs take advantage of it. When the weather turns bad, wildlife photography can be good. Break out your camera and make the best of it. Find landscapes with wildlife in the scene to create memorable images. With this methodical approach to wildlife photography you can take your imagery to a new level.

Robert Franz has been a professional nature & wildlife photographer for over 25 years. With degrees in wildlife management and geology he has extensive knowledge of the natural world. During his productive career he’s published over ten thousand images and nearly two hundred magazine covers. In 2007 Digital Photography Magazine proclaimed Robert as one the worlds best wildlife photographers. Having a long standing love for the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem Robert and his wife Lorri moved to Cody Wyoming in 2003. For more information on his photo tours and nature photography visit





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.


Learning a craft used to happen under a master and apprentice relationship. The masters, experts in their fields, would accept apprentices to work under them and learn the trade or craft. The arrangement required the apprentice to live with or close to the master.

Through the years learning trades and crafts moved to schools. Books and teachers replaced the master and students were sent on our way to figure things out on our own. I love school and learning from books and teachers, and I taught myself photography from books and practice. But I also got to a point where I needed additional feedback from living people who cared about my photography and my goals and who could push me beyond my comfort zone, which is what mentorships are designed to do. And unlike centuries (or even decades) ago, mentors and protégés (or masters and apprentices) don’t necessarily need to be in the same place at the same time to have a meaningful relationship. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Shooting the Mums Story and photographs by F.M. Kearney ©

As one of the year’s last flowers to bloom, chrysanthemums offer a last chance to hone your floral photography skills before winter and the following spring. That is, of course, if you live anywhere in or near the Northeast.

Mums are fun flowers to photograph. They come in many different colors and styles, allowing for a variety of creative options. Some of the most common are garden chrysanthemums, which usually grow in neat, tight clusters of similar colors. A popular technique is to move in close and fill the frame with them. You’ll want edge-to-edge sharpness, so use a small aperture opening for maximum depth of field.

CM-17a 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 »

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