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.

Grant Supports Environmental Projects with Impact

Grant Supports Environmental Projects with Impact

Philip Hyde Environmental Grant applications accepted through October 30, 2015

© David Herasimtschuk, 2014 grant recipient.

© David Herasimtschuk, 2014 grant recipient.

What difference do your photographs make?

Applications are now available for NANPA’s 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.

Past recipients include Paul Colangelo (2010), whose efforts to bring the remote and largely unseen Sacred Headwaters of British Columbia to the attention of lawmakers and citizens outside of the Tahltan First Nation played a key role in vacating Shell Oil Company from a million acres slated for methane development; Amy Gulick (2008), whose award-winning book Salmon in the Trees, traveling exhibits, lectures and YouTube videos tell a hopeful story of Alaska’s Tongass rain forest, a rare ecosystem where salmon grow trees and support an abundance of bears and bald eagles; and C.C. Lockwood (2008), whose photographs showcase disappearing swamplands that threatened the culture and economy of Louisiana, as featured in the PBS documentary Atchafalaya Houseboat.

As applicants for the Philip Hyde Environmental Grant, these photographers successfully demonstrated the ways in which their still photographs would make a difference to specific decision-makers wrestling with a timely issue. Additionally, at the time of application, these projects were already well underway, with established collaborations, realistic schedules and practical budgets. These factors made for compelling applications that fared well in scoring.

For complete guidelines, link to the online application and additional tips for applicants, please visit

The inaugural Philip Hyde Environmental Grant was awarded in 1999. It was established in honor of Philip Hyde, recipient of NANPA’s 1996 Lifetime Achievement Award.

Although he studied under Ansel Adams, Minor White and Edward Weston, Hyde describes his work as evolving past the hard and fast definitions of his early training. “I am not interested in pretty pictures for postcards. I feel better if I just get a few people to see something they haven’t seen before,” writes Hyde.

The Philip Hyde Environmental Grant honors this spirit, supporting photographers who clearly document in application materials the ways in which their projects reach influential people—not necessarily the mass public—and challenge them to discover something new about an imminent environmental issue.

Hyde, whose photograph “Cathedral in the Desert, Glen Canyon, Utah, 1964” was named one of the top 100 photographs of the 20th Century by American Photo magazine, played a key role in protecting Dinosaur National Monument, the Grand Canyon, the Coast Redwoods, Point Reyes, King’s Canyon, Canyon de Chelly, the North Cascades, Canyonlands, the Wind Rivers, Big Sur and many other National Parks and wilderness areas.

© David Herasimtschuk, 2014 grant recipient.

© David Herasimtschuk, 2014 grant recipient.

© David Herasimtschuk, 2014 grant recipient.

© David Herasimtschuk, 2014 grant recipient.

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 »

NANPA Foundation Photo Tour: Photograph “the quiet side” of Ireland in 2016 with Ron Rosenstock

Magical light, accessible shoreline and community await prospective tour leaders.

Ireland Sunset © Ron Rosenstock

Ireland Sunset © Ron Rosenstock

You’re invited on a 10-day tour of Western Ireland with veteran tour leader Ron Rosenstock, September 23 through October 3, 2016. The magical light, sacred sights and after-dinner conversation with fellow artists not only beckon you to expand your portfolio but also your career—perhaps becoming a photo tour leader yourself.

Rosenstock, retired photography instructor from Clark University in Massachusetts, has led more than 200 tours to worldwide destinations since 1967. He was first drawn to Western Ireland because of the light and extensive miles of accessible shoreline. “Being in the northern hemisphere, there are magical cloud formations daily, if not hourly,” he explains. “The light is silvery sifting through layers of cloud and sky.”

The tour is set in County Mayo, often described as “the quiet side of Ireland” and includes tiny villages, hidden beaches, castles and ancient abbeys that you could never locate on your own. It is a landscape of broad peat lowlands and dramatic coastline where soft pastel shades and the warmth of the Irish people have captivated artists for hundreds of years.

But Rosenstock’s tour includes more than just visual points of interest. He also opens his home, providing accommodations at Hillcrest House, renovated specifically to house groups such as this. Most evenings after a traditional Irish dinner, the group moves to the living room to talk about photography and how to become a photo tour leader—because Rosenstock wants others to benefit from his trials and triumphs.

Castle Bourke © Ron Rosenstock

Castle Bourke © Ron Rosenstock

“I’m the luckiest person in the world,” he explains. “In my 70s, I look back and realize I’ve been living my dream. My wish now is to pass on what I have learned, the struggles and benefits of being an international photo tour leader.”

Although Rosenstock can list many traits required of a good photo tour leader, he places the ability to listen and respond honestly and clearly at the top. He says you have to be open to the needs and concerns of all group members and flexible enough to meet them.

Participating photographers from previous tours have noted a sense of communion about the trip. Communion with other photographers, with sacred sights and with nature.

“[Ron’s] talk on photography and the spirituality of photography was a great revelation for me, as I have always felt this way about it myself,” said Michael McLaughlin. “It was great beyond words to be participating with a group of artists who were as passionate as I about photography and image making.”

Past participants have also enjoyed going to town to enjoy traditional Irish music at pubs in Westport.

The tour is limited to eight photographers. NANPA members can attend at a special rate, and a donation will be made to the NANPA Foundation. For more information, visit the NANPA Foundation’s site at or

Don’t delay your registration—the tour has sold out four years in a row.

Thor Ballylee © Ron rosenstock

Thor Ballylee © Ron rosenstock

Ballintubber Abbey, Ireland @ Ron Rosenstock

Ballintubber Abbey, Ireland @ Ron Rosenstock

Nikon AF-S 600mm f/4E FL ED VR Lens Field Review by Aaron Baggenstos

Nikon AF-S 600mm f/4E FL ED VR Lens Field Review
Wildlife Photography in Alaska
By Aaron Baggenstos

I was recently given the opportunity to field test the new Nikon AF-S 600mm f/4E FL ED VR Lens in Alaska, one of my favorite places for wildlife photography and a place where I lead several photography tours each year.

I am extremely impressed with this lens. I’ve demonstrated a few of my favorite new features in the video review below including images, video, and time-lapse. Thank you for watching and I hope you enjoy this review.

About Aaron Baggenstos:


Aaron Baggenstos is an Award-winning professional wildlife photographer from Seattle, Washington. Aaron specializes in leading photography tours and workshops in Alaska, Yellowstone, and the Pacific Northwest including Canada.

His photographs have been recognized by National Geographic, Nature’s Best, and the Audubon Society. Most recently, thirteen of his images were chosen for the final round in the prestigious 2015 BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

Aaron’s new limited edition coffee table book Pacific Northwest Wildlife is available at retailers ranging from Barnes & Noble to Costco and on His two previous books Wildlife of Juanita Bay and Wildlife of Lake Washington were instant regional bestsellers and all display Aaron’s awe-inspiring wildlife images.

In the Fall of 2011 Aaron co-hosted two episodes of the hit PBS television Series “Wild Photo Adventures” with Doug Gardner which aired internationally on PBS.

Along with guiding tours and instructing photography workshops over 100 days a year, Aaron also enjoys public speaking and presenting slideshows. To date he has spoken at multiple Audubon chapters and birding groups, National Wildlife Refuges, book stores, and other local interest groups.

Through his work Aaron hopes to inspire others to photograph, enjoy, and take action to protect, local and worldwide ecosystems.



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 »

© 2013 - North American Nature Photography Association
Wordpress Themes