Posts tagged ‘nature’

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

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,


Badger and Coyote in sagebrush

February 2013

I live in Wyoming. Anyone who has visited the state knows it has a lot of open space. What many people don’t realize is that the area in which I live – the northwest part of Wyoming – is almost always drier and more temperate than that to the south. So when I finished several days of meetings in Casper a couple years ago, I was anxious to make the 5-hour drive home to my own bed despite the dire warnings of an incoming snow storm. I knew that if I could make it the hundred miles across the sagebrush plains and then north through Wind River Canyon, I would probably leave the worst of the winter weather behind me. Before leaving the city, I consciously packed my camera gear in the back of the car, not wanting the temptation to stop along the way.

I was about 40 miles west of Casper when the blowing snow began to arrive in force, timed to the arrival of dusk. I hadn’t seen another vehicle since leaving the city limit, but I slowed anyway, knowing that going off the road in such conditions would carry serious consequences. Just as I settled into my reduced speed, I saw a large animal cross the highway in front of me at the limit of my vision. It looked like a coyote and I was feeling relieved it had made it to the side of the road when it did something unexpected – it sat down on the shoulder and looked back the way it had come. I immediately slowed further, suspecting it was traveling with another coyote. Instead what I saw, crossing behind the patient canine, was a large brown animal with very short legs and a large, fluffy tail. I couldn’t see the creature’s face but it clearly was not a coyote and my first thought was “raccoon!” I didn’t dare pull off the highway at that point and so as I passed the pair I watched as the smaller animal pulled up next to the coyote who put his head down, appearing to touch noses with his companion, before they both headed off into the sage in the midst of blowing snow.

I was totally awestruck. The 30 second experience stayed with me for the rest of the drive home and for many days after. It felt as though I had experienced something truly magical and I was having a hard time processing it. But when I told my worried husband what I had seen, his uncharacteristic skepticism was a pretty good forewarning of the reaction I would get from others and so it didn’t take long until I decided to keep the story to myself.

Coyote in sagebrush

Early May 2015

I was leading a sold out, one-day photo workshop in Yellowstone. One of the participants was an amateur photographer/biologist from Casper. As we sat down for a picnic lunch I couldn’t resist asking if he had ever seen coyotes and raccoons hanging out together on the plains. To my surprise, instead of immediately breaking into laughter, he appeared to consider the question and then asked if my “raccoon” could possibly have been a badger. He explained that there is significant data that shows coyotes and badgers hunt together quite regularly. Thinking back on that night I realized the second animal could very well have been a badger. The only reason my mind went immediately to raccoon was because I have seen so many more of them in my life. I couldn’t wait to get home and tell my husband of my newfound knowledge – a thought that immediately left my head as the workshop continued throughout the day.


Late May 2015

My husband and I decided to take a four-day mini photo vacation into Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks before the inevitable onslaught of summer tourists. After three days of hiking an average of ten miles a day with heavy backpacks loaded down with photo gear, we decided to do a slightly shorter hike across Blacktail Plateau on our way home and to lighten the load by taking a minimum amount of equipment. I limited myself to my Canon 5D III equipped with a 100mm – 400mm lens, leaving the 600mm and my heavy tripod in the vehicle. After turning at the halfway point and heading back to the car I suddenly remembered what the biologist had said and was recounting the information to my husband when he looked up and spotted a coyote on the ridge across from our position. As I focused on the animal I realized he was not alone in my field of view. Incredibly, the dog was traveling with a badger companion! For the next fifteen minutes we watched in total amazement as the two worked the hillside, never straying far from each other. Both animals seemed aware of our presence but comfortable with the distance between us. I was wishing desperately that I had taken the longer lens but feeling, once again, blessed to be witnessing this marvel of inter-species cooperation!

Badger and Coyote among sagebrush

I have since done a little more research on this subject. When I tell people of the experience they almost always comment on how the coyote must be taking advantage of the slower badger but neither the research nor my admittedly limited observation seem to support that theory. In both cases that I observed, the coyote would patiently wait for the badger who very clearly was striving to catch up to his companion. I think if it was a one-sided deal, the badger would try to elude the coyote rather than make an effort to join him. Whether the animals stay together for any amount of time or whether it is simply a short interaction in an effort to hunt their common prey more efficiently, I don’t know. I do know that I have now had one more opportunity to witness a little magic in the natural world and I am so thankful that this time I was able to capture it with the camera!




Kathy Lichtendahl is the owner of Light in the Valley, LLC, based in Clark, Wyoming. Her work can be found at Open Range Images Gallery in Cody and on the web at In addition to selling prints, Kathy leads photography workshops in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

This Birding Life by Budd Titlow

Sage Grouse Males Fighting  © Budd Titlow

Sage Grouse Males Fighting © Budd Titlow

This Birding Life is a new monthly column by NANPA Member Budd Titlow. 

SAGE GROUSE – Happy Hour on the High Plains

Image and Story By Budd Titlow

Sometimes Mother Nature provides a perfect microcosm of human life.

Many years ago, I was invited to observe an annual ritual that had all the elements of happy hour at your favorite neighborhood bar. Totally full of themselves, the males were strutting around in tight circles with their hairless chests puffed out. As they walked, they repeatedly made burping and belching sounds while aggressively posturing toward any other males that came too close to their domains. Meanwhile, all of the females skittered demurely in, out, around, and through all of the absurdly displaying males—acting as if the showboats didn’t exist.

Rather than watching patrons in a dark, after-work bar, I was driving along a Colorado high mountain sagebrush prairie at sunrise next to a “lek,” which is, appropriately enough, the Swedish word for “play.” And the clientele I was observing were chicken-sized wild birds known as sage grouse.

The largest grouse in North America, sage grouse live on the high plains of the American West—at elevations of four thousand to nine thousand feet—including populations in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota, Nevada, Utah, eastern California, and western Colorado. Read the rest of this entry »

South Texas for the Wildlife Photographer by Jeff Parker

Painted bunting by Jeff Parker

Painted bunting by Jeff Parker

Images and text by Jeff Parker

The desolate landscape of the South Texas Brush Country doesn’t look like much, but the biodiversity makes it one of North America’s best places for wildlife photography. It definitely ranks high on my list!

Scientists classify South Texas as a “semi-arid, sub-tropical” region. The result? Lots of wildlife! That includes a large number of bird species living at the far northern edges of their ranges.

Many—e.g. Kiskadee, Green Jay, Audubon’s Oriole, Couch’s Kingbird—are known as “South Texas Specialties.” And spring migration dramatically boosts the number of photogenic subjects that fly your way. By the end of April the summer breeders, such as Painted Buntings, Varied Buntings, and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers have arrived.

The best photography occurs when the animals grow hot and thirsty and flock to water to drink and cool off. Painted Buntings, in particular, really like their baths! This makes late-May and June prime photography time in the South Texas Brush Country.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Flint Hills by Scott Bean

Out in the Flint Hills by Scott Bean

Out in the Flint Hills by Scott Bean

Text and Images by Scott Bean

Talk about landscapes in Kansas and a lot of people are going to think of the stereotypical image of Kansas – one big flat wheat field. Kansas certainly does have some flat regions, especially in the western half of the state. Kansas also has a lot of wheat fields – which are beautiful in their own right. However, Kansas has a number of unique landscapes that may surprise a lot of people. The Flint Hills are one of the unique physiographic regions of Kansas. They are an especially interesting area as they contain some of the last large contiguous areas of tallgrass prairie. The interesting topography of the Flint Hills and the flora of the tall grass prairie combine to make for wonderful photographic opportunities.

Wide open views and gently sloping hills are characteristic of the Flint Hills. I like to use a wide angle lens to try and capture the sense of space and the unique shapes that can be found out in the prairies, but short to medium telephoto lenses are also useful to bring in details of the hills and focus attention on the lines and textures of the region. Magic hour light can really bring out the contours and shapes of the hills, and sunrises and sunsets are often full of amazing colors.  Read the rest of this entry »

Web of Water: Four NANPA Members Collaborate for Conservation

Web of Water

Web of Water


Check out The Web of Water Project – A Collaboration between NANPA Members jon holloway, Ben Geer Keys, Clay Bolt, and Tom Blagden 

The Web of Water project is a unique partnership with Upstate Forever, Fujifilm, Hub City Press renowned writer John Lane, photographers jon holloway, Ben Geer Keys, Clay Bolt, and Tom Blagden and corporate sponsors. The goal of highlighting through fine art photography the beauty, fragility, and critical importance of the Saluda-Reedy watershed and Lake Greenwood was a five year undertaking.

The Web of Water project tells the story of the watershed and those that depend on it for food, water, business, or recreation. A unique combination of beautiful and alarming images raise awareness about the watershed’s importance to the surrounding landscape and communities, current threats to the watershed’s health, and steps that citizens can take to preserve this precious natural resource in their midst.

This project will provide Upstate Forever with new opportunities to educate the community. Photography is one of the most powerful communication tools in assigning a higher sense of value to our environment. Often in the field of research, the visual connection between science and community is the untold story. This project will help bridge the gap and become a catalyst for community responsibility, awareness of cause and effect, and provide the public with unique opportunity to directly make a difference in the future of South Carolina.


Here are a few images from the Web of Water Project:


Eastern newt, Jones Gap State park, Image by Tom Blagden

Eastern newt, Jones Gap State park, Image by Tom Blagden

Read the rest of this entry »

In Our Yard by Amy Shutt

Alstroemeria psittacina 'Parrot Lily'

Alstroemeria psittacina ‘Parrot Lily’

Images and Text by Amy Shutt

We live on 7.5 acres of land in a little town in Louisiana. Although I’ve only been here for a few years, my husband, an ornithologist, has been living here for quite some time. It’s 95% woods. He gardens the area around the house exclusively for hummingbirds and the rest is untouched. Yep, we are the eccentric neighbors with the overgrown yard with signs designating the ditch in the front as a ‘Wildflower Area’ so the city won’t cut or spray.

I see swamp rabbits almost daily. We have deer…and deer ticks. I have heard foxes in the darkness just off the driveway in the woods. We have enjoyed listening to coyotes howling in unison. Barred owls belt out their crazy calls nightly. Prothonotary Warblers nest in boxes we make for them around the house and in the woods.  Point is, it’s pretty cool out here and we share this land with a lot of critters and plants.  Read the rest of this entry »

Be ALIVE on Nature Photography Day!

How does nature photography awaken 23 top pros to the experience of being ALIVE?

By Paul Hassell, Founder of ALIVE Photo and Owner of Light Finds

ALIVE Photo – preview from Light Finds on Vimeo.


Nine years ago my life was irreversibly altered when I attended the NANPA Summit in Charlotte as a college scholarship recipient. My quiet dream was given breath and fanned into flame. It is the friendships I’ve formed with other NANPA photographers that have most influenced me on my path to becoming a pro nature photographer. In this community I have found continual inspiration, and I created ALIVE Photo to offer the public a taste of these rich friendships.

In a world of 24/7 social chatter via glowing screens we cradle with care, it is easier than ever to be distracted from total immersion in the solitude and power of wilderness. It’s easier than ever to lose focus on why we are even living this wild dream as nature photographers in the first place. In light of that, my interviews with these 23+ pro outdoor photographers explore the “why.” “Why do you do it?” “In what ways does photography personally affect your life?” “How does photography awaken you to the experience of being alive?”

For me, it was important to start with why. I could have asked these talented pros how they do the work they do. I could have asked what gear they use or what their secrets are for success. But I would not have touched the heart. ALIVE Photo is a celebration-song exploding from the hearts of those whose lives are captivated by the unquenchable pursuit of great light.

Some of the amazing photographers featured on ALIVE Photo!

Some of the amazing photographers featured on ALIVE Photo!

We need not incessantly contemplate our navels. It’s okay simply to play. But we would be wise to pause occasionally and reflect on what a life-changing gift it is to be one who photographs nature.

I hope that these simple interviews serve as a reminder to each of us about why we do this. It’s a radical gift to live in this present age, to have a camera, to have wilderness and to have a space where we can be transformed. Let’s celebrate Nature Photography Day on June 15th and give thanks for the experience of being alive.

Listen in as Rob Sheppard speaks on connection, Clay Bolt on seeing with fresh eyes, Carl Battreall on yearning to be remote and wild, and Amy Gulick on her life-long passion for storytelling. Next week you’ll hear from the ever-hilarious Joe and Mary Ann McDonald, and the week after that the beloved and contemplative Dewitt Jones. Sign up with your email address on the right column of the blog and be the first to know about our next pro.

ALIVE Photo website - square

Bird Photography at Mono Lake by Marie Read

Wilson's Phalaropes (Phalaropus tricolor) flock at South Tufa, Mono Lake, California, USA

Wilson’s Phalaropes (Phalaropus tricolor) flock at South Tufa, Mono Lake, California, USA

Story and Photographs by Marie Read

Mono Lake is one of California’s most photogenic locations, a well-known destination for landscape photographers worldwide. Bizarre rocky spires called tufa towers punctuate the waters and shoreline of this desert sea, while the snow-capped Sierra Nevada forms a spectacular backdrop to the west. The well-kept secret is that Mono Lake and its surroundings are great for bird photography as well.

Mono Lake’s alkaline, highly saline water supports no fish, but it teems with brine shrimp and alkali flies, providing food for numerous breeding birds, including California Gulls, American Avocets, and Snowy Plovers. Osprey nest atop the tufa, commuting to and from freshwater lakes nearby for fish for their young. Around the lake sagebrush scrub, pinyon-juniper, and conifer-aspen woodlands support many other birds. I’d like to share some of my favorite bird photography spots. Read the rest of this entry »

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