Olympics Shed Light on Pressure to Succeed

Photo of a female moose crossing a body of water. The water comes up to her knees. There is a forest background. Moose are one of my favorite animals to photograph, and I spend quite a bit of money and time while racking up miles on my truck looking for them. Is it worth it? It is for me personally. © Dawn Wilson
Moose are one of my favorite animals to photograph, and I spend quite a bit of money and time while racking up miles on my truck looking for them. Is it worth it? It is for me, personally. © Dawn Wilson

By Dawn Wilson, NANPA President

A couple of weeks ago, I had a very personal conversation with a friend and fellow photographer about photographer burnout. We discussed where she was with her photography, why she was feeling like she wasn’t achieving her goals, the pitfalls of comparing your own work to other photographers, the thoughts of walking away from photography, and the source of all this stress and concern.

I admitted to her that I, too, have recently experienced challenges with keeping up with my goals and question just how much am I willing to push (and give up) to pursue my dreams.

We all know that making a living in photography is extremely difficult, and getting more difficult by the day. But this conversation opened my eyes to the pressure put on all photographers—enthusiasts as well as professionals. We are encouraged and advised to find that unique shot, to get that amazing capture, and to stand out from the other billions—yes, billions of images are taken each day—of images photographers create with everything from their cell phone to the most expensive cameras on the market.

And then the Olympics started, and Simone Biles walked away from an opportunity to win multiple medals in various gymnastics events. She has worked her whole life to get to this point only to say the pressure finally took its toll.

“This Olympic Games, I wanted it to be for myself. But I was still doing it for other people,” Biles told reporters on July 27.  “It hurts my heart that doing what I love has been kind of taken away from me to please other people.”

Remind anyone of posting photos on social media??? Remind anyone of sitting in the field wondering if you are working on a photo that can sell???

So, I just want to remind everyone that we all took up photography because we love being in the outdoors, watching wildlife, hiking to a beautiful waterfall or scenic vista, or sitting by the side of a lake. We never took it up to keep up with social media photos. Please remember that before you push yourself too far and stop doing photography for yourself. Burnout is real, and we need to make sure we recognize the signs, including if we are still enjoying the art of photography.

Photo of a white bird standing in the snow, with a blurred forest background. Each winter I snowshoe up to high elevations above treeline in Colorado to find and (hopefully) photograph white-tailed ptarmigan. Although it seems the effort would make this type of photo unique, I have never sold an image of a white-tailed ptarmigan in the snow. © Dawn Wilson
Each winter I snowshoe up to high elevations above treeline in Colorado to find and (hopefully) photograph white-tailed ptarmigan. Although it seems the effort would make this type of photo unique, I have never sold an image of a white-tailed ptarmigan in the snow. © Dawn Wilson

Showcase is now open!

Calling all NANPA members!

NANPA’s annual Showcase photo competition is now accepting entries. This popular contest for NANPA members offers an opportunity to see how your images stack up against other NANPA members and offers $6,000 in prize money. In addition to cash prizes for the top 24 winners, the top 100 and top 250 winners get recognition as well.

This year there are six categories: altered reality, birds, conservation, macro/micro/all other wildlife, mammals and scapes. With so many category options, there are spots for a wide range of photographs.

Photo of four butchered bison legs sticking up in the air. These processed bison legs stopped me in my tracks when I saw them outside of the hotel where I was staying in Gardiner, Montana. As difficult as it was to see what remained of the slaughtered animals, I knew the photo had impact about bison that leave Yellowstone National Park in the winter. First runner-up in the NANPA Showcase conservation category, 2020. © Dawn Wilson
These processed bison legs stopped me in my tracks when I saw them outside of the hotel where I was staying in Gardiner, Montana. As difficult as it was to see what remained of the slaughtered animals, I knew the photo had impact about bison that leave Yellowstone National Park in the winter. First runner-up in the NANPA Showcase conservation category, 2020. © Dawn Wilson

The Showcase Jury Panel also reflects the tremendous talent within NANPA. This year’s panel includes Darrell Gulin, Morgan Heim, Charles Needle, Clay Bolt, Alison M. Jones and Dave Showalter. This well-rounded panel with diverse backgrounds and more than 150 years of experience are sure to have a great eye for beautiful photographs but a hard time picking the winning images from our talented members.

For more information about entering photo contests, download the free NANPA handbook and read this blog post on NANPA’s blog, which gives seven tips for selecting images to enter.

Photo of three people standing together, with one (Dawn Wilson) presenting a plaque to another (Mark Lukes) while the third (Linda Lukes) looks on.  Mark Lukes, with his wife, Linda, standing by his side, receives the NANPA Lifetime Achievement in Nature Photography Award. Photo credit: Jeff Lukes
Mark Lukes, with his wife, Linda, standing by his side, receives the NANPA Lifetime Achievement in Nature Photography Award. Photo credit: Jeff Lukes

Mark Lukes presented with NANPA’s Lifetime Achievement in Nature Photography Award

Congratulations to Mark Lukes for receiving his well-deserved Lifetime Achievement Award on July 17!

One of NANPA’s founders as well as an inspirational part of the vision behind NANPA, Mark has been involved with the organization since, well, before it was an organization.

Although he was part of a group that envisioned an organization for nature photographers, it was Mark’s tenacity to follow through with the idea that made it a reality. In 1993, a group of 100 nature photographers — many of whom were clients of Mark and Linda’s at Fine Print Imaging in Fort Collins, Colorado — met at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute in Jamestown, New York where they would discuss how photography could help with conservation. The idea of an organization dedicated to nature photography spawned from those conversations, yet the idea wasn’t followed through until Mark stepped in several months later to take action and put the wheels in motion to develop what would become the North American Nature Photography Association.

That meeting at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute launched not only NANPA, but an organization that would go on to help launch careers in nature and conservation photography, create connections that would develop into lifelong friendships and colleagues, develop educational resources to teach budding photographers, inspire teens and young adults to explore the world of nature photography, advocate for the rights of nature photographers, and so much more.

Get involved

Want to get involved? Consider volunteering for a committee. There are numerous options available for a variety of interests. For more info about volunteering, visit http://www.nanpa.org/membership/built-by-volunteers/

Keep letting our membership and marketing teams know about your projects. There may be ways to share the news, like writing a blog or being interviewed on the podcast.

Do you have ideas for events or topics you want to learn more about? Reach out to us through our contact form

And be sure to recommend NANPA to your nature-loving friends and fellow photographers. Word of mouth is the number one way people learn about NANPA. New members can join online at nanpa.org.

“When you see something beautiful in someone, tell them. It may take a second to say, but for them, it may last a lifetime.” ~ Unknown

Let’s stay positive. We are in this together.