Based on their reputations alone I knew the keynote speakers at last month’s Summit in Las Vegas were going to be good, but their presentations surpassed my wildest expectations—brought tears to my eyes a couple of times. Of course, that might not be much of an endorsement. My wife, Cathy, says I’m a big crybaby at the best of times, while I maintain I’m just sensitive.
For several years now we’ve been hearing about problems with bees. Mass die offs. Colony collapse disorder. Potential shortages of hives for commercial pollination. In 2013, after hearing about the troubles bees were having, Clay Bolt started photographing bees around his South Carolina home. After posting photos of two tiny bees online, and finding people (even entomologists) couldn’t identify them, a new project was born, which led to Clay Bolt receiving this year’s Environmental Impact Award.
NANPA’s 2019 Award Recipients
It all started back in October 1993, when ornithologist, artist and nature photographer, Roger Tory Peterson invited a group of nature photographers to the Roger Tory Peterson Institute in Jamestown, New York. This was the first time that an organized group of nature photographers had assembled in one place, and more than 100 photographers showed up for panel discussions, networking, and presentations. This meeting was so well received that everyone wanted to do it again—and thanks to a ton of work and great organization—by April 1994, NANPA had a founding board, president, bylaws and mission, with plans underway for their first annual conference, which took place in Florida in January 1995. NANPA’s first awards were also bestowed at the 1995 conference when Roger Tory Peterson received NANPA’s first Lifetime Achievement in Nature Photography Award, and Outdoor Photographer Magazine was honored with our first Community Recognition Award.
This is my last letter as president. Gordon Illg becomes president on July 1 and I look forward to working with him this coming year. NANPA is an amazing organization and I know under Gordon’s leadership, NANPA will continue to do great things for its members.
Why should you go to the Nature Photography Celebration?
As the April 9 early registration deadline nears for the Nature Photography Celebration in Jackson, Wyoming, I thought I’d write about questions we’ve been answering lately in the NANPA office.
First of all, it’s a NANPA event; and anyone who has ever attended a summit or regional event knows that they’re fun, educational, inspiring, and you get to hang out with a bunch of friendly nature photographers. Summits are primarily inside at a convention center or hotel, and regional events are outdoor field trips or workshops. Celebration combines the two—indoor presentations plus our schedule allows for free time each morning to photograph and spend time with other photographers and vendors in the field. Or have coffee or drinks together after hours in some of the cool watering holes in downtown Jackson.
Transitions are beautiful:
Darkness turns to dawn. Birdsong breaks the silence of early morning. Wind-folded leaves shimmy before the arrival of a summer thunderstorm. Earthy smells rise up after the deluge has passed. The first spring wildflower breaks through a warming forest floor. Leaves blush into fall. A child is born. A baby’s stumbling first steps. The euphoria of a first crush and the pains of a first heartbreak. All of these moments contain seeds of beauty worth cultivating into art.
Even the passing of a loved one from this life can summon beauty to walk alongside the pain. Photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson famously understood the beauty that exists in moments of transition: the decisive moments that briefly materialize in the space between two passing planes of existence.
If you take a moment to mentally flip through the photos that really move you, I suspect that many of them are of transitional moments. In this regard, photography has an advantage over other forms of media. Film, for example, may be able to document processes in ways that are impossible for the naked eye, but photography can take that single “throw away” moment and make a monument of it.
A photographer who has the patience and discipline to observe, anticipate and capture these moments stands a high probability of creating images that will spellbind audiences and teach us something special about the world around us. The glue that binds two concurrent events together is as important as the events themselves.
Perhaps this is our art form’s greatest gift to the world.
One of the greatest values that NANPA provides to its membership is advocacy work that supports and protects photographers’ rights. Many members are unaware that NANPA has a dedicated and hard-working team of volunteers speaking up for our rights.
Photographs are our lifeblood, but they are too often freely downloaded and used by people who either don’t know or don’t care that this is wrong. NANPA is part of a coalition of visual arts associations that has been lobbying the Copyright Office to modernize the copyright process for photographers. We are looking for easier ways to register copyright for our images. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to register your copyright with one click from Lightroom and other photo programs? That is what the NANPA advocacy committee is fighting for.
NANPA is also helping to lobby Congress to outlaw the stripping of image metadata by social media and internet services. We are working to establish a small claims copyright tribunal to provide our members with simple, less expensive ways to pursue small copyright claims that are often financially impractical to pursue under the current system. These are potentially huge changes. After a great deal of effort, legislation is finally moving forward. The advocacy committee is also beginning to work on initiatives to help ensure our access to public lands.
A NANPA membership is so much more than admission to a club. We are an organization that has our best interests as photographers at heart. Your support allows NANPA to support you.
In traditional Aboriginal Australian culture, every person, whether young or old, has a special, lifelong connection to an animal. When an Aboriginal mother feels her baby’s first kick, she makes note of that spot. Elders compare this point to traditional songlines — invisible paths that traverse the entire Australian continent — and determine which animal clan the unborn child will be a part of.
Aboriginal playwright Jack Davis once said (paraphrased),
We’ve got wardens today to look after the forests. We’ve got wardens today to try and bring about weed control. But Aboriginal Australians for forty thousand years had their wardens, you know. It’s quite simple. Give every kid at school something to protect of our flora and fauna. OK. You look after the kangaroo, you look after the beetles, you look after the emu. Aboriginal people knew that, so everybody had something to look after as nature provided.
I’ve thought about this a lot over the past few years, and it has occurred to me that in many ways nature photographers walk a similar path. While many of us do enjoy photographing a little bit of everything, I think that it’s fair to say that most of us tend to gravitate toward a special subject that really tugs at our heart strings. I have friends who make mind-blowing landscape photographs, others who shoot dynamic photographs of coyotes and some who love frogs. I even have a good friend who makes the best fly photos I’ve ever seen. In my case, nothing fills my heart with more joy than photographing an amazing bee. When I do, a sense of joy rises up inside me with such potency that I can’t call it anything other than love. Continue reading
We live in a time where the wisdom of the ages is spoon-fed to us through the oracle of internet memes. If you use Facebook or another social media platform, you’ve undoubtedly seen and shared wise, funny or utterly bizarre statements pasted over a photo — often of a confused looking cat, oddly enough — that tug at the heartstrings or strike the funny bone.
A lot of these wisdom bites are throwaways, but occasionally one comes across the crawl that sticks with me. I recently noticed this one: “If one lights a fire for others, it will brighten one’s own way.”
According to some half-hearted internet research, the original quote seems to have come from a letter written in the late 1200s by a Japanese priest and spiritual leader named Nichiren. I’m not sure that the honorable Nichiren would have cared that his quote was passed around on Facebook, but I’m grateful for the insight, regardless of the messenger. Continue reading
Like most people, I like to kick off the New Year with a fresh burst of inspiration. My January ritual involves purchasing as many books as possible followed by spending the remainder of my winter mentally running from the Montana cold across pages that take me into warm tropical forests, the minds of the world’s greatest artists, and (hopefully) to a better understanding of the craft of photography. Since I’m too busy reading right now to write a very long president’s letter, I thought I’d share some of my favorite books with you instead. Watch for this post on NANPA’s Facebook page, and share your own favorite reads with the NANPA community.
May 2017 become a year of inspiration and adventure for us all.
Clay Bolt Continue reading