Since 1997 the NANPA Foundation has been funding the construction of photo blinds on public land through grants. To date, 47 blinds have been built in 29 states. As photographers, we tend to think of blinds as safe, ethical, and responsible places to observe and photograph wildlife. The animals are not disturbed by humans in the blinds and are more likely to engage in their natural behaviors. All good for the nature photographer! But there’s a lot more to blinds than just photography.
Landscape photographers often want to get the greatest possible depth of field in their photos. In other words, they want to make sure everything from near to far is in focus. To do that, several factors come into play: the distance to the nearest object, your choice of lens, of aperture, and of where you place your focus point. Of these, the most important might just be the last, and there are several methods that can help you determine exactly where to focus your camera. You might have thought that where you place your focus point would be pretty cut and dried, but there are several schools of thought on how to determine just where that should be. There are even different interpretations of what “infinity” means!
Getting out in nature is good for the soul, good for our photography, and maybe even good for business. As nature photographers, we intuitively know that being outside, immersed in nature, is good for us. It fills our creative and artistic needs, but it also makes us feel better, physically and mentally. A variety of scientific studies prove these truths we’ve known all along. As health care systems realize the healing power of nature, more are placing nature photos in hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices. I was reminded of how important those health benefits are and how they impact nature photography by a couple of recent stories.
A few months ago, my yoga instructor started our practice with an inspirational quote: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Her intent was to have us approach each pose we do and each breath we take as if it was the first time. Notice how it feels. Revel in it. Too often, the things we see and do every day become part of the background, items we see without seeing, experience without awareness. As a nature photographer, I seized on the word “landscape” in that quote and started thinking about how it might apply to my work.
Saturday, September 26, 2020, is National Public Lands Day. Each year the fourth Saturday of September is so designated in an initiative created and sponsored by the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF). Typically, this is the “largest single-day volunteer event for public lands,” with hikes, workshops, cleanups, demonstrations, and all sorts of opportunities for people to participate. Last year, more than 200,000 volunteers took part. With the Covid-19 virus still a threat, things will be different this year, but there will still be many chances to get involved.
In the chaos of a pandemic and divisive political and social climate, I need the calming effect of being out in nature with my camera. Maybe you, too, have had those moments out in the field when all the cares of the world seem to melt away and you become hyper aware of your surroundings. That mental state, of being at one with my surroundings, helps me zero in on what I was finding interesting in a scene and helps crystalize the feelings I want a photo to convey. These moments used to be sporadic and fleeting until I started practicing mindfulness. Becoming a mindful photographer could help you, too.
September is Save Your Photos Month, with the last Saturday designated Save Your Photos Day. Each year during this month you’ll find photo retailers, websites, data storage companies and others reminding you to safeguard your photos. Whether you’re a professional photographer, photo enthusiast or just take family snapshots, it’s a good time to revisit how you’re organizing, describing, storing, and protecting those precious images.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, it’s certainly worth a good caption. Photos entered in NANPA’s Showcase competition were taken all over the world, of all kinds of subjects, from all sorts of perspectives and show many points of view. A thoughtful caption can help contest judges understand what you were doing and reassure them that you were acting ethically, safely and responsibly. It can be the difference between a winning image and an also ran.