A Nature Photographer’s Thanksgiving, Part 1

A bugling elk in Yellowstone is a favorite subject of photographers.
A bugling elk in Yellowstone is a favorite subject of photographers.

Story & photo by Frank Gallagher

As we approach Thanksgiving, many of us make an inventory of those people and things for which we are grateful. In that list we often find the landscapes and animals and plants that give us such joy when we’re out with our cameras. Not surprisingly, many of the items on our list reside in national parks. But, if we are so grateful for them, what are we doing to protect and preserve them?

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Dramatic Decline in Bird Numbers in North America

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology's new study documents widespread decline in bird numbers.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s new study documents widespread decline in bird numbers.

“If you were alive in 1970, more than one in four birds have disappeared in your lifetime.”  So begins a Cornell Chronicle article about a new study by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  That loss represents about three billion birds, across the US and Canada and across all biomes. Researchers examined decades of data on 529 species and found massive declines (53% loss) in the numbers of grasslands birds as well as big drops (37%) in shorebirds. As Ken Rosenberg, lead author of the study said, “It’s a strong signal that our human-altered landscapes are losing their ability to support birdlife. And that is an indicator of a coming collapse of the overall environment.”

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New Conservation Category in NANPA’s Showcase Competition!

Monarch caterpillar. Monarch butterfly numbers have been declining at an alarming rate.  A meadow planted with milkweed, a favorite of Monarchs, helps provide suitable habitat for the annual migration of these majestic butterflies.  Several citizen science projects encourage people to help track the migration, reduce pesticide use and plant butterfly-friendly flowers and other vegetation. Photo by Frank Gallagher.

NANPA’s Showcase competition includes a new category this year:  conservation!  In addition to birds, mammals, ‘scapes, macro/micro/other and altered reality, you can enter photos that speak to conserving species, ecosystems and places. So get your conservation images ready to enter!

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Bugs, Photographers and NANPA’s Conservation Handbook

An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail feeds on milkweed flowers. This meadow, planted with milkweed, is an important stop on the Monarch butterfly migration, but also provides food and shelter for many other insects, birds, rodents and reptiles all year long. Photo © Frank Gallagher.

An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail feeds on milkweed flowers. This meadow, planted with milkweed, is an important stop on the Monarch butterfly migration, but also provides food and shelter for many other insects, birds, rodents and reptiles all year long. Photo © Frank Gallagher.

You might have seen headlines about an “insect apocalypse,” a dramatic and alarming decline in the numbers of insects, collapsing bee colonies, once-common species becoming increasingly rare.  Should we be worried?  And what has this got to do with photography?

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From the Executive Director – Susan Day

2019 NANPA Summit. Susan Day, Richard Day, and Bethany Brucker at the Registration Desk. Photo © Janice Braud

2019 NANPA Summit. Susan Day, Richard Day, and Bethany Brucker at the Registration Desk. Photo © Janice Braud

The birding community lost a treasure on March 25 with the passing of Bill Thompson III.  Bill was Co-Publisher and Editor of Bird Watcher’s Digest magazine for years where many NANPA members licensed their photos.  Not only was Bill instrumental in helping photographers and writers, he also worked tirelessly devoting his life to creating awareness of and conservation of birding worldwide.  I was privileged to know Bill as a friend for nearly 30 years.  He was a NANPA member in the early days and attended summits to find photographers and writers for the magazine.  At the 1995 NANPA Forum in Ft Myers, Florida; Bill, Richard Day, and I were hanging out together and planned to eat together at the closing banquet.  The Forum organizers were not prepared for the number of people that showed up for that historic meeting, and there weren’t enough tables or food that night.  We waited a long time while the hotel set up more tables; and we finally ended up crammed in front of the room at an angle partially behind the stage –which didn’t really matter, because by that time everyone in our new group of friends had made the most of the situation and were having a great old time.  While we waited for our food, which ran into the evening festivities on the stage after everyone else had finished eating, Bill entertained us by balancing a spoon on his nose and asking how many others could do it.  I know I have a photo somewhere (probably on a 35mm slide buried in a box) of our entire table playing “Spoon Bill” with Bill Thompson.  That’s the kind of guy he was, and those are the kinds of stories and memories that are born at NANPA meetings.

As we celebrate NANPA’s 25th Birthday #happybirthdayNANPA this year, our hope is that everyone associated with NANPA has fond memories and stories.  We started off with a big birthday cake at the Las Vegas Summit; and this month, in keeping with the “25th” theme, we selected the 25th new member to join NANPA in 2019—Alyssa Kline.  Alyssa’s gift for NANPA’s birthday is a print copy of 2019 Expressions, which features photos of this year’s Showcase winners. Welcome to the NANPA family, Alyssa!

It’s hard to believe, but NANPA’s 26th election of our board of directors is taking place now.  You have until April 20 to vote to fill vacancies of Sean Fitzgerald and Ted Moreno, whose terms end on June 30.  Five candidates are on the ballot:  Ted Moreno (who is eligible for a second term), John Reed, Alice Robertson, Trent Sizemore, and Dawn Wilson.  Login https://www.nanpa.org/members/members.php to the members’ area of the website, read their bios and nominations questionnaires, and cast your vote.

We’re proud to announce the completion of NANPA’s Conservation Handbook this month.  This is first in a series that will be ongoing, and we are grateful to the Conservation Committee for developing, producing, and introducing this series.  Check it out here.  https://www.nanpa.org/members/members.php

On June 15, NANPA will observe its 14th Nature Photography Day.  We’ll be holding a photo contest with some nice prizes, but Nature Photography Day is not just about contests.  It’s about getting as many people outside as possible to enjoy nature through photography.  We’ll be sending media releases and doing a big social media push to let everyone know.  In past years, National Parks, nature centers, camera clubs, and civic groups have organized events around Nature Photography Day.  Many of these festivals and celebrations use local speakers and instructors to teach attendees how to photograph nature.  You can help spread the word in your area too (and maybe pick up a teaching gig!) so watch your emails for more information in the coming weeks.

As we enter a new season, I hope you’ll have many opportunities to explore and experience the rebirth of life after a long winter.  As nature photographers, seeing and documenting the natural world is part of who we are.  Cherish those special moments and the people you meet along the way.

Cheers!

Susan Day
Executive Director