The Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project interviews NANPA member Cindy Miller Hopkins.
What’s so special about a photo of five penguins? You could get that at a local zoo. Certainly, during NANPA member and travel and photographer Cindy Miller Hopkin’s trip last year to the far reaches of the South Atlantic, she had plenty of photos of penguins. But one shot, from off the South Sandwich Islands, turned out to be unique.
As she was editing and captioning her shots, Cindy noticed that there were five different species of penguins in one frame. That seemed unusual and she brought it to the attention of an ornithologist on the tour who told her he’d never seen an image with five species in the same place, at the same time. Further research revealed that no one else had either.
I was a participant in the 2017 NANPA High School Scholarship Program and spent a week in the Great Smoky Mountains working with some incredible mentors, broadening my interests in photography and learning from some very talented kids my age as well.
This program was a turning point for me–it showed me just how much I want to inspire the younger generation to learn more about conservation and photography. Working with and learning from 9 other students from across the country was not what I expected it to be. I had assumed we would all stick to the certain aspects of photography we were comfortable with, but instead we all motivated each other to try a little bit of everything.
During that week in the Smokies, I got to experiment with flash and night photography and use some of the cameras, lenses, and flashes that Canon sent to as loaners. I now have knowledge of the settings to use for star and night photography, something that will definitely come in handy for me in the future. We also hiked out to a waterfall and attempted slow motion waterfall photos to capture the blur of the water. Using the loaner flashes, we also found little salamanders and toads and used white backgrounds for the “Meet Your Neighbors” technique that Andrew Snyder, one of the mentors, taught us. Some of the kids were so in love with this new technique, it was all they did!
Do you know a talented young nature photographer? NANPA’s High School Scholarship Program is seeking 10 high school student photographers to attend a five-day field event where they can learn from the industry’s top shooters. Apply now for this immersive, hands-on education program to be held in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park July 1–6, 2019. Combining classroom and field-based instruction, students will have the chance to improve their nature photography skills, learn about NANPA, meet industry professionals, and gain an appreciation of the Smoky Mountains’ rich natural history. The last day to apply is January 31, 2019, so don’t wait. Apply now!
White-cheeked gibbon (Nomascus leucogenys) seen through bars, dangles from the door frame of his enclosure evoking a sense of frustration, boredom, loneliness at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Story & photo by Haley R. Pope
Most of what makes a wildlife photograph great is the photographer’s ability to get inside the head of the animal and show the world through their eyes. What are they thinking? How do they see their environment? How do they see us? What is their story? In other words, a photographer needs to create an emotional connection to the subject or elicit an emotional response in the viewer. Emotion creates a layer of dimensionality that help us suspend judgments and see honestly.
The rest of what makes a great photograph is the photographer’s ability to correctly, and technically, control the camera so as to represent the scene as one saw and felt it. How am I going to tell the story? What landscape elements should I include? Do I need a shallow or wide depth of field? Should I over or underexpose the shot? How fast should I set my shutter speed? Do I have enough lighting? Where should I physically be positioned? These questions should be in your mind as you think about how to communicate your message and how to set yourself up to create your photo.
The two questions I ask myself before and during every photo shoot is: 1) what story do I want to tell and 2) how am I going to craft my image so the story is clear to viewers?
A Day at the Zoo
I have never been a fan of zoos, but on a warm day in June I decided to go. After I arrived, it wasn’t difficult to decide what story to tell. I wanted to tell the story of what it’s like to be locked up against one’s will. I wanted us to put ourselves in the animal’s shoes, so to speak, so I needed the emotional connection to be strong and our similarities to be obvious. I wanted us to consider what role we should play in other animals’ lives and whether or not there is even a need for animal exhibits like zoos.
As I passed through each exhibit and looked at the faces and body language of the animals inside, I was overcome with emotions of loneliness, sadness, boredom, and frustration; emotions I felt emanating from the animals themselves. Emerging from the kangaroo exhibit, I crossed the paved walkway and entered the primate center. No animal that day seemed to express the story so noticeably or poignantly than the white-cheeked gibbon. I knew this is where I would find my shot.
I watched the male gibbon for several minutes without picking up my camera and took note of his environment and behavior. I noticed whether the gibbon made eye contact with me and how he moved around the space. Then I circled the enclosure while thinking about how I’d like to compose the shot. What elements will help drive home my message and how I should represent the being inside?
I decided to include the metal bars of the enclosure as a frame for my subject since that’s exactly what they are. I also wanted to include both man-made and natural elements to provide context and juxtaposition. Focusing on the gibbon’s body language would illustrate both how similar our bodies are and how misplaced his own seems in contrast to the surrounding concrete and metal.
At one point, the gibbon stood up from where he sat and walked towards the interior door. With his back to me, he dangled from the door by its hinges and swayed back in forth in the characteristic way of under-stimulated animals. This was it. I raised my camera and snapped the shot. But I felt guilty as I turned and left him, embarrassed that I could just walk away while he stayed there, hanging and swaying.
Nature photographers don’t typically strive to capture disturbing situations. We want to show how beautiful the natural world is, in its raw form, and how we are all connected. But that is only half the story. If we never represent the other side of reality, we can become passive and complacent. I wanted to capture the other side of reality during my zoo visit. Because all animals are part of nature and zoos are not filled with happy carefree animals. They are filled with captives.
Haley R. Pope is a zoologist and conservationist with a passion for photography and writing. She uses those mediums to explore wildlife conservation topics and share biological knowledge in a visual story-like format to inspire awe of our planet’s inherent beauty and encourage the responsible treatment of nature. As the president and owner of TerraLens Photography LLC, she offers freelance photography, writing, and photo archiving services to other companies.
Haley is also a trip leader for Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village program, which operates in more than 40 countries and builds houses for those in need. In the future, she’d like to lead ecological and photography focused trips. Connect with her below!
2019 NANPA Lifetime Achievement Award winner John Shaw
Professional nature photographer John Shaw was the recipient of NANPA’s first Outstanding Photographer Award in 1997. This year, he’s being honored with NANPA’s Lifetime Achievement Award and will also become a NANPA Fellow. Registered for the 2019 NANPA Nature Photography Summit? You can see John Shaw interviewed by Kathy Adams Smith on Saturday, February 23, at 10:30 AM.
He’s written seven books and ten ebooks and his work has been featured in numerous books and magazines. He’s photographed on every continent and has been recognized by Nikon as a Legend Behind the Lens, as an Icon of Imaging by Microsoft and, since 2001, has been part of Epson’s Stylus Pro fine art print makers group. Last month we had the opportunity to ask him a few questions.
Sunrise behind “The Wheel” on Steel Pier, Atlantic City Beach, Atlantic City, NJ
Story and photos by F. M. Kearney
Webster defines serendipity as “the faculty of making providential discoveries by accident.” In photography, it’s more like capturing that once in a lifetime shot that could not be recreated again in a million years. The internet is full of these types of images, usually classified as “Photos Taken at the Perfect Moment,” or “Things You Have to See to Believe.” Of course, almost anything you see on the internet should be viewed with a certain degree of skepticism, and even more so when it comes to photos and videos. The old saying, “The Camera Never Lies,” has never been less true than in the digital age in which we live. However, assuming that even if a fraction of these photos are, in fact, real, they truly are serendipitous moments caught on camera.
I recently spent several days in Atlantic City, NJ shooting ocean views. Most of my visits in the past have been day trips lasting only a few hours – just enough time to grab a quick lunch, lose all my money and head back home. On this occasion, I had the luxury of time on my side – time to see the real beauty of this town, beyond the bells and buzzers, and the glitzy flashing lights within its casinos’ walls.
One morning, I took a walk along the beach to The Steel Pier – a 1,000-foot-long amusement park built on a pier of the boardwalk. Its latest attraction is a 227-foot tall Ferris wheel, known as The Wheel, which began operating in 2017. I arrived just as the sun was rising behind it. My main objective was to get the surf in the perfect position – far enough into frame to be a dominant foreground element, but not so far in that it covered up the sun’s reflection on the wet sand. I also wanted to get the rising sun directly between the spokes of The Wheel. The sun’s position changes quite rapidly when it’s this low on the horizon. I took several shots and the photo above was the only one where the sun and the surf lined up in the perfect positions. This was the result of careful timing (and a little bit of luck). However, the serendipitous aspects were the inclusion of the seagull and the woman – things I had absolutely no control over. I saw when the seagull walked into the reflection during the shoot, but I didn’t even notice the woman in the background until I was reviewing the images back home on my computer. She had walked into one of the openings of the pier directly beneath The Wheel at precisely the right moment.
Another serendipitous moment was the inclusion of the honeybees in the daylily image below. I was all set to shoot the flowers when I suddenly found myself surrounded by a small group of bees. Like little helicopters on a mission, they methodically visited each flower in the area – hovered for a few seconds, then landed to pollinate. Since I already had my camera locked down on a tripod and focused on one particular bloom, I decided to wait and see if they would pay it a visit. Eventually, two bees flew into the shot and hovered close enough for my flash to cast a catch-light in their eyes. When they landed, they went down too deep into the flower to be seen, so I was lucky to get this photo of their approach.
Honeybees “photo-bombing” daylily image.
Serendipitous moments in photography are unplanned and often referred to as “lucky shots.” But you can increase your luck if you’re prepared, have a little patience and are aware of specific patterns of behavior – as in the case of the honeybees. Sometimes, however, you just get a pleasant surprise. Careful planning made the image of The Wheel a good shot. Serendipity made it one-of-a-kind.
Sebastian Kennerknecht photographing on coast, Skomer Island National Nature Reserve, Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire, Wales, United Kingdom
Conservation photographer and iLCP Associate Fellow Sebastian Kennerknecht will receive NANPA’s 2019 Emerging Photographer Award at the 2019 Nature Photography Summit and Trade Show, February 21-23 in Las Vegas, NV. This award (formerly the NANPA Vision Award) is “given to an emerging photographer in “recognition of excellence and serves to encourage continuation of vision and inspiration to others in nature photography, conservation, and education.”
Among the criteria for this award are “a commitment to achieving a positive impact upon nature photography, and the conservation and protection of the natural world; plus the education of the general public about conservation and nature issues.” The awards committee noted that Kennerknecht is “emerging as an important wildlife photographer, especially in the area of wild cats, and species that have not been widely documented. His focus on ethical field practices and species conservation is a model that many other photographers should follow. His frequent and smart use of social media to share his imagery and message are constantly growing in popularity, ensuring that he is truly advocating for the power and need of high quality nature photography.”
Kennerknecht’s work in photographing and documenting wild cats, both well- and little-known species, and his work with scientists, conservationists and social media to educate the public, make him an ideal recipient for this award. We were fortunate to ask Sebastian a few questions in between his travels.
In a November 2018 post, we asked if photographers should stop sharing location information. Popular spots are being overrun with Instagrammers, seeking to duplicate iconic images. The landscape is being damaged, vegetation trampled, trash and human waste left behind and people are risking life and limb for the next epic selfie.
It’s been a topic of conversation across the nature photography community. Now, the Jackson Hole Travel and Tourism Board has entered the debate with a campaign they’re calling “Tag Responsibly. Keep Jackson Hole Wild.”
Along with a video (above), the Jackson Hole Travel and Tourism Board released posters and shareable social media graphics aimed at getting photographers of all levels to refrain from posting specific location information with their photos. This story even made the New York Times.
Anyone who’s been to Jackson Hole and tried to photograph Schwabacher Landing, Moulton Barn, or Oxbow Bend can attest to the fact that these locations are getting too much traffic. It’s easy to find the popular photo spots: there are long stretches of hard-packed bare earth, tamped down by thousands of feet and tripods. On any given sunrise, a photographer might have to deal with several photo tours and random cell-phone-toting tourists walking into their shots, parking in fields and leaving litter behind.
The new campaign urges people to “Post the photo. Trash the tag.” It’s not like Moulton Barn is hard to find, and there’s a big sign for Schwabacher Landing right on the highway but, when the very businesses that depend on tourism start getting behind a movement like this, they have the potential to change the conversation. As one of the Travel and Tourism Board posters asks, “How many likes is a patch of dead wildflowers worth?”
They had all gathered in the same spot – practically standing shoulder-to-shoulder. When new members joined the group, they were careful in setting up so as not to bang into the legs of the other tripods already planted in their perfectly chosen spots. All the cameras were pointed in the same direction waiting for that special moment.
Photographer, naturalist and teacher Kathy Adams Clark will receive NANPA’s Mission Award at the 2019 Nature Photography Summit and Trade Show, February 21-23 in Las Vegas, NV. The NANPA Mission Award (formerly NANPA Recognition Award) goes to someone who epitomizes NANPA’s principles. The selection criteria include promoting nature photography, giving back to the photo community, raising public awareness of “nature’s beauty and wonders,” and both adhering to and promoting NANPAs values and mission statement.
Based in the Houston metropolitan area, Kathy has been a professional nature photographer since 1995. Her photos have appeared in hundreds of paces including magazines, books, calendars and in the weekly “Nature” column in the Houston Chronicle, written by her husband, Gary Clark.
She teaches photography classes, leads workshops, and volunteers as a public speaker, always bringing messages about nature into her presentations. She helped write the NANPA Mission Statement, previously served as NANPA’s president (2007-8), on the board of directors, and on both the awards as well as the summit committees. Recently we had a chance to ask her a few questions
Screen shot of The Times (UK) article about a film crew intervening in nature.
If you saw an animal in the wild that appeared to be in distress, would you try to help? Would you report it to the authorities? Would you leave it alone, since it’s just nature being nature? As nature photographers, we are interested in conservation and generally love the animals we photograph. Is it our responsibility to let nature take its course, even if an animal dies? Is it our responsibility to save the animal? Or, does it depend on the specific situation?