The notes of the rail came loudly to my ear, and on moving toward the spot whence they proceeded, I observed the bird exhibiting the full ardor of his passion. Each time it passed before her, it would pause for a moment…and bow to her with all the grace of a well-bred suitor of our own species.—John James Audubon, 1840
What Audubon witnessed is something most folks will never see as this secretive marsh bird is heard more than it is seen. In 1926, ornithologist Arthur Cleveland Bent wrote this about how to see a Virginia rail: “Take up one’s station near a pond or marsh frequented by them and watch patiently, silently, and immobile….” Wow, patience. What a concept.
Virginia rail at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Maryland.
The desolate landscape of the South Texas Brush Country doesn’t look like much, but the biodiversity makes it one of North America’s best places for wildlife photography. It definitely ranks high on my list!
Scientists classify South Texas as a “semi-arid, sub-tropical” region. The result? Lots of wildlife! That includes a large number of bird species living at the far northern edges of their ranges.
Many—e.g. Kiskadee, Green Jay, Audubon’s Oriole, Couch’s Kingbird—are known as “South Texas Specialties.” And spring migration dramatically boosts the number of photogenic subjects that fly your way. By the end of April the summer breeders, such as Painted Buntings, Varied Buntings, and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers have arrived.
The best photography occurs when the animals grow hot and thirsty and flock to water to drink and cool off. Painted Buntings, in particular, really like their baths! This makes late-May and June prime photography time in the South Texas Brush Country. Continue reading →
Talk about landscapes in Kansas and a lot of people are going to think of the stereotypical image of Kansas – one big flat wheat field. Kansas certainly does have some flat regions, especially in the western half of the state. Kansas also has a lot of wheat fields – which are beautiful in their own right. However, Kansas has a number of unique landscapes that may surprise a lot of people. The Flint Hills are one of the unique physiographic regions of Kansas. They are an especially interesting area as they contain some of the last large contiguous areas of tallgrass prairie. The interesting topography of the Flint Hills and the flora of the tall grass prairie combine to make for wonderful photographic opportunities.
Wide open views and gently sloping hills are characteristic of the Flint Hills. I like to use a wide angle lens to try and capture the sense of space and the unique shapes that can be found out in the prairies, but short to medium telephoto lenses are also useful to bring in details of the hills and focus attention on the lines and textures of the region. Magic hour light can really bring out the contours and shapes of the hills, and sunrises and sunsets are often full of amazing colors. Continue reading →
Check out The Web of Water Project – A Collaboration between NANPA Members jon holloway, Ben Geer Keys, Clay Bolt, and Tom Blagden
The Web of Water project is a unique partnership with Upstate Forever, Fujifilm, Hub City Press renowned writer John Lane, photographers jon holloway, Ben Geer Keys, Clay Bolt, and Tom Blagden and corporate sponsors. The goal of highlighting through fine art photography the beauty, fragility, and critical importance of the Saluda-Reedy watershed and Lake Greenwood was a five year undertaking.
The Web of Water project tells the story of the watershed and those that depend on it for food, water, business, or recreation. A unique combination of beautiful and alarming images raise awareness about the watershed’s importance to the surrounding landscape and communities, current threats to the watershed’s health, and steps that citizens can take to preserve this precious natural resource in their midst.
This project will provide Upstate Forever with new opportunities to educate the community. Photography is one of the most powerful communication tools in assigning a higher sense of value to our environment. Often in the field of research, the visual connection between science and community is the untold story. This project will help bridge the gap and become a catalyst for community responsibility, awareness of cause and effect, and provide the public with unique opportunity to directly make a difference in the future of South Carolina.
We live on 7.5 acres of land in a little town in Louisiana. Although I’ve only been here for a few years, my husband, an ornithologist, has been living here for quite some time. It’s 95% woods. He gardens the area around the house exclusively for hummingbirds and the rest is untouched. Yep, we are the eccentric neighbors with the overgrown yard with signs designating the ditch in the front as a ‘Wildflower Area’ so the city won’t cut or spray.
I see swamp rabbits almost daily. We have deer…and deer ticks. I have heard foxes in the darkness just off the driveway in the woods. We have enjoyed listening to coyotes howling in unison. Barred owls belt out their crazy calls nightly. Prothonotary Warblers nest in boxes we make for them around the house and in the woods. Point is, it’s pretty cool out here and we share this land with a lot of critters and plants. Continue reading →
Nine years ago my life was irreversibly altered when I attended the NANPA Summit in Charlotte as a college scholarship recipient. My quiet dream was given breath and fanned into flame. It is the friendships I’ve formed with other NANPA photographers that have most influenced me on my path to becoming a pro nature photographer. In this community I have found continual inspiration, and I created ALIVE Photo to offer the public a taste of these rich friendships.
In a world of 24/7 social chatter via glowing screens we cradle with care, it is easier than ever to be distracted from total immersion in the solitude and power of wilderness. It’s easier than ever to lose focus on why we are even living this wild dream as nature photographers in the first place. In light of that, my interviews with these 23+ pro outdoor photographers explore the “why.” “Why do you do it?” “In what ways does photography personally affect your life?” “How does photography awaken you to the experience of being alive?”
For me, it was important to start with why. I could have asked these talented pros how they do the work they do. I could have asked what gear they use or what their secrets are for success. But I would not have touched the heart. ALIVE Photo is a celebration-song exploding from the hearts of those whose lives are captivated by the unquenchable pursuit of great light.
Some of the amazing photographers featured on ALIVE Photo!
We need not incessantly contemplate our navels. It’s okay simply to play. But we would be wise to pause occasionally and reflect on what a life-changing gift it is to be one who photographs nature.
I hope that these simple interviews serve as a reminder to each of us about why we do this. It’s a radical gift to live in this present age, to have a camera, to have wilderness and to have a space where we can be transformed. Let’s celebrate Nature Photography Day on June 15th and give thanks for the experience of being alive. ALIVE.photography
Listen in as Rob Sheppard speaks on connection, Clay Bolt on seeing with fresh eyes, Carl Battreall on yearning to be remote and wild, and Amy Gulick on her life-long passion for storytelling. Next week you’ll hear from the ever-hilarious Joe and Mary Ann McDonald, and the week after that the beloved and contemplative Dewitt Jones. Sign up with your email address on the right column of the blog and be the first to know about our next pro.
Wilson’s Phalaropes (Phalaropus tricolor) flock at South Tufa, Mono Lake, California, USA
Story and Photographs by Marie Read
Mono Lake is one of California’s most photogenic locations, a well-known destination for landscape photographers worldwide. Bizarre rocky spires called tufa towers punctuate the waters and shoreline of this desert sea, while the snow-capped Sierra Nevada forms a spectacular backdrop to the west. The well-kept secret is that Mono Lake and its surroundings are great for bird photography as well.
Mono Lake’s alkaline, highly saline water supports no fish, but it teems with brine shrimp and alkali flies, providing food for numerous breeding birds, including California Gulls, American Avocets, and Snowy Plovers. Osprey nest atop the tufa, commuting to and from freshwater lakes nearby for fish for their young. Around the lake sagebrush scrub, pinyon-juniper, and conifer-aspen woodlands support many other birds. I’d like to share some of my favorite bird photography spots. Continue reading →
North American Porcupine; Kluane National Park, Yukon Territory, Canada
Story and Photographs by Jenaya Launstein
If you’ve been wondering about photography contests and whether they’re worth your time and effort, the answer is yes! I have really enjoyed and benefited from the competitions I’ve entered over the past few years, and would like to share some of the benefits, along with the considerations you should be aware of.
Entering photography competitions is a great way to develop your skills, and should you be successful, build a name for yourself along the way. There are many popular international competitions out there; Windland Smith Rice International Awards by Nature’s Best Photography, BBC/NHM Wildlife Photographer of the Year, NWF’s National Wildlife Photo Contest and Audubon Magazine Photography Awards, just to name a few.
Many competitions publish the winners’ and finalists’ images in magazines, offering even further exposure. The people who see these images could be potential print customers or even editors looking for talented photographers. Beyond getting your name out there, many photographers enter competitions for the great prizes! Some competitions offer cash awards or gift cards for photo gear, even photography adventures. I have a great collection of camera bags and other accessories now, thanks to these competitions!
There’s no question that winning a big competition will get your name out to many new people and possibilities, however don’t pass up the national and regional competitions. Although smaller, they are a great place to start! You are still getting your name out there, and in many cases you will receive beneficial feedback on your images.
By placing in the youth category of the annual Canadian Geographic Wildlife Photography of the Year competitions, I’ve had several of my images displayed in Canada’s Museum of Nature the past three years. They were also included in a traveling exhibition throughout the country that has resulted in print sales and additional exposure for my photography.
Rocky Mountain Elk; Banff, Alberta, Canada
In 2011, I won the youth category in the popular NWF National Wildlife Photo Contest. To say I was excited is an understatement! Three years after the contest, I was contacted last month by someone, who had looked through the winner’s gallery, interested in purchasing several of my prints! In 2013, I was named the Youth Photographer of the Year in the Windland Smith Rice International Awards by Nature’s Best Photography. The exposure that is generating for me is nothing short of incredible.
Don’t just stick with your favorite subjects! I’m almost exclusively a wildlife photographer, but in 2012, I entered and won the Grand Prize in the Western Heritage Values photo contest with a picture I took of my dad and brother. The prize included airfare for two to the destination of my choice! I knew immediately where I would go, and a few months later I was photographing bears, moose and more in Alaska and the Yukon Territories. It was an amazing experience and the images I captured there are among my all-time favorites. One of the images I captured was the image chosen as the winner in the Windland Smith Rice Awards.
One of the most important things you must do before entering any competition, however, is to read the terms and conditions thoroughly, and understand what image rights you are giving to the organizers. Even though the contest may have great prizes, the rights they demand may not make it a wise decision for you to enter. The conditions attached to any competition, is the number one factor in my decision of whether I submit any images.
You should also pay close attention to the rules and guidelines of the competition. What type of images are allowed? What are the limitations on processing, cropping, etc? Be sure to follow their instructions for file size, naming, EXIF info and color settings.
If you agree with the terms and understand the rules, I encourage you to enter! You never know what doors it could open up for you. Placing and winning in photo competitions has really helped my career to lift off, even at age 16!
Bohemian Waxwing eating berries; Pincher Creek, Alberta, Canada
Now, some of you may still be reluctant. You might think that you’re not good enough yet, or don’t have the best camera or lenses. Don’t let that keep you from choosing a good competition to start with and submitting your best! And if you really don’t think you’re ready yet, keep practicing! Go to a nearby park or natural area and find something to photograph so you can develop your eye. It’s also a great idea to ask other photographers for feedback on your images. Their advice can really help you improve your work. So get out there and create some award-winning images of your own!
16 year old Jenaya Launstein, was one of ten selected for NANPA’s 2013 High School Scholarship Program. You can follow her on Twitter.
During the last week of May of this year, an interesting question from NANPA appeared on my Facebook timeline asking, “Is anyone interested in a local NANPA Nature Photography Group?” to which I replied as quickly as I could, “Yes, in East Central Florida!” A few hours later, I was asked if I would like to be a NANPA Meetup Organizer for my area. It took me all of three seconds to say yes. Thus, on June 10, 2013, the second NANPA Nature Photography Group was launched here in East Central Florida (aka, The Space Coast).
Over the past year and a half, I experienced two long drives home from NANPA gatherings, first from the Great Smoky Mountains Regional Event and then again from the 2013 NANPA Summit. During both of those drives, the same thought played out in my mind: “Now what?”. It seemed that I would have to wait until NANPA offered another opportunity somewhere across the vast USA to gather and shoot with other NANPA members again. I didn’t know any NANPA Members near my home, or how to easily get in touch with members in my area. The NANPA Meetup Group Program solved this problem. And, the program also presents the valuable opportunity to introduce non-members to NANPA.
Organizing and hosting our nature photography group has been both easy and richly rewarding. Since June, we’ve held seven outings in differing settings and environments, focusing on close-up, landscape, flower, wildlife, and conservation photography. Attending members are enthusiastic and eagerly RSVP yes for upcoming Meetups. And, since our start in June, two of our regular attendees have become new NANPA members. That is really exciting!
Two outings that I particularly enjoyed include a trip to the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, America’s first wildlife refuge established in 1903 by President Theodore Roosevelt, and a trip into a section of the Florida Wildlife Corridor. Of all of our outings, I most enjoyed leading folks into this special, historic corridor. There, we explored the ranchlands, sod farms, lakes and wildlife management areas that immediately adjoin the eastern boundaries of the Florida Wildlife Corridor. Members were introduced to conservation photography, while recognizing and celebrating Florida’s ranchers and sod farmers who are helping to preserve vestiges of wild Florida environments.
A few closing thoughts:
– If you plan to visit central Florida and you’d enjoy participating in one of our outings, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be pleased to include you as my guest. You can check out the group website here.
– If you have a passion for nature photography, a passion for NANPA, and an interest in connecting with other members (and non-members) in your area, I urge you to become a local NANPA Nature Photography Meetup Group Organizer. You can email me at email@example.com to learn more!
Meetup members at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge.
Applications for the 2014 Philip Hyde Grant are due on November 30th, 2013. This $2,500 grant, provided by Fine Print Imaging through its Art for Conservation program, the NANPA Environment Committee and individual donations, is awarded annually by the NANPA Foundation to an individual NANPA member who is actively pursuing completion of a peer-reviewed environmental project that is consistent with the missions of NANPA and the NANPA Foundation. Click here to apply.
Project Update from Jaime Rojo: 2012 Recipient of the Philip Hyde Grant
The San Pedro Mezquital project is an ongoing communications effort to protect the last free-flowing river in the Western Sierra Madre, Mexico. The river is under threat by several development projects, including a dam in the middle basin and a huge tourist resource in the upper basin.
The Philip Hyde Grant that I obtained in May 2012 was used to continue the documentation of this huge river basin, but also to give public presentations in the upper and lower basin to involve the local communities in the actions to protect the river.
In May 2012, we inaugurated a large format exhibit of the San Pedro Mezquital that was hosted by the three main cities of the basin, following the course of the river on its way to the sea. I gave presentations on Durango and Tepic on the day of the exhibit launch, and had meetings with regional authorities involved in the management of the river basin:
– Durango, upper basin, May 2012
– Presidio, middle basin, Oct 2012
– Tepic, lower basin, Jan 2013
Also, in January 2013, I did a 2-week expedition with my colleague Octavio Aburto, co-financed by National Geographic Explorers Fund, to document some of the most remote parts of the upper basin (Chachacuaxtle canyon and the Tres Molinos basin), with some surprising results, and a field blog was published in National Geographic Newswatch. The Philip Hyde Grant represented a great opportunity to continue the conservation photography work in the San Pedro Mezquital river and I will always be thankful for NANPA’s support.