7 Things Professional Nature Photographers Want You to Know About Visiting National Parks

Respect the rangers when they are stopping traffic to give wildlife some space, like for this grizzly bear and her cubs crossing in Grand Teton National Park. © Dawn Wilson

Tourists have been flocking to national parks, wildlife refuges, and other nature areas in record numbers since the coronavirus pandemic began—which is both a reason to celebrate and potentially a cause for concern. Whether you’re new to these areas, a frequent visitor, or somewhere in between, don’t pack up the car until you read this.

1. We’re thrilled to see you enjoying nature. 

The increase in park visitors is obvious to us as nature photographers, in part because we’re sometimes in the field from before sunrise to after sunset and see the crowds, and in part because park efforts to manage those crowds—like timed-entry reservations—have changed the way we do our jobs. But we’re excited to see you here and certainly are willing to share our love for these amazing spaces. 

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Spring Flowers

Photo of the Estes Valley outside of Rocky Mountain National Park after a spring snowstorm. ©  Dawn Wilson
A view of Estes Valley outside of Rocky Mountain National Park after a spring snowstorm. © Dawn Wilson

By Dawn Wilson, NANPA President

Welcome to the month of spring flowers!

Well, for most people it should be. As I type this blog post, it is snowing again here in Colorado. The snow is a welcome weather occurrence as we desperately need the moisture, but it does do a number on those flowers people plant before the recommended planting date of Mother’s Day in Colorado. Much of Colorado, like the West, is still under severe drought conditions, bringing with it the fear of yet another difficult wildfire season. Fingers crossed that is not the case.

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Suzi Eszterhas Recognized by NANPA as Outstanding Photographer of the Year

Photo of a seven to eight week old cub approaching adult male lion, Maasai Mara Reserve, Kenya © Suzi Eszterhas
Seven to eight week old cub approaching adult male lion, Maasai Mara Reserve, Kenya © Suzi Eszterhas

Internationally-known wildlife photographer Suzi Eszterhas is no stranger to accolades, having won awards in National Wildlife Photo Contest, Environmental Photographer of the Year Competition, and the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition. She’s published feature stories in a variety of well-known publications, had her images appear in more than 100 magazine covers, and has 19 books in print. And that’s just skimming the surface of her accomplishments. It’s no wonder she’ll receive NANPA’s Outstanding Photographer of the Year Award at the 2021 Nature Photography Virtual Summit, April 29-30. She is also a previous recipient (2017) of NANPA’s Mission Award.

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Not Losing Hope featuring Suzi Eszterhas

The Nature Photographer episode #10 on Wild & Exposed podcast

Endangered mountain gorilla (gorilla beringei) mother holding 5-month-old twin babies, Parc National des Volcans, Rwanda © Suzi Eszterhas

Wildlife photographer Suzi Eszterhas may occasionally get to choose from two dream jobs: jet off to Costa Rica to photograph a baby sloth born in a wine bar or jet off to Botswana to photograph a litter of newborn meerkats. But most of the time she’s waiting, putting all the pieces in place, and quietly nurturing something to fruition—whether that means staring at a termite mound for 10 days waiting for a baby to appear, working a big cat subject for two months straight, or building a book project over the course of several years.

Now she’s set her sights on making change in the nature photography industry, mentoring young female photographers through Girls Who Click, supporting gender and racial diversity in the field, and raising more than $200,000 to support conservation projects throughout the world. Join Dawn Wilson, Ron Hayes, Jason Loftus, and Suzi to hear more about these projects, how Suzi maintains her motivation, and why, as she puts it, “If you’re not learning, your career is done.”

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Showcase 2020 Winner Profile – Jennifer Leigh Warner

Showcase 2020 Judges’ Choice, Conservation: "Grizzly 399 Attempts to Cross the Road” © Jennifer Leigh Warner
Showcase 2020 Judges’ Choice, Conservation: “Grizzly 399 Attempts to Cross the Road” © Jennifer Leigh Warner

How I Got the Shot

I photographed Grizzly 399 crossing the highway with a horde of photographers watching in the background as part of a project involving ecotourism and the pressure that it puts on wildlife. I had envisioned this image for some time now and, while I was in Wyoming for the NANPA Nature Celebration, I got the opportunity I was looking for. Grizzly 399 is famous for spending much of her time close to the road. I knew she would make for the perfect subject for this project. I created the image by making sure I was on the opposite side of the road as the rest of the crowd and then when the moment she crossed I lined myself up in the middle of the road to focus on the crowd.

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2017 NANPA Award Winners

We are pleased to formally announce the 2017 NANPA Award Winners. NANPA Awards fit two broad categories: recognition and service. The NANPA Awards Committee accepts nominations, selects and evaluates candidates for each award and makes recommendations to the NANPA Board of Directors. The 2017 NANPA Awards will be presented at the 2017 Nature Photography Summit in Jacksonville, FL, March 2-4. Continue reading

PHOTOGRAPHER PROJECTS: Orangutan Orphans

by Suzi Eszterhas

Bornean Orangutan, Pongo pygmaeus, Caretaker with infant at bath time, Orangutan Care Center, Borneo, Indonesia *Model release available

Bornean Orangutan, Pongo pygmaeus, Caretaker with infant at bath time, Orangutan Care Center, Borneo, Indonesia, (c) Suzi Eszterhas

For years I have specialized in documenting the family lives of endangered species. This work has taken me around the globe, spending long hours with wild animal families for weeks, months or even years at a time. In all of my projects I try to incorporate the conservation issues that surround my subject or the latest research presenting fascinating discoveries about that animal and its environment.

Some of my most recent work has taken me out of the wild and into animal orphanages. In the past, I have spent a lot of time with both Bornean and Sumatran orangutans, photographing them in protected areas where they have the ability to live wild and free. But the truth of the matter is that these protected areas on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra are too small to save the species. More and more forest is lost every single day to bulldozing for palm oil plantations. Orangutans cannot live in a palm oil plantation; they need the diversity of the rainforest to survive. What’s worse is that plantation workers routinely kill adult orangutans and sell the babies as pets on the black market. The lucky orphans are found and confiscated by government officials. There are thousands of baby orangutans in various orphanages on these islands. Continue reading