San Diego, the Summit, and the Chaparral by Rob Sheppard

Mariposa lily (Calochortus), Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, California. Image © Rob Sheppard.

Mariposa lily (Calochortus), Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, California. Image © Rob Sheppard.

Images and Text by Rob Sheppard

Rob Sheppard will be leading a Photo Walk in the California Shrublands on Thursday, February 19th from 9:00am – 12:00pm as part of the 2015 NANPA Summit in San Diego. Click here to learn more!

The NANPA Summit in 2015 is in lovely, mild San Diego. The Summit is a time to see old friends, connect with new friends, be enlightened and educated in all sorts of things related to nature photography, and even see new places through the photography of the presenters.

I am going to suggest that you take the opportunity to see and photograph something unique and special about nature while you are in San Diego or at least Southern California, something that you will not find in other parts of the country – the chaparral. This is an ecosystem, a landscape, a place of nature that is as ecologically unique as the redwoods, a place filled with biodiversity, and yet a landscape that is probably one of the least photographed of any important landscape in the country.

When people think of Southern California, so often, they only think of the big cities of Los Angeles and San Diego. Southern California, they believe, is just a place for surfers, celebrities, and a lot of cars! When I moved to the Los Angeles area over 20 years ago, many of my friends and family from Minnesota thought that I was moving to a barren, urban wasteland. Continue reading

Dance of the Spirits by Gordon and Cathy Illg

North America, USA, Alaska, Chena Hot Springs, aurora borealis and stars. © Cathy & Gordon Illg

North America, USA, Alaska, Chena Hot Springs, aurora borealis and stars. © Cathy & Gordon Illg

Images and Text by Gordon and Cathy Illg

It’s not that one or two things or even a hundred things are beautiful – every single aspect of the natural world is beautiful, even the very air around us. Using high-energy particles from the sun as brushes and electrons orbiting atoms in our upper atmosphere as a canvas, impossible abstracts are painted across the night sky in neon colors. Of all the astral phenomena that draw our eyes to the heavens, the aurora is the most spectacular. And, it requires no special equipment to view it, only a willingness to stay out when most people are asleep (and to endure some cold temperatures).

The Cree called it the “Dance of the Spirits,” and in the Middle Ages it was regarded as a sign from God. Today we call it aurora borealis after the Roman goddess of the dawn and the Greek name for the north wind. Its most basic form is a static green band, usually stretching across the northern horizon. As it becomes more active, pink, red and even violet are added to the palette. These colors can fall down in curtains or dance across the heavens in twisting waves, as if responding to music we cannot hear. A photographer could point a lens at the same spot all night, taking one photo after another, and never repeat an image. Continue reading

When Color Doesn’t Cut It by Lee Hoy

American Bison by Lee Hoy

American Bison by Lee Hoy

Text and Images by Lee Hoy

As a wildlife and landscape photographer, I am constantly amazed at the plethora of colors that even a tiny damselfly can exhibit. It is capturing the palette of nature’s colors that often lures us out of bed early each morning, but what do we do when color just doesn’t cut it? What about when we are trying to communicate texture, form, grandeur, or movement and color becomes a distraction?

As a young boy, my parents would take me to the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma where I was captivated by a giant woolly beast that embodied the American west. I have photographed the American bison on many occasions and often find color images to be disappointing. It was only after I bought Silver Effex Pro 2.0 and began to learn its capabilities that I realized black-and-white images were the ticket to revealing to others what drew me to bison in the first place. The deep crevices in the shaggy coat, the splintering of the tips of the horns, the soulfulness of the eyes, and the jagged wrinkles in their hindquarters were expertly represented through black-and-white. Continue reading

NANPA Issues Statement on Proposed US Forest Service Policies

Dear NANPA Members and Nature Photographers,

As you may know, the United States Forest Service (USFS) has issued proposed policy language pertaining to filming in wilderness areas within the jurisdiction of USFS. (https://federalregister.gov/a/2014-21093)

Those proposed policies, as phrased in the initial proposed policy language and in public comments from USFS officials, raise a number of troubling issues regarding when and why permitting and fees could be required of photographers filming on those lands.

NANPA has long advocated that no photographer should be required to obtain a permit to go anywhere the public may go or to do anything the public in general is allowed to do. Click Here to view NANPA’s 1999 Statement of Public Land Access. NANPA has and will continue to fight for this basic principle with regard to all public lands on behalf of all nature photographers.

Part of NANPA’s mission is to encourage proper stewardship of our nation’s public lands, and NANPA likewise recognizes that there are certain situations in which fees and permits are reasonable, for example, for certain commercial photo shoots and when there may be a high impact to the land itself. But it is not reasonable to impose permits or fees solely because a photographer may in the future license or sell an image taken on those public lands.

The proposed USFS policies do not clearly express these basic principles and need to be clarified. NANPA has actively partnered with other photography associations in communicating a wide variety of concerns to USFS. (You can read a recent letter sent to Chief Tidwell here). The USFS has responded positively to those concerns by letter and recent public statements, but unless and until the proposed policies themselves are clearly revised, photographers could be subjected to very subjective and inconsistent interpretation of those policies by local USFS authorities.

NANPA has drafted an additional and more detailed statement to USFS here (Link to 2nd Statement), which more fully sets out NANPA’s position.

NANPA will continue its direct efforts to influence these proposed policies, but the USFS also needs to hear directly from you, as NANPA members and as dedicated photographers and patrons of the public lands at issue.

How can you help? The public comment periods ends on December 3, 2014, so as soon as possible go to this link and on the right hand side, click Submit a Formal Comment.

Please note that the most effective comments are those that directly address the proposed policies at issue. So while you are free to “vent” broadly, that is not likely to have as much impact as a more specific comment. NANPA does ask that your Comments include the following points (preferably in your own words):

I am a nature photographer and a patron of our nation’s public lands, including USFS wilderness areas. The policies as proposed are overly vague and ambiguous and should be clarified as follows:

1. No permit or fee should be required to photograph in areas where the public in general is allowed.

2. No permit or fee should be required for photographers who use cameras on a speculative basis to photograph or film without an immediate market outlet for their work. Such activities are not a “commercial use or activity.”

3. No permit or fee should be required for news-gathering in general or for journalists on assignment for editorial purposes (See letter from National Press Photographers Association)

4. Permits and/or fees may be required when the photography or filming involves product or service advertisements, the use of models, actors, sets, or props, damage to resources, unacceptable health or safety risks, or significant disruption of normal visitor uses.

5. Overly vague and subjective policy criteria such as those found in 45.1c(5)(a), (b) and (c) should be eliminated from the proposed policies.

Please feel free to encourage other nature photographers to do the same. If you have any additional comments you would like to share with NANPA, please send them to info@nanpa.org.

NANPA appreciates your help on this issue and will keep you posted as we strive to protect the rights of all photographers to enjoy and photograph on our nation’s public lands.

For a Press Release, please see NANPA USFS Press Release.

 

Gabby Salazar

NANPA President

North American Nature Photography Association

618-547-7616 • info@nanpa.org

www.nanpa.org 

Balancing Flash and Ambient Light by Charles Glatzer

Image by Charles Glatzer

Image by Charles Glatzer

Text and photographs by Charles Glatzer

When I hear someone say, “I hate flash images,” it typically tells me they feel uncomfortable or do not fully comprehend how to use flash effectively.  Many people state that they can always tell when flash is used as the images have a “flashed” look to them. By this they mean that the subject appears overly bright and unnaturally lit within the image. By applying varying levels of flash output, we are able control the degree of subject illumination independent of the ambient light. Keeping the flash and ambient exposure separate in your mind will help you better achieve your goal.

The image of the heron on the nest (above) is a good example of how I use flash to balance ambient light. Here are the steps I took to make this image using flash.

1. First, I used my in-camera spot meter to check the yellow background highlight and I set my exposure 1.3 stops above the mid tone (in this case, my exposure was 1/250 sec at f/8 at ISO 200).

2. Next, I focused my lens on the subject and read the distance scale on my lens (in this example, 10 ft). Since my flash was on the camera, the flash-to-subject distance was the same as the lens-to-subject distance (10 ft).

 

Where to check the focusing distance on your lens.

Where to check the focusing distance on your lens.

3. Then, I set my flash to manual mode, which allows me to control the flash output independent of the exposure. I used the Select button on the back of the flash, turning the dial to place the black bar even with the subject distance. (Note: Strobes will vary by manufacturer. Some use buttons, others wheels, or a combination of both to alter the flash output.) Altering the flash output moves the distance scale, and that is what you are concerned with at this point. Do not be concerned if the scale says 1:1 or 1/128. Just make sure the distance appearing on the scale (10 ft in this example) is the same as the focus distance on your lens (10 ft).

A few examples of where to find the focusing distance on your flash. Flashes set to manual.

A few examples of where to find the focusing distance on your flash. Flashes set to manual.

 

TIP: When you zoom to alter your lens focal length, the flash will also zoom to evenly illuminate the field of view. If you take a given quantity of light and squeeze it into a narrower or wider area, the output of the flash (known as the guide number) will vary. Thus, you will need to adjust the flash power each time you change the focal length of your lens. I suggest you manually fix the flash zoom to the widest focal length you plan on using. No worries if you are shooing a fixed lens.

If all other factors remain constant (f/stop. shutter speed, ISO and background illumination), both the background and the subject will be perfectly illuminated.

If you want to get a firm grasp on how to use flash effectively, consider taking Charles (Chas) Glatzer’s STL Tech Series Flash Seminar. Chas’ work has been celebrated internationally with over 40 prestigious awards for superior photographic competence demonstrated through photographic competition, advanced education, and service to the profession. His images are recognized internationally for their lighting, composition, and attention to detail and have appeared in many publications worldwide including National Geographic, Outdoor Photographer, Popular Photography, National Parks, Discover Diving, Smithsonian, Professional Photographer, Birder’s World, Birding, Nature Photographer, EOS, Digital PhotoPro, and many more.

Visit http://www.shootthelight.com/ to learn more. 

Nature and Travel Photography App by Two NANPA Members

New App by Images for Conservation Fund and Bill Gozansky

New App by Images for Conservation Fund and Bill Gozansky

News from NANPA Members John Martin and Bill Gozansky: 

John Martin, chairman of Images for Conservation Fund (ICF), announces the release of the new ICF Photo Guide to Nature & Travel Photography app for the iPad and Android tablets. The Photo Guide app illustrates professional photographic techniques for nature and travel photography. It is an intuitive, user-friendly field guide with rich photographic content, technical image data, and descriptive field notes designed to help users discover new photographic techniques and composition ideas. The app also has a “My Gallery” feature that allows the user to upload their images and personalized field notes to create their own interactive photography journal within the app.  Continue reading

Want to Present at the 2015 NANPA Summit?

Call for Submissions for Lightning Talks – Deadline Extended to November 17th!

To All NANPA Members –

We are excited to announce a call for submissions for NANPA Lightning Talks, a new live program to take place at the 2015 NANPA Summit in San Diego, California.

NANPA Lightning Talks is a series of short (6 minute) presentations by members on Friday evening (February 20th).

This is an opportunity to share your work, projects and big ideas in front of the entire summit, including publishers, editors, stock agency representatives and your fellow photographers.

A team of judges will help select eight presenters from the applicant pool with the goal of representing diversity in subject matter, experience level, and age.

We hope this will be an exciting opportunity for our members to share stories and for the audience to enjoy an hour packed with stunning imagery and inspiring ideas.

This is an open call for applications to all current NANPA members. We invite you to submit your idea (instructions below) by November 17th. We will notify selected presenters by December 5th.

Judging Criteria:
– Quality of Images Submitted
– Uniqueness of Subject Matter, Idea, or Topic (could be a new approach to an older topic)
– Applicant’s speaking experience

Topics should fall under themes such as:
– Expeditions
– Life changing idea or meaning found through photography
– Stories of wildlife or place
– Environmental Issues
– Innovative approaches to photography and the worlds they reveal
– Innovations or innovative ways to seeing with photography

What to submit?
Please send the following information to publications@nanpa.org:
– 10 sample images illustrating your idea – should be images you would plan to use in the presentation (low resolution jpegs less than 1 MB each)
– Proposed title of presentation
– 200 word pitch that focuses on what you plan to talk about in your presentation
– 200 word bio that includes relevant speaking experience
– Supporting links which may include past presentations, publications or other relevant material you think we should consider (5 max.)

And, please remember to register for the NANPA Summit soon (www.naturephogoraphysummit.com) – Early Bird Registration ends October 31st!

Sincerely,
Lightning Talks Team
Morgan Heim and Gabby Salazar
publications@nanpa.org

South Texas for the Wildlife Photographer by Jeff Parker

Painted bunting by Jeff Parker

Painted bunting by Jeff Parker

Images and text by Jeff Parker

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

Water in Motion by David DesRochers

Ausable Rapids by David DesRochers

Ausable Rapids by David DesRochers

Text and photography by David DesRochers

Ever since I was a young boy growing up in New Jersey, I loved being around water. Whether I was exploring the Rahway River near my home in Union or playing on the beach in Seaside Heights, I was fascinated with the power of moving water. It is only natural that I am still drawn to rivers, lakes, and oceans as inspiration for my photography.

I caught the nature photography bug on a trip to Glacier National Park in the year 2000. I returned home with only a few “keepers” but I knew that exploring our natural world was going to be part of my life for as long as I could hold a camera.

Early on, I photographed popular subjects such as water falls and sunsets over the ocean and tried to emulate photos I had seen. I was pleased with my result but my image looked a bit cliché. I began reading photography “how to” books and looking at photos by the masters of nature photography such as the late Galen Rowell, Art Wolfe, and David Muench, just to name a few. One lesson I learned was to slow down and spend time seeing the landscape before trying to capture its beauty. This approach helped me go beyond the obvious and I began capturing images of the “hidden beauty” within the landscape that most photographers were passing by.

Rivers and Streams

I use this approach when I photograph landscapes that include moving water. A common approach to photographing rivers, streams and waterfalls is to include the entire landscape. Wisely using the elements of composition, this approach can result in compelling photos. But, don’t stop there. After you’ve taken your standard waterfall shot, look closely at small areas within the water fall and stream. As the water tumbles over the rocks and boulders, interesting lines and shapes will begin to reveal themselves as shown in the image of the Ausable River in the Adirondacks.

My goal is to try to capture as much detail in moving water and it’s easy to lose that detail by exposing too long resulting in featureless blown out areas in your image. To get that soft flowing look that still has detail, I find that ¼ of a second shutter speed is a good starting point. The photo of the Ausable River Rapids (above) was shot at f/18, 1/5 of a second, ISO 100. Of course, the lighting conditions may require you to adjust your settings. Review your first few images and change your shutter speed as needed to get the result that you are looking for.

Oceans

The next time you visit a scenic coast line or even one not so scenic, consider passing up the temptation to compose a typical sunrise or sunset photo and take a closer look at the ever changing artistic designs created by the approaching waves. The giant waves of Hawaii offer one option (see the work of Clark Little for some real inspiration) but even the quiet waves of Cape May, New Jersey can result in a unique image.   Position yourself on a jetty or in the water and pan along with the waves as they approach the beach. The Wave photographed at sunset in Cape May, New Jersey was capture from a jetty using my Canon 7D and a 28-135 MM lens set at 95 MM and f/6.3, I found that a shutter speed of 1/8 of a second provided a nice balance of sharpness and motion blur.

The Wave by David DesRochers

The Wave by David DesRochers

If you are blessed with an intriguing ocean side composition with great light, try using the receding surf to add your own leading lines. Select a wide angle lens and set your tripod as low as possible. The waves should move past your position (yes, it’s OK to get wet). As the water begins to recede back into the ocean, push your shutter release. A shutter speed of 1 to 4 seconds, depending on available light and the speed of water will create streaks that will lead the viewer’s eye to the center of interest in your composition. A 4 or 6 stop neutral density filter may be required to achieve the desired results. The image from Rialto Beach in Olympic National Park was taken with a 1 second exposure at f/16, ISO 100. A word of caution, make sure you keep an eye on the approaching waves and be prepared to lift your tripod in the event that a unexpected large wave attempts to knock you and your camera over.

Rialto Beach by David DesRochers

Rialto Beach by David DesRochers

Be Safe and Be Inspired

The most important thing to remember is to be careful when photographing water. I discovered on more than on occasion that my lenses and cameras do not perform very well after following me into a local river. Wet rocks are a real danger so move slowly and carefully. Keen Sandals are comfortable during the hike to your location and they provide traction as you walk across rivers and streams. Worried about getting wet? Don’t be. Just bring a change of clothes and a towel and dry off when you return to the car.

Photography is a very personal endeavor and each of us must develop our own vision and style. The ever changing nature of water can provide inspiration and you will find endless opportunities to create those unique images you can truly call your own.

See more of David’s work at www.desrochersphotography.com. David also conducts photography workshops at New Jersey Audubon’s Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary.

Social Media for Nature Photographers by Mac Stone

Homestead, Florida USA. Burrowing owls (Athene cunicularia floridana) are diurnal birds that make their home in the ground. Photographing these birds was a difficult task. I wanted a close perspective with a wide angle to show their habitat which is rarely showcased in owl photography. I failed many times while trying to find a way to disguise my camera and leave the birds undisturbed. Luckily, their burrows had been marked with road cones. For 6 months I visited the owls and placed my camera inside the cone and using an intervalometer, I took an exposure every 5 seconds. Setting my camera to beep before each exposure ensured the owls would be looking my direction. I used a polarizer to bring out the blues in the sky and soften the light on the grass. Photo by Mac Stone.

Homestead, Florida USA. Burrowing owls (Athene cunicularia floridana) are diurnal birds that make their home in the ground. Photographing these birds was a difficult task. I wanted a close perspective with a wide angle to show their habitat which is rarely showcased in owl photography. I failed many times while trying to find a way to disguise my camera and leave the birds undisturbed. Luckily, their burrows had been marked with road cones. For 6 months I visited the owls and placed my camera inside the cone and using an intervalometer, I took an exposure every 5 seconds. Setting my camera to beep before each exposure ensured the owls would be looking my direction. I used a polarizer to bring out the blues in the sky and soften the light on the grass. Photo by Mac Stone.

Text and Photos by Mac Stone

Many people are calloused by social media and I have to admit that I am too. Our audience is so distracted by the constant onslaught of content from all around the world that the photography market has turned into a fast food drive through line. Images that have taken us months to make are quickly posted, commented on, liked, shared and then forgotten about. It seems like a black hole, but we aren’t the only ones facing this problem and there are lessons to be learned.

Consider National Public Radio (NPR) for a moment. All year, they offer incredible content—some of the best podcasts and radio shows around—for free. In turn, they build a large loyal audience and when the time comes for support or premium content, their audience shows up in droves with money in hand. To me, that sounds like the same model of a photographer’s Facebook page.

The photography market has changed so much in the last ten years. Today, it’s not just the agencies that have access to large markets. With social media, we’re able to reach a very specific or a broad range of demographics, potential customers or future enthusiasts for our work. Continue reading