cbolt_portrait_jan2014Comedian David Sedaris is the author of several funny books. A personal favorite of mine is Me Talk Pretty One Day. To be honest, I can’t really remember much about the contents of the book (probably because I never finished reading it), but I can relate to the title. I find it hilarious and, hey, I’d also like to talk pretty one day.

Like most of you, I’ve probably spent way too much time thinking about how to make a good photograph. Me take pretty photo one day is a reasonable, if not somewhat Neanderthalish, mantra that has driven many of us stomping through the woods in search of that El Dorado of imagery: the pretty picture. I’m talking about a photo that you can hold up to your significant other as irrefutable proof that you had no other choice but to spend lots of money on camera gear throughout the year.

Oftentimes when I am loping after that mythical unicorn of photos for too long, my mind wanders. Usually, I start by daydreaming about documenting some rarely seen biological wonder. For you, it might be chasing a blood-red sunset punctured by a perfect “V” of waterfowl heading to their evening roost. Whatever your go-to vision is, you get the picture. I would say pun intended, but that’s just cruel, because we both know that we didn’t “get the picture.” It only exists in our head.

Do you ever wonder what might happen if we could just quiet our minds for a bit longer; push those distracting ideals of what we should be capturing to the side and just be open to the possibilities? Buddhists employ a practice called mindfulness to stay focused on the moment, avoiding unnecessary worry. Sometimes I experience a form of this when I collapse, winded and greedily sucking in air, after chasing after some six-legged critter for too long.

Almost without fail, it is in these moments of surrender when my mind is finally clear that wondrous things are revealed. I begin to take notice of subtle details that soon pull me from a point of frenetic energy to a rapturous examination of the small goings-on within the world around me. The photos that I make during this time surprise and delight me, because they come from a point of give and take.

To stretch a metaphor to its breaking point, it’s in these moments when I’m no longer talking pretty at nature, but rather engaging in a conversation with it. My mind becomes open to feedback and possibilities that I hadn’t entertained before. Perhaps next time I go out with my camera, I should just keep my mouth shut. It has become abundantly clear that the less I talk and think about my work, the better it seems to get.

Best Wishes,

Clay Bolt

From the NANPA President: Click, Snapshot, Selfie. Pic.

cbolt_portrait_jan2014by Clay Bolt


We have a lot of funny names for what we produce. But did it ever occur to you that the word photography actually translates to “writing with light?” It is a process that is so familiar, and yet, when its meaning and all that meaning entails is dwelled upon, it feels a whole lot like magic. These silly little names that we call our images hardly express what they really are.

As photographers, we have the ability to capture—for all time—the essence of a breaking beam of light through spring foliage, twinkling starlight over a rugged mountain peak, the red-hot rim of fur on a backlit bison, and evening’s fading illumination of a loved one’s face. Forever. A single passing moment, out of countless such moments, saved from the great maw of time. Continue reading



cbolt_portrait_jan2014Autumn always arrives on my doorstep like an old friend, her bags packed with rest and perhaps a little remorse for all of the moments that I had hoped to photograph over the past season, but never did.

Unlike landscape photographers, who eagerly await the seasonal changes from summer’s greens into fall’s brilliant blaze, insect photographers like me know that before long it will soon be time to close up shop for another season. The fading embers of goldenrods soon lead to the drawn-out trills of fall field crickets. Their quiet calls, like prayers of gratitude before a well-earned sleep, fill me with a sense of nostalgia for months of abundance that have flown past. Continue reading

From the NANPA President

cbolt_portrait_jan2014I’ll let you in a little secret: I’m kind of an introvert. A life spent chasing bugs and toads doesn’t exactly translate to an explosive social life. So for the first few years of my career in nature photography, I avoided big photographic functions, preferring to put my head down and focus on the work that had a conservation impact in my home state of South Carolina.

It wasn’t until 2011 that I decided to take the plunge and attend my first NANPA Summit. I was a little over a year into Meet Your Neighbours, an international photo project that I co-founded in 2009, and I needed to recruit more photographers to join the effort. That year, the Summit was being held in McAllen, Texas, and as I rode the bus to the hotel—sweaty and disheveled from a day of flying—I wondered what I had gotten myself into. How could I know that moments later, a series of events would transpire that would alter the course of my life? Continue reading

Revealing and Reveling in the Beauty of Native North American Bees and Wasps – Story and Photographs © Clay Bolt

Metallic Green Bee (Augochloropsis metallica) visits a Black-eye

A Metallic Green Bee (Augochloropsis metallica) visits a Black-eyed Susan.

Since Niall Benvie and I first developed Meet Your Neighbours in 2009 I’ve seen my fair share of amazing, beautiful and sometimes bizarre creatures. From the beginning, I’ve worked almost exclusively in the land that surrounds my home near the Southern Appalachians in upstate South Carolina, USA. Rather naïvely, I suspected that after a short period of time I would begin to run out of subjects to photograph but nothing could be further from the truth. Seldom does a day go by that I don’t see a creature or plant that I’ve never seen before in the wild, anywhere! As Piotr Naskrecki points out in his fantastic book The Smaller Majority, “Over 99% of life on Earth is smaller than your finger.” It’s little wonder then that the careful observer will be awarded with a lifetime of discovery.

Continue reading