Unusual Butterfly Nets Photographer Bioblitz Prize

Photo of a colorful butterfly on a bush. The Dury's Metalmark that won the award. © Cathryn Hoyt
The Dury’s Metalmark (Apodemia Duryi) that won the award. © Cathryn Hoyt

By Frank Gallagher, NANPA Blog Coordinator

Nearly 10,000 observations were made and more than 3,000 species observed during NANPA’s Nature Photography Day Bioblitz. Nearly 100 of those species observed were classified as endangered. A bioblitz is an event created to find and identify as many species as possible in a given area over a limited period of time. All observations are uploaded to an iNaturalist project. Cathryn Hoyt won the Judges’ Choice Award for her photo observation of a Dury’s Metalmark, a species of butterfly found in the US Southwest.  

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Nature Photography Day Bioblitz Was Eye Opening

Photo of a song sparrow perched on a cattail. © Gouri Prakash
Song Sparrow © Gouri Prakash

By Frank Gallagher, NANPA Blog Coordinator

On Nature Photography Day, June 15th, hundreds of photographers joined in a bioblitz, an eleven-day, citizen science event to find, identify, and document as many species as possible in a given area. During the NANPA Nature Photography Day Bioblitz, nearly 10,000 observations of over 3,000 species were made and uploaded to the iNaturalist project. And there were prizes. Did I mention prizes? Gouri Prakash, a hobbyist photographer in Pennsylvania was excited to participate in the bioblitz and thrilled to be recognized with a second-place Most Unique Species Observed award, consisting of a Visa gift card, Wimberly Plamp and Plamp stake.

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Showcase 2021 Winner: Jeremy Burnham

Photo of a white pelican floating on water with an empty can of Miller High Life beer in its beak. Pelican Not "Living the High Life,"  Baton Rouge, Louisiana 2021 Showcase, Judges’ Choice, Conservation © Jeremey Burnham
Pelican Not “Living the High Life,” Baton Rouge, Louisiana 2021 Showcase, Judges’ Choice, Conservation © Jeremy Burnham

Editor’s note: Profiles of Showcase Top 24 photographers, along with their how-I-got-the-shot stories, are typically published on this blog between January and June of each year. But 2021 continues to be anything but typical, and Jeremy Burnham’s 2021 Showcase Judges’ Choice winning image was unexpectedly delayed. We’re thrilled to share his story with you today and will seize the occasion to remind readers that a profile like this on NANPA’s blog is one of the publicity benefits offered to Showcase Top 24 winners. It’s one of many reasons you might want to enter the 2022 Showcase competition. Entries are accepted through 11 p.m. on September 20, 2021. Learn all about it on the Showcase page.

Artist’s statement

This photo is special to me because it evokes emotion. My goal as a photographer is to capture pictures in such a way that the viewer will feel the same thing I feel at the time of the photo. There are some pictures that I think are great as a photographer, but they don’t resonate with others. I could tell immediately after sharing this picture that it evoked the kind of emotion in others that would help facilitate positive change. It has been used by conservationists throughout Louisiana to help clean up our stormwater collection system and bring attention to our litter and pollution problems.

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Photographing Pikas: A Life Above the Clouds

Photo of a pika standing up and grabbing leaves from a large plant. An American pika chooses which leaves look the tastiest in his subalpine home. In very cold areas, pika live in the subalpine, where plants are very abundant and much larger than up high. © Deidre Rosenberg
An American pika chooses which leaves look the tastiest in his subalpine home. In very cold areas, pika live in the subalpine, where plants are very abundant and much larger than up high. © Deidre Rosenberg

By Deirdre Rosenberg

There are many wondrous and surreal ecosystems on this planet: landscapes that take your breath away and make you feel small in the best kind of way, areas that we feel called to. For me, it’s all about the alpine environment. As a small child, I was immersed in the land that exists above the clouds and that’s where my heart and soul still reside. My fascination and passion for these harsh places has informed much of my life and career. Today, I am excited to share some information, a few photos, and some of my concerns about one of my very favorite alpine residents: the American pika.

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Get Your Story Out There featuring Morgan Heim

The Nature Photographer episode #18 on Wild & Exposed podcast

Image from conservation and adventure film Deer 139 © Morgan Heim

Conservation photographer and filmmaker Morgan Heim knows how to tell a story. It might take climbing 25 feet up the Astoria-Megler Bridge at slack tide to attach two time lapse cameras over the Columbia River—known as “the Graveyard of the Pacific”—or following a mule deer on an 85-mile migratory path over the Wyoming Range and Salt River Range, but getting the story and getting it out into the world are two of Morgan’s specialties. The keys, she tells co-hosts Dawn Wilson, Michael Mauro, Ron Hayes, and Jason Loftus, include finding the collaborators who can do what you can’t and building buy-in for yourself as an individual, not just the product you’re trying to produce. Learn more about her conservation filmmaking class, her “half-assed ideas” notebook, and the double-crested cormorants project that she’s working on now. 

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Documenting Pando, the World’s Largest Tree

A close up image of one Pando’s 40,000 branches as autumn advances across the 9,000 foot high Fishlake Basin in Central Utah. Photo credit: Lance Oditt / Friends of Pando
A close up image on of one Pando’s 40,000 branches as autumn advances across the 9,000 foot high Fishlake Basin in Central Utah. Photo credit: Lance Oditt / Friends of Pando

by Lance Oditt

Pando (and the superlative imagination)

High in a mountain basin in central Utah, where the Colorado Plateau meets the Basin and Range provinces, stands a recent discovery, the world’s largest tree and largest living organism, Pando, an aspen clone comprised of over 40,000 genetically identical branches that span across 106 acres of the Fishlake National Forest. For those who enjoy the math of superlative subjects; Pando’s estimated dry weight of 13.2 million pounds makes it three times larger than the largest Redwood.  An internet search for largest living organism may yield the “Humungous Fungus” of Oregon, which is larger by area, but weighs a mere 820,000 lbs. Above ground, where Pando’s branches explode into dendritic patterns that reach some 80 feet into the sky, research indicates Pando’s land mass absorbs enough solar energy to power 70,000 homes a year.

Shifting away from facts and toward superlatives of fiction, claims that Pando is 40,000 or even 80,000 years old are simply false, since the land Pando calls home was covered in a glacier till at least 12,000 years ago. What’s more, a “long-lived” branch of Pando, which appears to the untrained eye as a single trunk, rarely lives more than 150 years old. Complicating matters, the tree’s rapid regeneration from the its massive interconnected root system, means that no part of the “original” tree remains that we can reliably age. Although the individual stems of the giant tree are shaped by their immediate environment as they grow, aesthetics aside, the Pando that is, is the Pando that always has been. If this seems underwhelming, I encourage you to visit the Bristlecone’s of California’s remote White Mountains who live over 5,000 years. What’s more, keep in mind Pando lives on recreation land and what we learn from Pando and how we manage it, will profoundly shape our approach to understanding aspen the world over. This matters, as aspen are a keystone species across the northern hemisphere from the edge of the Colorado plateau to the arctic circle.

An aerial view of Pando showing the boundaries of the 106 acre tree in bright green. Photo credit: Lance Oditt / Friends of Pando
An aerial view of Pando showing the boundaries of the 106 acre tree in bright green. Photo credit: Lance Oditt / Friends of Pando

Pando: Unseen and Seen

A master of coordination, Pando balances the seasons of its life, energy production, defense and regeneration on a massive scale, a fact that made its discovery possible. Acting as a singular system distinct from surrounding trees, in the spring, Pando sends an explosion of bright green leaves across its expanse and in autumn, those leaves change virtually at once.

Despite the fact we have archeologic evidence of human use of the land Pando calls home going back 10,000 years, it wasn’t until the 1960s that botanists Burton Barnes and Jerry Kemperman, who were researching clones, identified the Pando as a single organism. In a 1976 paper, they identified the clone as one of many clones observed through aerial and ground observations. Observations which would go unnoticed until the 1990’s when a group led by Michael Grant, confirmed their research and named the tree, “Pando” which is Latin, for “I spread”. It would take another 15 years and advances in genetic testing methods until Pando was definitively verified by researchers Jennifer DeWoody, Carol Rowe, Valerie Hipkins and Karen Mock. Although it may be hard to believe something so large could escape observation for so long, the fact that Pando is male and thus, only produces pollen and no flowers, also means that the traditional modes of botanical study based on weather patterns, migrations, pollination, and observation of flowers simply could not reveal Pando’s nature. Save a very short window of time in spring and a short moment in fall, Pando is invisible to the untrained eye.

It cannot be understated that Pando’s discovery came about because of novel approaches to aesthetics and connecting the seen and unseen. These approaches have inspired my work documenting the Pando over the past five years and moved me to develop photographic methods and models to create the first comprehensive photographic survey of the tree; a survey that will capture over 8,000 locations using 360-degree cameras and satellite-based location systems. An effort that will involve a crew of 20 citizen scientists working 8 hours a day for 9 days to complete. A baseline document created in such a way that it may be replicated by the next generation of scientists. A vital record we will make freely available for study as scientists have found evidence that Pando is in a season of decline due to human land use policies put in place before its discovery.

Night photo looking up at aspens reaching for the sky. A summer night shot of Pando shimmering in the moonlight. Pando’s bark contains chlorophyll allowing it to photosynthesize without leaves or even, in low light conditions. Photo credit: Lance Oditt / Friends of Pando
A summer night shot of Pando shimmering in the moonlight. Pando’s bark contains chlorophyll allowing it to photosynthesize without leaves or even, in low light conditions. Photo credit: Lance Oditt / Friends of Pando

Pando in the ethnosphere

Trees have been a favored subject in photography since the advent of the camera, something many people are surprised to learn in workshops I give. William Henry Fox Talbot’s 1842 “Oak Tree in Winter” is a study in both landscape and the technical limitations of his invention; as early cameras lacked precise shutter or exposure controls making static subjects like trees, preferrable. Since those early days, trees have been a celebrated subject in nearly every aesthetic movement in art and photography since Talbot’s invention. Gustave Le Gray and Eugene Cuvelier’s works capturing the Fontainebleau. The visual herbariums of Blossfeldt and, the dark meditations of Alvin Langdon Coburn. Man Ray in Sequoia and Herbert’s Bayer’s aspen photomontages. Edward Weston’s straight Willow Tree and Eliot Porters color rhapsodies. The New Topographers. The luminous celebrations of Irene Kung and Cédric Pollet and the poetic exhortations of John Sexton and Ryan J. Bush. On larger scales, meditations on space by Myoung Ho Lee and the masterworks of Clyde Butcher and James Balog. When Herman Hesse said “Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is.” it is not hard to see how trees have sustained focus in nearly every creative movement of the last two centuries. In the conceptual layer of life defined by human consciousness and imagination, what anthropologist Wade Davis calls the ethnosphere, trees are a constant and profound companion. They mediate the space between ground and sky and shape the light and land by which, nearly every human moment is framed.  

Not only a favored subject of photography, trees are also ubiquitous in the antecedents of modern-day virtual reality including painterly illusions, panoramas and stereograms. From the room sized Villa Livia featuring Oak, Cypress and Oleander dating to 20 B.C., to modern times, immersive storytelling is replete with trees. Trees, as visceral subjects such as those found in Marshmallow Laser Feasts’ immersive multimedia exploration of Redwood trees Treehugger: Wawona. Trees as tangible, in the computer-generated work TreeSense, by Milica Zec and Winslow Porter. Trees, center-stage in human stories of transformation like that found in the award-winning 360 film, Tree Huggers. Trees, a subject renewed by a new generation of artists who seek to experience, know and re-imagine the spaces between earth and sky. Works that provided a foundation and guideposts for Friends of Pando’s work documenting Pando in 360-degrees and which helped us garner support and funding, to transcribing Pando’s land mass on to other physical and conceptual spaces so that people can experience Pando’s scale and learn about the challenges before us as its stewards, while they do.

Coda

In the next installment of this three-part series, I will explore my work developing photographic models to capture the Pando and the broad collaboration involved in making the survey and the virtual Pando possible. The formation of Friends of Pando and the larger collective of scientists, community leaders, volunteers and forest rangers working in southern Utah to realize the project. Last but not least, the enthusiasm of students and volunteers from art, design and natural sciences backgrounds eager to take part. In the meantime, if you would like to learn more about Pando and how you can support our work, please visit friendsofpando.org.

Lance Oditt is a fine art and documentary photographer based in Seattle, Washington. Lance is the Lead Photographer for the Pando Photographic Survey. In addition to this work, Lance is the Photographer-at-Large for the Western Aspen Alliance and Executive Director of Accessibility for Quiet Parks International. His work documenting the endangered Pando Tree has appeared in Digital Photographer, Professional Photographers of America, Discover Magazine, PBS Newshour, The New York Times, Topos Magazine and Nature. His photographic works have been shown at Microsoft (Redmond, WA), the APA San Francisco’s “Something Personal” exhibit (2018) and have been commended and shown online by the National Forest Foundation. You can follow Lance’s journey and learn more about his conservation work on Instagram @studio4760north or, his studio website studio4760north.com and drop him a line.

Giving Pause featuring Clay Bolt

The Nature Photographer episode #14 on Wild & Exposed podcast

Fuzzy-horned bumble bee (Bombus mixtus), Idaho © Clay Bolt

Conservation photographer Clay Bolt tells Dawn Wilson, Ron Hayes, and Mark Raycroft how he learned about the rusty-patched bumble bee and why he got involved in efforts to get it added to the Endangered Species list. Find out how this bee stopped the Atlantic Coast pipeline, what you can do in your own community to support native pollinators, and which SNL Weekend Update joke hit close to home for Clay. Plus, hear what happened when Clay and Eli Wyman went to Indonesia in search of Wallace’s giant bee—a species that hadn’t been seen in more than 35 years—and why your mobile phone may be the best conservation tool around. 

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Nature Photography Day Is Coming

Nature Photography Day Graphic
Click to download a Nature Photography Day flyer to display or share.

By Frank Gallagher, NANPA Blog Coordinator

June 15 is Nature Photography Day, a time to promote the enjoyment of nature photography and to reflect on how photos can be used to further the cause of conservation. NANPA celebrated the first Nature Photography Day (NPD) back in 2006 and, over the past 15 years, there have been many ways the day has been observed—not just in North America but across the globe as well.

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Showcase 2021 Winner: Jeremy Burnham

Photo of a pelican floating in the water with a beer can in its beak. Pelican Not "Living the High Life,"  Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Showcase 2021 Judges’ Choice, Conservation © Jeremy Burnham
Pelican Not “Living the High Life,” Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Showcase 2021 Judges’ Choice, Conservation © Jeremy Burnham

Artist’s statement

This photo is special to me because it evokes emotion. My goal as a photographer is to capture pictures in such a way that the viewer will feel the same thing I feel at the time of the photo. There are some pictures that I think are great as a photographer, but they don’t resonate with others. I could tell immediately after sharing this picture that it evoked the kind of emotion in others that would help facilitate positive change. It has been used by conservationists throughout Louisiana to help clean up our stormwater collection system and bring attention to our litter and pollution problems.

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Conservation Kids

Photo of a group of young conservation photographers in the making on a Conservation Kids outing. © Daniel Dietrich
A group of young conservation photographers in the making on a Conservation Kids outing. © Daniel Dietrich

By Frank Gallagher, NANPA Blog Coordinator

Today’s young people will become tomorrow’s conservationists and nature photographers if, and maybe only if, they are able to get out and experience the wonders of nature. They’ll be the ones whose dollars keep camera companies innovating, whose votes protect the wild and beautiful, and whose vision and aesthetics take photography in exciting new directions if they learn to appreciate our precious natural world. But too many young people don’t have easy access to wild places and aren’t getting the transformative experiences that will inspire them to take up the challenges of documenting, advocating for, and protecting nature. That dilemma inspired Daniel Dietrich to create Conservation Kids.

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