Not all conservation photographs are taken for the same reasons and purposes. Your particular goal will determine what sort of approach you use for each shot.
Story and photos by Dave Huth
When people learn I’m a “conservation photographer,” they may form many different ideas about what my pictures look like.
No matter what they’re thinking, they’re probably right!
Photography can support the work of conservation in many different ways. Each makes good use of a certain kind of photograph. When I’m in the field, I try to keep in mind the particular ways my pictures might meet a conservation goal — and I set up my shots accordingly.
Snow-covered branches frame urban landscape of Central Park, New York, NY.
Story and photos by F. M. Kearney
Making a subject stand out is the primary goal of all photographers. There are a number of ways to accomplish this and your subject matter will usually dictate the best method. Common techniques may include special lighting, subject placement, extreme angles or contrasting colors. If you delve into the world of digital imaging, your choices will be virtually unlimited. But, if you prefer to keep your images looking as natural as possible, you may want to stick with the in-camera methods.
One of my favorite ways to highlight a subject is to place it within a natural frame. This might consist of leaves, flowers, bushes … just about anything nearby that you can find to encircle your subject. In the opening photo above, I used the snow-covered branches to frame the distant buildings in this Central Park winter scene. Besides serving as decorative foreground elements, they were a great way to cover up the dead space of a white, featureless sky.
The Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project interviews NANPA member Cindy Miller Hopkins.
What’s so special about a photo of five penguins? You could get that at a local zoo. Certainly, during NANPA member and travel and photographer Cindy Miller Hopkin’s trip last year to the far reaches of the South Atlantic, she had plenty of photos of penguins. But one shot, from off the South Sandwich Islands, turned out to be unique.
As she was editing and captioning her shots, Cindy noticed that there were five different species of penguins in one frame. That seemed unusual and she brought it to the attention of an ornithologist on the tour who told her he’d never seen an image with five species in the same place, at the same time. Further research revealed that no one else had either.
At one point or another, most photographers will embark on a personal project. These projects are ways to more deeply explore a personal passion using photography, whether that be documenting how a single location changes throughout a year, looking for variations on a theme, or recording the health and vitality of a species or habitat. Personal projects can be global or local, big or small, and most assuredly will provide a satisfying and challenging addition to your photography arsenal.
At NANPA’s Nature Photography Summit, February 21 – 23, in Las Vegas, you can take a deep dive into all aspects of personal projects. That’s one more reason to register and get yourself (and your gear) to Vegas this month. Sign up before preregistration closes at midnight, Eastern Time, on Monday, February 4th and take advantage of NANPA’s 25th birthday discount! Use promo code “Happy25” for $75 off a member, non-member, or student full Summit registration.
Outstanding Photographer of the Year Florian Schulz.
The Outstanding Photographer of the Year Award goes to an individual who has demonstrated unquestioned skill and excellence as a nature photographer through his or her past work and who has produced extraordinary recent work of significance to the industry. That would be a pretty good description of the career of Florian Schulz, the 2019 Outstanding Photographer of the Year.
Schulz is a photographer, filmmaker, speaker and teacher, specializing in wildlife and conservation photojournalism. He is a Senior Founding Fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers and serves on the iLCS board. He’s been published in publications like National Geographic magazine and is an in-demand speaker.
I was a participant in the 2017 NANPA High School Scholarship Program and spent a week in the Great Smoky Mountains working with some incredible mentors, broadening my interests in photography and learning from some very talented kids my age as well.
This program was a turning point for me–it showed me just how much I want to inspire the younger generation to learn more about conservation and photography. Working with and learning from 9 other students from across the country was not what I expected it to be. I had assumed we would all stick to the certain aspects of photography we were comfortable with, but instead we all motivated each other to try a little bit of everything.
During that week in the Smokies, I got to experiment with flash and night photography and use some of the cameras, lenses, and flashes that Canon sent to as loaners. I now have knowledge of the settings to use for star and night photography, something that will definitely come in handy for me in the future. We also hiked out to a waterfall and attempted slow motion waterfall photos to capture the blur of the water. Using the loaner flashes, we also found little salamanders and toads and used white backgrounds for the “Meet Your Neighbors” technique that Andrew Snyder, one of the mentors, taught us. Some of the kids were so in love with this new technique, it was all they did!
Do you know a talented young nature photographer? NANPA’s High School Scholarship Program is seeking 10 high school student photographers to attend a five-day field event where they can learn from the industry’s top shooters. Apply now for this immersive, hands-on education program to be held in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park July 1–6, 2019. Combining classroom and field-based instruction, students will have the chance to improve their nature photography skills, learn about NANPA, meet industry professionals, and gain an appreciation of the Smoky Mountains’ rich natural history. The last day to apply is January 31, 2019, so don’t wait. Apply now!
A great online course offers something bigger than technical knowledge: it offers time hanging out with YOU. It offers the chance to experience your world, to join you in the field, to see, first-hand, your unique approach to the photography process. Here, filmmaker Peter Hoffman is on assignment in California.
Story and photos by Kika Tuff
The world of online education is a new frontier for nature photographers and one that can be quite lucrative. But making money isn’t as simple as building an amazing course and setting it free on the internet. Plenty of thoughtful, well-designed courses go undiscovered every day.
So, before you invest your time and energy into building a course, I wanted to offer some ideas on how to ensure you don’t get lost in the ocean of internet content.
Lou Nettelhorst will receive one of NANPA’s 2019 Fellow Awards. This award is presented to members who have made significant contributions to the professional nature photography industry over a period of at least 20 years.
Nettelhorst is a widely-published nature and fine art photographer. The awards committee noted that, “for eight years, he led the NANPA’s high school scholarship committee, in essence establishing the efficient way the committee continues to work today. Lou shares his talent through community college courses, field trips, presentations and nationwide workshops and private instruction.”
Still debating whether you should come to NANPA’s Nature Photography Summit and Trade Show, February 21-23 in Las Vegas? Here are five compelling reasons to pull out your credit card and start making reservations. And, hey, there’s still time to get pre-conference pricing . . . but only ‘till midnight, Sunday, January 20th.
White-cheeked gibbon (Nomascus leucogenys) seen through bars, dangles from the door frame of his enclosure evoking a sense of frustration, boredom, loneliness at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Story & photo by Haley R. Pope
Most of what makes a wildlife photograph great is the photographer’s ability to get inside the head of the animal and show the world through their eyes. What are they thinking? How do they see their environment? How do they see us? What is their story? In other words, a photographer needs to create an emotional connection to the subject or elicit an emotional response in the viewer. Emotion creates a layer of dimensionality that help us suspend judgments and see honestly.
The rest of what makes a great photograph is the photographer’s ability to correctly, and technically, control the camera so as to represent the scene as one saw and felt it. How am I going to tell the story? What landscape elements should I include? Do I need a shallow or wide depth of field? Should I over or underexpose the shot? How fast should I set my shutter speed? Do I have enough lighting? Where should I physically be positioned? These questions should be in your mind as you think about how to communicate your message and how to set yourself up to create your photo.
The two questions I ask myself before and during every photo shoot is: 1) what story do I want to tell and 2) how am I going to craft my image so the story is clear to viewers?
A Day at the Zoo
I have never been a fan of zoos, but on a warm day in June I decided to go. After I arrived, it wasn’t difficult to decide what story to tell. I wanted to tell the story of what it’s like to be locked up against one’s will. I wanted us to put ourselves in the animal’s shoes, so to speak, so I needed the emotional connection to be strong and our similarities to be obvious. I wanted us to consider what role we should play in other animals’ lives and whether or not there is even a need for animal exhibits like zoos.
As I passed through each exhibit and looked at the faces and body language of the animals inside, I was overcome with emotions of loneliness, sadness, boredom, and frustration; emotions I felt emanating from the animals themselves. Emerging from the kangaroo exhibit, I crossed the paved walkway and entered the primate center. No animal that day seemed to express the story so noticeably or poignantly than the white-cheeked gibbon. I knew this is where I would find my shot.
I watched the male gibbon for several minutes without picking up my camera and took note of his environment and behavior. I noticed whether the gibbon made eye contact with me and how he moved around the space. Then I circled the enclosure while thinking about how I’d like to compose the shot. What elements will help drive home my message and how I should represent the being inside?
I decided to include the metal bars of the enclosure as a frame for my subject since that’s exactly what they are. I also wanted to include both man-made and natural elements to provide context and juxtaposition. Focusing on the gibbon’s body language would illustrate both how similar our bodies are and how misplaced his own seems in contrast to the surrounding concrete and metal.
At one point, the gibbon stood up from where he sat and walked towards the interior door. With his back to me, he dangled from the door by its hinges and swayed back in forth in the characteristic way of under-stimulated animals. This was it. I raised my camera and snapped the shot. But I felt guilty as I turned and left him, embarrassed that I could just walk away while he stayed there, hanging and swaying.
Nature photographers don’t typically strive to capture disturbing situations. We want to show how beautiful the natural world is, in its raw form, and how we are all connected. But that is only half the story. If we never represent the other side of reality, we can become passive and complacent. I wanted to capture the other side of reality during my zoo visit. Because all animals are part of nature and zoos are not filled with happy carefree animals. They are filled with captives.
Haley R. Pope is a zoologist and conservationist with a passion for photography and writing. She uses those mediums to explore wildlife conservation topics and share biological knowledge in a visual story-like format to inspire awe of our planet’s inherent beauty and encourage the responsible treatment of nature. As the president and owner of TerraLens Photography LLC, she offers freelance photography, writing, and photo archiving services to other companies.
Haley is also a trip leader for Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village program, which operates in more than 40 countries and builds houses for those in need. In the future, she’d like to lead ecological and photography focused trips. Connect with her below!