During 2020 and the COVID-19 quarantines, many of us took the time to think about what is important to us and what truly makes us happy. I am just one of the many people who did some self-reflection and now view my life with a new and different perspective. Like most of us, I realized that we don’t need to travel far to enjoy nature’s beauty. It took a pandemic to show me that beauty is also in my backyard or in a small county park close to me. Before COVID-19, I didn’t really see the beauty that surrounded me or, perhaps, took it for granted. COVID-19 showed me that many different bird species visit my backyard and that the species sometimes change with the seasons; that a wide variety of flowers bloom in my community; and that there are several local animal species that I have overlooked for the past 15 years that I’ve resided in New Jersey.
Well, 2020 is finally in the rear-view mirror. Assaulted by a non-stop barrage of civil unrest, lifestyle changes, political uncertainty, economic hardships, and devastating heartaches, it was year none of us will soon forget – no matter how hard we may try! It was a struggle just to maintain one’s sanity in the midst of such utter chaos. The toilet paper shortage alone could easily have caused even the calmest of individuals to lose their composure. As a photographer, that got me thinking. Although, at times, certain situations may make it hard for you to properly compose yourself, you always have total control over how you compose your photographs.
A friend of mine once showed me a movie trailer on YouTube for a foreign-made film called “B-14.” It’s about rival drug gangs, featuring an assassin with superhuman powers. To say that the special effects are ridiculously over-the-top would be an extreme understatement! This movie wasn’t meant to be funny, but I laughed more during this 1-minute trailer than I have during some 2-hour actual comedies. It seemed as though the producers just discovered special effects the night before and were determined to use all of them in this film – no matter how poorly executed, or whether the scene called for them or not. But what about special effects in photos of nature?
Lensbabies are award-winning creative-effects lenses, optics and accessories that allow us to see things differently, more creatively and help us get in touch with our artistic sides. I particularly like using Lensbabies for flower photography and would like to share some of my favorite photos and tips.
NANPA has been celebrating Nature Photography Day on June 15 every year for 15 years, to promote the enjoyment of nature photography and increase awareness of the role images play in promoting conservation and protecting plants, wildlife, and landscapes. Enthusiasm for Nature Photography Day continues to grow worldwide.
Flowers have long been a subject of study within the art world and many photographers feature them in their images. Landscapers look for floral details to bring pops of color to their grand landscape images. Portrait photographers often use flowers to set the seasonal tone. Wildlife photographers understand that flowers also provide a food source for insects and birds while providing a nice background for their subjects.
But when was the last time you took a flower, in and of itself, as the full subject of your frame? When did you spend time approaching that flower as you would a landscape or animal subject when looking for compositions? When was the last time you took an hour with a flower?
If you can’t easily answer that question, now is the perfect time to try this photography challenge. Not only will it provide you with something to photograph, but it will have you thinking outside the box in ways that can be used with other subjects. If your pre-COVID-19 compositions were mostly wide angle or telephoto images, this exercise can help you focus on seeing all the details.
Our headlights cut through the darkness as we wind down the Blue Star Memorial Highway through the Lapanza Range of mountains. Just before nautical twilight ascends onto the earth, we pull into the parking area marked with an old vintage American water pump windmill. It’s good to have a landmark for our location. Out of the blackness, barely visible to the naked eye, carpets of Gold Fields speckled with Tidy Tips and patches of Baby Blue Eyes, glisten with the newly-dropped dew. Arriving 30 minutes before the scheduled meet up time, Bob and I set up and prepare to greet the members of our 367 strong NANPA Meetup Group of the Central Coast of California. Usually we have about 40 people RSVP, around 30 will actually make an event. Goodness knows what we would do if all 367 members showed up. Today we are gathering to photograph the wildflowers along Highway 58 and Carrizo Plain super bloom. Distant headlights begin to appear down Highway 58 coming in our direction. Members are beginning to show, and soon our meet up will begin.
Life is unpredictable. One day, it can be business as usual, and the next day everything can be turned upside down. The Coronavirus, or COVID-19, outbreak has effectively done just that. Whether only slightly, or dramatically, all of our lives have been changed. At the time of this writing, only a few major US cities have been placed under total lockdown. Here in New York City, although still open, for all intents and purposes, it’s basically shut down. Walking around town is like being on the set of an apocalyptic movie. Many people are working from home and most businesses are shuttered – replacing the normal hustle and bustle with an eerie stillness and silence. The New York Botanical Garden – my oasis for nature photography – has been closed until further notice. I was looking forward to trying out some new techniques on their spring collection, but that will obviously have to be put on hold. It occurred to me that as more places are put on lockdown, many people may not be able to leave their homes for the luxury of engaging in nature photography. I was in the process of putting together an article about photographing spring flowers. But, due to the current situation, I decided to set it aside for now and write something a bit more poignant.
Story and photos by Tom Haxby, NANPA Board President
In my opinion there is nothing more wonderful for a nature photographer than to welcome spring in the southern Appalachian Mountains. Local and migrating birds are singing, blooming wildflowers are everywhere, waterfalls abound, and night skies on the Blue Ridge Parkway are amazing.
An unprecedented number of field events—combined with the kind of classroom sessions and vendor demonstrations you’ve come to expect of NANPA’s big signature events—are what make the 2020 Nature Photography Celebration in Asheville, North Carolina, special.
As you may already know, this year’s Celebration features six distinct educational tracks: night photography, birds, landscapes/scenics, flowers, fine art, and conservation. You can attend all of the workshops and field events in one track for deeper understanding of that area, or mix and mingle between tracks for a broader, more general experience of nature photography.
But what I’m most excited about is the field trips. If you’re like me and learn best when the camera’s actually in your hands, then Celebration is for you.