Young Photographers to Follow: Justina Martelli

Photo of mother bird flying down to branch where her young are waiting © Justina Martelli
I vividly remember encountering these six young barn swallows under the blue skies of Ithaca, New York. The cattails that surrounded the pond were dancing with the wind. In a heartbeat, a pair of majestic wings crashed into the scene, causing a beautiful blur of rusty orange feathers. It was the curious eyes twinkling under the sun through the parent’s perspective, as it dove and kissed its young ones, regurgitating the wings of a crunchy blue damselfly. In another heartbeat, she was gone. The younglings fluffed and stretched as they smirked at their own begging performances. Now and then, they would turn to look at me in wonder. This moment was among the greatest photography experiences of my life. © Justina Martelli

Interviewed by Frank Gallagher, NANPA Blog Coordinator

Like most of us, Justina Martelli was not expecting 2020 to turn out like it has. She had been chosen as one of NANPA Foundation’s High School Scholarship Program participants and was looking forward to a week at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, immersed in nature photography with NANPA instructors and other participants. Instead, the coronavirus outbreak forced the cancellation of that event. Justina did not let the global pandemic stop her from achieving her goals.

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Young Photographers to Follow: Ryan Reynolds

Interviewed by Frank Gallagher, NANPA Blog Coordinator

Ryan Reynolds has lived in South Korea, Thailand, and Ukraine (his parents work for the US State Department). Currently, he’s back in the US and attending the University of Portland. His photography journey began when he was nine years old and living in South Korea. He had a little point-and-shoot camera and used to take photos walking home from soccer practice just outside an army base there. He loved framing helicopters above apartment buildings as the sun set.

Photo of helicopters flying over Seoul skyline at dusk. “Sunset in Seoul” - South Korea, 2013 © Ryan Reynolds
“Sunset in Seoul” – South Korea, 2013 © Ryan Reynolds

Ryan’s grandparents are both landscape and wildlife photographers and he’s always been fascinated by the images they create. His initial interest in photography comes partly from them and partly from his life-long interest in and enjoyment of nature. At first, getting outside was the draw and photography was a byproduct. Now, photography is a reason to go out into nature. “Almost every weekend, I’m out with my photography friends,” he says. “I do it because I love it.” Ryan enjoys most genres of photography, but his favorite images to make are long-exposure shots at night, when he does light painting or takes pictures of the stars.

“Polaris” - A single 20 minute exposure centered on the north star © Ryan Reynolds
“Polaris” – A single 20 minute exposure centered on the north star © Ryan Reynolds

He really got into photography while in Ukraine. He took photography courses, watched a lot of YouTube videos on photography techniques and started doing photography for his school yearbook. He also had the opportunity to photograph concerts at a large performance hall and some of his photos were chosen for exhibitions in Kyiv. Eventually, he branched out and started making portraits, starting a small portrait and event photography business. Ryan’s most meaningful memory in Ukraine occurred while he was a Boy Scout there. A part of attaining the rank of Eagle Scout is to plan, develop, and lead a service project. Ryan’s project was doing family photo shoots of internally-displaced persons who had fled their homes in eastern Ukraine during the conflict between the government in Kyiv and Russian-backed separatists. He had to raise funds for printing and framing the photos and arrange visits to places where the refugees were learning English. Ryan says that it hardly felt like work because he was helping people and doing what he enjoyed. It was really moving to see the families’ reactions when he delivered the framed photos.

Backlit photo of young man playing a guitar in concert. “The Guitarist” - Taken at a Scream Inc. concert in Kyiv, Ukraine © Ryan Reynolds
“The Guitarist” – Taken at a Scream Inc. concert in Kyiv, Ukraine © Ryan Reynolds

His times in Asia rank among his favorite. “It’s just amazing there,” he says. “I have to go back.” He told us about one particularly memorable experience during a camping trip in Chiang Mai, Thailand, when he stumbled upon a hidden canyon. He had been out hiking when he leaned up against a tree and his hand was immediately covered by a swarm of weaver ants. He jumped, lost his footing, and slid/ran/stumbled down the side of a hill into this canyon. “It was midday and the bright light made visible every small sapling, every thriving piece of carpet moss, every leaf. I was surrounded by vivid shades of greens and browns. It was like I was in the midst of a painting.”

Today, the coronavirus continues to disrupt Ryan’s plans. He had hoped to earn some extra income while in college by running a small event and portrait business, but the pandemic has made that difficult. He did, however, land a job as a photographer for the university newspaper. Ryan has also gotten several chances to explore and photograph different parts of Oregon.

A view of Mt. Hood from Trillium Lake (left). Sunset at Yaquina Head Lighthouse (right). © Ryan Reynolds
A view of Mt. Hood from Trillium Lake (left). Sunset at Yaquina Head Lighthouse (right). © Ryan Reynolds

At the University of Portland, he’s an Environmental Science major hoping to eventually work in ecological research and conservation. Ryan is also in the Army ROTC program and expects to go into the army after college. Will photography continue to be important? Ryan says, “I hope it’s more than just a hobby. I definitely think I’ll always be interested in and passionate about photography.”

To see more of Ryan’s photos, follow him on Instagram @theryan_reynolds or Facebook at theryanreynolds

Young Photographers to Follow: Kinley Bollinger

Photo of a snowy scene in Yellowstone with a path winding through the trees. © Kinley Bollinger
The Beauty of Solitude © Kinley Bollinger

Interviewed by Frank Gallagher, NANPA Blog Coordinator

Kinley Bollinger received one of the NANPA Foundation’s 2020 High School Scholarships. That was supposed to include an immersive nature photography experience at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont in Townsend, Tennessee, in June, but the coronavirus pandemic had other ideas and the trip never happened. Kinley, like the other scholarship recipients, is a talented photographer already and a young photographer we should be watching. I spoke with her last month.

Kinley lives in Wyoming, where she is a high school junior. She’s been interested in photography since sixth grade and enjoys combining her love of the outdoors with nature photography. She captured first place in the landscape category of the 2019 Nature Conservancy’s Wyoming “I Believe in Conservation” Photo Contest for high school students and first place in the wildlife category in 2020. Kinley has received honorable mentions in several other photo competitions and had her images printed in magazines and calendars.

Developing an artistic vision

As a result of the pandemic restrictions, she’s had more time to be at home and explore the landscapes and wilderness areas nearby. Bollinger learned a lot of what she knows about cameras and photography by just playing around with her gear, trying things, seeing what happened. When she had questions, she’d look it up online or on YouTube. There’s a video to answer almost any query. Kinley also gives a lot of credit to having great mentors—the teachers at her school, other photographers, her parents. There’s so much you can learn from studying others’ photos, she says, not to mimic or copy, but to understand what they did. That understanding is critical in developing your own style and vision.

Kinley’s artistic vision is also shaped by her interest in painting, pottery, and drawing. “Art, in any form, is all connected at some level, from painting to performing arts to photography. It’s taking ideas and thoughts and putting them out there, on paper, in music or through a photo.”

She says that “photography is one of the only places I can lose myself. When I’m taking a photo, that’s all that matters. The stress of life leaves my brain for a moment. I can find peace.” Music comes a close second. She plays drums, piano and cello and, perhaps to balance the quiet of being out in the forest with a camera, Kinley is the drum captain at her school, in charge of running a drum line of 12 boys. As much as she likes the solitude of being out in nature with a camera, she also loves meeting other photographers because, she says, you have an instant connection with each other and so much in common.

"The Crossing" a photo of a bison crossing a river  ©  Kinley Bollinger
The Crossing © Kinley Bollinger

Photography and conservation

She is interested in the conservation and preservation of wild places. During eighth grade, she was part of a group of students who did an outdoor education program called Expedition Yellowstone during which they stayed in a field study station near Mammoth while learning about the ecosystem and thermal system of Yellowstone. They also investigated how human activity impacts the park and how people can help preserve and protect this great national treasure.

She is on the youth advisory commission of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West museum complex in Cody, a Smithsonian affiliate, trying to boost the number of young visitors, which has been declining. In addition, she is participating in the Earth Optimism Project, a youth-led, nationwide dialog about conservation and sustainability where young people come up with and present to the Smithsonian ideas for projects and applications for micro grants.

Conservation is a big issue among young people, she says, and they have a heightened sense of urgency about it. Her generation is seeing big environmental changes and how those are impacting plant, animal, and human life. Her friends and peers are doing what they can, working on recycling at school and adding their voices to a national conversation on conservation. Kinley knows photographs can have an impact, but it’s harder for young people to see themselves in nature or conservation photography. Most of the photo contests require photographers to be at least 18 years of age. Most of the well-known conservation and nature photographers and potential role models are older. But that’s also where the NANPA Foundations’ High School Scholarship Program has helped. Kinley has seen the work of past participants and follows some, like Ashley Scully.

Long-term plans

When asked what she’d tell other young people thinking about getting involved in nature photography, Kinley doesn’t hesitate to say “there are lots of benefits to doing it, even if it’s just for fun. You can do photography and still be in school, play sports or music, hang out with friends. It doesn’t need to be a career choice or a full-time job. Even as a hobby you can have fun and make a difference.”

While becoming a physician is her ultimate goal, Kinley says “I know that, no matter what career field I’m in I will always take photos and continue spreading environmental awareness. Photography isn’t just a hobby for me, it’s my form of expression and how I escape from everything else. It’s allowed me to gain confidence and be proud of the work I do, and that is life changing.”

We look forward to seeing what Kinley Bollinger will accomplish in the future. You can see her work and follow her via:

Her website:
Her Instagram: @wyo_photography

Wanted: Future Nature Photographers

Students at work during Photo from 2019 High School Scholarship Program at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont. © Tom Haxby.
Photo from 2019 High School Scholarship Program at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont. © Tom Haxby.

By NANPA President Tom Haxby

Do you know a high school student who will be between the age of 14-19 and a rising sophomore, junior or senior during the dates of July 6-11, 2020, who might be interested in exploring nature through nature photography while having fun too? Perhaps this might be one of your children, grandchildren or even a non-relative.

Please consider encouraging eligible students to apply to the NANPA High School Photography Scholarship Program in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP). Applications are available at and must be submitted online by January 31, 2020.

If you know an educator who might interact with interested students, please inform them of this program. You can download a flyer to share.

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From the President – Don Carter

NANPA President Don Carter

One of the great things that I get to do as president of NANPA is work with our High School and College Scholarship Program students. During the Summit event, college students work with a client on a multimedia project; they also meet NANPA members and participate in Summit activities. Over the past several years they have produced projects for the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the North Florida Land Trust.

During the summer NANPA brings the high school students to the Great Smoky Mountain Institute at Tremont. This past year all of the NANPA instructors for the high school group were themselves past college participants.

These students are the future of NANPA; they will be our Board of Directors, committee chairs and volunteers. One of these past scholarship winners serves on the current Board. The NANPA Foundation raises the funds for these two programs and the majority of the donations come from our members. We all have lots of activities to attend with families and friends over the holidays but I hope each of you can donate $5.00 to the Foundation. These donations will help NANPA introduce these young photographers to all of the things we hold in high regard–nature photography, education, and being an ethical photographer in the field.

Susan Day, our executive director, wrote about the coming Nature Celebration in Jackson, WY, May 20 – 22, 2018 in her last newsletter column. I want to remind everyone about the presence of Canon, Fujifilm, Olympus, Panasonic, Sigma, and Tamron at the Celebration and that they will be lending the participants gear to be used out in the field. It’s not often we will have access to so many cameras and lenses to use especially in such a beautiful location. Our presentations will be held at the Jackson Center for the Arts, a 500-seat theater located just off the center of downtown Jackson. We have a great line-up of speakers who will be making “Ted Talk” style presentations. I’m really excited about hearing the presentation by Dennis Jorgensen titled “Buffalo-People: The Path Back for Bison and Plains Tribes,” and Jenny Nichols’ presentation, “The Power of Multi-Disciplinary Projects” among others. Check the schedule to see a listing of all the other wonderful presentations at this event.

If you’re looking for a warm place to photograph this winter, NANPA has one event that still has space available in January—at Lake Hodges in southern California. Registration deadline is December 28th.

During the upcoming year NANPA will be offering several new locations for regional events and workshops. The committee is exploring possible locations along the Oregon coast, Moab, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and Madera Canyon in Arizona. We’ll update you as soon as more information is available.

Wishing you and yours a Festive and Peaceful Holiday Season.

Don Carter, NANPA President




Your Gift in Action

2017 High School Program Participant Hannah Mirando photographs a damselfly during this week’s program. Photo by Andrew Snyder.

You made it happen! The 2017 NANPA High School Scholarship Program concludes today in the Smoky Mountains thanks to your gift to the NANPA Foundation supporting the program. Ten high school students had an intensive week learning about nature, nature photography and the natural history of the Smoky Mountains at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont in Tremont, Tennessee. The students’ best work from the week will be shown at a reception today. Instructors Kika Tuff, Morgan Heim, Andrew Snyder and Don Carter led discussions and presentations on topics for the student participants on topics including:

  • Wildlife and ethics
  • Lightroom and editing courses
  • Shutterspeed and camera settings
  • Rules of composition
  • Ethics of manipulation
  • Camera trapping
  • Insect trapping
  • Editing a portfolio

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Help with $10 and 10 Minutes

By Sean Fitzgerald, NANPA Past President

NANPA High School Scholarship Program at the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in Tennessee, USA.

NANPA High School Scholarship Program at the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in Tennessee, USA. © Gabby Salazar

How You Can Help “Crowdfund” Our High School Program with $10 and 10 Minutes

The NANPA Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that helps fund many NANPA projects we all know and love. One of those is our High School Scholarship Program, which has literally changed the lives of its young participants and helped create future generations of conservation photographers (including one of our past NANPA presidents, Gabby Salazar!). Continue reading