The Grass Is Always Greener

What I Learned during COVID-19

Photo of a small bird, perched on a pine branch, facing the camera. A ferocious looking song sparrow perched on a tree in my front yard. NIKON D7100 at 500 mm, 1/60 second, f/6.3, ISO 100 © Sastry Karra
A ferocious looking song sparrow perched on a tree in my front yard. NIKON D7100 at 500 mm, 1/60 second, f/6.3, ISO 100 © Sastry Karra

By Sastry Karra

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.

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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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Showcase 2021 Winner: Mary Louise Ravese

Close up photo fo lotus blossom seed pod. Lotus Blossom Seed Pod Resembles an Alien Landscape, Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, Washington, D.C., Showcase 2021 Judges’ Choice, Macro/Micro/All Other © Mary Louise Ravese
Lotus Blossom Seed Pod Resembles an Alien Landscape, Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, Washington, D.C., Showcase 2021 Judges’ Choice, Macro/Micro/All Other © Mary Louise Ravese

Artist’s statement

While my intention that day was to photograph one of my favorite flowers, lotus blossoms, I like to keep my mind open to whatever opportunities arise. Lotus blossoms, buds, leaves, and spent seed pods are all things I had photographed many times. But this seed pod was in an in-between state I hadn’t ever noticed before. The surface of the seed head seemed like an alien landscape, or some sort of mythical multi-eyed creature. I was fascinated by the textures and shapes and just had to photograph it, even if it was outside my normal subject matter. By isolating just this portion of the seed pod, I’ve made an abstract interpretation of it, adding a sense of mystery about what it could be.

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Showcase 2021 Winner: Samantha Stephens

Nature’s Pitfall: Carnivorous Northern Pitcher Plant with Captured Juvenile Spotted Salamanders, Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada, Macro/Micro/All Other, 2021 Showcase Best in Category, Macro/Micro/All Other ©  Samantha Stephens
Nature’s Pitfall: Carnivorous Northern Pitcher Plant with Captured Juvenile Spotted Salamanders, Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada, Macro/Micro/All Other, 2021 Showcase Best in Category, Macro/Micro/All Other © Samantha Stephens

Artist’s statement

Northern pitcher plants grow on bog mats where there is no nutrient-rich soil to feed them. As a result, they have evolved to be carnivorous, obtaining nutrients instead through a diet of insects. But researchers at the Algonquin Wildlife Research Station recently discovered that a population of these plants are also regularly capturing a vertebrate prey: juvenile spotted salamanders. Salamanders have long been recognized as important nutrient cyclers that move between aquatic and forest ecosystems, and this discovery reveals that they might be a large source of nutrients for these plants.  I was working at the Algonquin Wildlife Research Station in 2019 as a photojournalist-in-residence when I was able to make this image that visualizes this scientific discovery.

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Weekly Wow! Week of November 23, 2020

Showcase 2020 Top 100 Winner: “Rialto Beach Sunset, Olympic Peninsula, Washington” © Don Larkin
Showcase 2020 Top 100 Winner: “Rialto Beach Sunset, Olympic Peninsula, Washington” © Don Larkin

All of this week’s Weekly Wow! images can be seen in the slideshow on the NANPA homepage at nanpa.org.

The following Showcase images have been selected to appear on the NANPA home page for the week beginning Monday, November 16, 2020.  To view all of the top 250 photographs from NANPA’s 2020 Showcase competition, see the photo gallery on the NANPA website. The 2020 edition of Expressions contains all of the top 250 photos from the Showcase competition as well as interesting and insightful articles. Order your copy here!

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Weekly Wow! Week of November 16, 2020

Waterfall photo. Showcase 2020 Top 100 Winner: “Mysterious Spring Dreams, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania” © Vandana Bajikar
Showcase 2020 Top 100 Winner: “Mysterious Spring Dreams, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania” © Vandana Bajikar

All of this week’s Weekly Wow! images can be seen in the slideshow on the NANPA homepage at nanpa.org.

The following Showcase images have been selected to appear on the NANPA home page for the week beginning Monday, November 16, 2020.  To view all of the top 250 photographs from NANPA’s 2020 Showcase competition, see the photo gallery on the NANPA website. The 2020 edition of Expressions contains all of the top 250 photos from the Showcase competition as well as interesting and insightful articles. Order your copy here!

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Weekly Wow! Week of November 9, 2020

Showcase 2020 Top 100 Winner: “Fluke of a Mother Humpback Whale, Sea of Cortez, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico” © Matthew Meier
Showcase 2020 Top 100 Winner: “Fluke of a Mother Humpback Whale, Sea of Cortez, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico” © Matthew Meier

All of this week’s Weekly Wow! images can be seen in the slideshow on the NANPA homepage at nanpa.org.

The following Showcase images have been selected to appear on the NANPA home page for the week beginning Monday, November 9, 2020.  To view all of the top 250 photographs from NANPA’s 2020 Showcase competition, see the photo gallery on the NANPA website. The 2020 edition of Expressions contains all of the top 250 photos from the Showcase competition as well as interesting and insightful articles. Order your copy here!

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Weekly Wow! Week of November 2, 2020

Photo of a dramatic sunset at Katmai National Park by Dennis Fast.
Showcase 2020 Top 100 Winner: “Evening Drama on the Katmai National Park Coast” © Dennis Fast Photography

All of this week’s Weekly Wow! images can be seen in the slideshow on the NANPA homepage at nanpa.org.

The following Showcase images have been selected to appear on the NANPA home page for the week beginning Monday, November 2, 2020.  To view all of the top 250 photographs from NANPA’s 2020 Showcase competition, see the photo gallery on the NANPA website. The 2020 edition of Expressions contains all of the top 250 photos from the Showcase competition as well as interesting and insightful articles. Order your copy here!

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Weekly Wow! Week of October 26, 2020

Showcase 2020 Top 100 Winner: “Black Skimmer Makes a Dramatic Landing, Sarasota, Florida” © Peter Brannon
Showcase 2020 Top 100 Winner: “Black Skimmer Makes a Dramatic Landing, Sarasota, Florida” © Peter Brannon

All of this week’s Weekly Wow! images can be seen in the slideshow on the NANPA homepage at nanpa.org.

The following Showcase images have been selected to appear on the NANPA home page for the week beginning Monday, October 26, 2020.  To view all of the top 250 photographs from NANPA’s 2020 Showcase competition, see the photo gallery on the NANPA website. The 2020 edition of Expressions contains all of the top 250 photos from the Showcase competition as well as interesting and insightful articles. Order your copy here!

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Weekly Wow! Week of October 19, 2020

Showcase 2020 Top 100 Winner: “Motion Blur of Trees and Bushes, Grand Marais, Minnesota” © Frieda Fast
Showcase 2020 Top 100 Winner: “Motion Blur of Trees and Bushes, Grand Marais, Minnesota” © Frieda Fast

All of this week’s Weekly Wow! images can be seen in the slideshow on the NANPA homepage at nanpa.org.

The following Showcase images have been selected to appear on the NANPA home page for the week beginning Monday, October 19, 2020.  To view all of the top 250 photographs from NANPA’s 2020 Showcase competition, see the photo gallery on the NANPA website. The 2020 edition of Expressions contains all of the top 250 photos from the Showcase competition as well as interesting and insightful articles. Order your copy here!

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