I created this image on one of my trips to Bwindi National Park in Uganda. On this day the dominant silverback sat by himself in the dark canopy of the cloud forest. The reason I love to photograph mountain gorillas is the fact they are so similar to us humans. The looks that I got from him this day reminded me of a shy, pensive person. I wondered what was crossing his mind as he saw me photographing him. Do they think like us? Or is he just an innocent being wondering who this intruder to his world is? I believe the mystery of what is going through his mind tells his story.
In a small section of my landscaping, I have yellow ground flowers that produce nectar, thus attracting many varieties of pollinators, as well as aphids and ants. While lying flat on my stomach on the ground to photograph the insects, I noticed an ant among the flowers, resting on a blade of grass. Through my macro lens, I could see the ant was drinking from a tiny droplet (nectar or possibly a droplet of water). As I positioned myself at different angles, I realized I could capture the flowers refracting into the drop, which I think makes an interesting and unique image. I have never been able to capture a scene similar to this, so this image is quite special to me.
COVID-19 caused all of my photo safaris for 2020 to be cancelled. It seems so apropos that this photo, taken within a few miles of home, would be my awarded image! This epitomizes what I’ve tried to tell people over the years—you don’t have to travel far to take wonderful wildlife images. In fact, many times you get your best images in an area you can return to many times.
Having recently retired and relocated from the San Francisco Bay Area to Portland, I have spent lots of time exploring local wetlands and wildlife refuges. Koll Center Wetlands Park is a small wetlands bordering a business park. When I heard that a number of common mergansers were hanging out there, I went in search of them.
In this photo, I love the way the dark background makes the merganser really pop and allows her personality to reveal itself!
In macro-photography of insects, one often has to choose between science and art. Making a bug pic artistically appealing is a special challenge probably because many of us simply find bugs creepy. (Why doesn’t my wife want to hang this great spider photo in our bedroom?) Both the art and science are legitimate approaches, and each has its place. Macro photography of insects becomes special when we can capture the beauty without losing the functional and behavioral detail. My goal is to look at these tiny creatures in new ways from a different perspective; often that requires moving beyond the view we typically have – the back of a running bug just before we squash them with our boot. In this photo the empty egg case and emerged caterpillar come together with curve of the host plant in a special way that honors both the science and beauty of nature.
When I create a composite, like Guardian of the City, I like to use individual images that have a strong potential to express a mood and use them to create a story. Sometimes I know ahead of time exactly what I want to create and other times it just happens spontaneously. It’s great when my imagination kicks in. Although many of my photographic images tend to reflect a long association with classic and traditional compositions, I have only just recently enjoyed a slight departure into the world of altered realities and artistic stylizing. I find the challenge of creating altered images while retaining original photographic detail to be unique, fun and fascinating.
As a photographer, there is a feeling you get in your gut, when you know you’ve got something special. I felt it with this shot.
This image was taken on Mother’s Day, an emerging round-tailed ground squirrel mom and her babies. She exemplifies a great mom, ever watchful to their needs and alerting them of dangers. I have seen her run around nursing them, and at other times warning them of a snake, “whistling” loudly and furiously stomping her hind legs. It’s pretty incredible seeing her face a snake. She’s a tough lady. Yet she often has a smile on her face. Really!
I think it’s safe to say that 2020 was a rough year for everyone, and one that made many look inward to who and what are important to us. For me, it was family and my love of nature. There is comfort in knowing I can pick up a camera and escape into its beauty. This photograph of San Diego’s bioluminescent bloom was from one of my first outings after the initial panic of lock down. I had seen algae blooms before, but the intense blue glow of the crashing water felt as if I had stepped into a dream. Although microscopic, the shear numbers of phytoplankton created an ephemeral dance of light among the darkened coast. Standing in frigid water I felt a buzz of excitement. Nature had found a new way to surprise me. In that moment, with my eye to the camera, the stress of the world disappeared.
Back in the early days of the pandemic, I had just received notification that my home state of Colorado was considering putting stay-at-home orders in place. I was visiting Yellowstone National Park when I heard the news, so I scrambled to pack up and head home. As I left the hotel, I found a trailer of bison parts—heads on the bottom, legs missing hooves in the center, and these plastic-wrapped legs tied to the sides. It was so disturbing, yet I couldn’t help but ponder what I was seeing. In the winter, when bison leave the safety of the park and venture into the surrounding ranches, they can be slaughtered because they may transmit brucellosis to domesticated cows. It seems such a horrid thing to do to animals just looking for food away from the deep snows of Yellowstone. Seeing the fresh carcasses made my gut wrench in pain and sadness.
I think one of the main lessons I have learned as a photographer is to be in the moment and be open to what is presented to me. While it is good to have a basic plan, and there are times when I really need to prepare for a particular shoot (for example capturing the Milky Way) I certainly didn’t plan this photo. But I feel it makes a strong statement. I am not a specialist, but rather I like to photograph a wide variety of subjects.
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!