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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Interviewed by Frank Gallagher, NANPA Blog Coordinator
Ten talented and promising young photographers were slated to enjoy—and be challenged by—an immersive field experience at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont in Townsend, Tennessee, in July 2020, as part of NANPA Foundation’s High School Scholarship Program. Since the week-long experience was postponed due to the pandemic, we are profiling the young photographers over the next few weeks. We recently had the opportunity to catch up with Jacob Eckels.
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.
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.
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:
It’s hard to believe that this fiscal year over! Today we welcome Dawn Wilson as NANPA’s next president as well as new board members Beth Huning, Trent Sizemore, and Kika Tuff. Lisa Langell will stay on for a second term and be a great mentor to the incoming members. I’m looking forward to working with and helping everyone achieve NANPA’s goals and dreams.
An urban prairie dog colony near downtown Fort Collins was scheduled for relocation. Construction of new apartments had begun. I knew an excavator would be coming to dig up part of the colony. I drove to the site every day to check on the excavator because I wanted to make a picture of a prairie dog with the excavator in the background to tell the story of development and urban prairie dogs. Finally, the excavator was in the perfect spot. I identified a burrow, set out my camera with a remote trigger, and waited until a prairie dog stood on that burrow.
Wow! It was quite the shock to me a little over a year ago when I was approached about being nominated to be the next president of NANPA. Skip forward almost one year after being elected as president and the time has just flown by. The best part about it has been the opportunity to become more involved with NANPA and getting to know many of the people who make NANPA a special community of and for nature photography. So, before I pass the gavel to our incoming president, Dawn Wilson, I want to thank all who have helped NANPA in the last year and continue to do so. This may feel like a going away note, but really I will be on the board for another year, and who knows after that.
Fellow board member Lisa Langell recently shared with me a member survey from another photography organization which had been used to assess their member benefits and services. Serendipity, perhaps, because lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the benefits of being a NANPA member.
More than Pretty Pictures
When I joined NANPA just over 10 years ago, I did so because I was interested in nature photography and believed membership could help me improve my photographs. But I discovered that NANPA is about more than just taking better nature photos.
At the NANPA Summit in Jacksonville in 2017, and again in Las Vegas in 2019, I learned that nature photography is about more than just pretty pictures. It’s also about using photos to affect change.
In Jacksonville, Clyde Butcher spoke about efforts to save Florida’s natural areas and shared his own conservation work. His presentation was complemented by a video, created by NANPA’s Summit College Photography Scholarship Program participants, about attempts to connect these areas to create greenway corridors.
Several of the presentations in Las Vegas on conservation challenges in the Arctic were really eye-opening. Other Summit presenters like Clay Bolt and Andrew Snyder inspired me with their work on rare, threatened and endangered species through the Meet Your Neighbours technique. Because of them, I now have my own Meet Your Neighbours setup.
I’ve seen how conservation photography can make a difference. Want to get started? NANPA’s recently-published Conservation Handbook is available to anyone interested in learning how. Find it in the Members’ Area of the NANPA website or click below.
Ethics and Advocacy
Speaking of handbooks, we currently have available on our website a guide to the Principles of Ethical Field Practices. But that is just the beginning! NANPA has undertaken a much more extensive project to create a handbook on the ethics of nature photography. Your membership helps support large undertakings such as this that will allow NANPA to take a leadership role in educating photographers on ethics. Quite frankly, this is very much needed as the overzealous pursuit of nature and wildlife photos threatens both scenic places and the plants and animals we love photographing. And bad behavior threatens continued access to these places by photographers.
Your membership has also helped support our work on behalf of the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2019 (CASE Act of 2019). If passed by Congress and signed into law, the CASE Act would provide photographers with the option of pursuing infringers in a small claims-type of process instead of federal district court. Read more about how the CASE Act will help photographers
Friendship and Networking
I will always remember the NANPA Regional Events that I attended in the Smokies and Upper Peninsula of Michigan—for the great images and friendships made. It will be my great pleasure to now be a regional event leader, myself, in the Smokies this spring with Hank Erdmann. NANPA has many more Regional Events scheduled for all levels of photographers in various parts of the country.
There are larger events, too, that offer many of the same benefits but on a bigger scale. Just around the corner is our second Nature Photography Celebration in Asheville, NC, April 19-21. These Celebrations provide opportunities for shooting, interaction with vendors, learning, networking and more. Asheville is a great place to be in April.
Travel and Equipment Insurance
As I move about the country with my photo gear in airports, cars, and on location, I am thankful that I have insurance on my photography equipment underwritten by Chubb in association with NANPA. You can find information about this and all the other NANPA member benefits in the Members’ Area of the website.
And Taking Better Pictures, Too
All that being said, my membership has also helped me improve my nature photos, just as I originally anticipated when I joined.
During my time with NANPA, I have entered the Showcase Competition, and I have been fortunate to have a few photos published in Expressions. (It’s a great source of ideas and inspiration so order your copy now!) This gave me confidence that I could get great images because, the reality is, if you want to be taken seriously as a nature photographer, quality matters.
I have attended many memorable webinars, both live and recorded. These sessions are free for members and a great way to learn or refresh photography skills. Best of all, you can participate at your own convenience, from wherever you are. Our next webinar, sponsored by Tamron on February 13 is Getting the Most from Your Long Lens with Bob Coates. Sign up or watch a recording of a previous webinar in the Members’ Area.
Portfolio reviews, offered at each Summit hosted in odd-numbered years, provide another opportunity for learning from industry professionals including but not limited to agents and editors. We are currently working on logistics for our next Summit in Tucson in 2021, so stayed tuned for that.
Blog articles are yet another source of education and inspiration, and I especially enjoyed the recent article by Bill Palmer on Chasing Spring Warblers. There will be plenty of warblers—and photographers—at this year’s Biggest Week in Birding Festival at Magee Marsh in Ohio at which, by the way, you can find the NANPA booth. Note that our blog is separate from our regular member and non-member news lists, so if you do not already get NANPA blog posts in your email, you can subscribe on the right hand side of any of them (including this one).
Perhaps you might be interested in submitting a blog post too. What a great chance to expose your photos (pun intended) and stories to fellow NANPA members. Just send a note to email@example.com. That’s what we mean when we talk about “sharing” within NANPA. Everyone is both a teacher and student here.
That’s true regardless of age. As I highlighted in last month’s blog post, young nature photographers are becoming members and getting opportunities through NANPA’s high school and college scholarship programs, both of which are made possible in part due to your support of the NANPA Foundation. By the way, the Foundation’s Online Auction has some great items up for bidding starting February 3rd. All proceeds go towards funding Foundation programs.
What Will You Do?
Gordon Illg has been known to tell me that I ramble, so I need to wrap up. But there really is a lot going on at NANPA, and I hope that you will take advantage of the opportunities. We are working hard to make NANPA a place for nature photographers to achieve all of their nature photography dreams. What will you do this year to help you reach yours?
Exclusive opportunity for NANPA members
NANPA members are encouraged to share stories, tips, and how-to articles on our blog. Not as gifted at writing as you are photography? No problem. We can help you craft a post.
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 6–11, 2020. 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 NANPA Foundation funds this and other educational programs. January 31, 2020 is the last day to apply, so don’t wait. Apply now! This article was originally published in January, 2019.