Civics, geography, history. They’re still among my favorite subjects. History was going to figure largely in a few of my NANPA Nature Photography Summit memories, and they revolved around a remarkable woman named Jane Kinne.
Joe and Mary Ann McDonald live in central Pennsylvania where the run their photography business. At NANPA’s 2021 Nature Photography Virtual Summit, they will be recognized with NANPA’s Lifetime Achievement in Nature Photography Award in recognition to their contributions to the profession. They will also be keynote speakers. With 50 years of photography experience, Joe was a founding member of NANPA and has served on the board of directors. He’s written seven books and hundreds of articles. Mary Ann brings 30 years of experience and is the author or many children’s books on wildlife as well as being a Visiting Author in several programs. Their images have place 15 times in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. They’ve led more than 100 photo tours to see mountain gorillas and were given the honor of giving a name to a baby gorilla in Rwanda’s “Kwitza Inza” ceremony, the highest honor one can achieve in mountain gorilla conservation. Previously, they have received NANPA Fellows Awards (Joe 2002, Mary Ann in 2010) and NANPA’s Outstanding Service Awards (2002).
Photography workshops and conferences inspire, motivate, and educate. They can also rev up your creative engine. Whether you’ve flown to the event or driven an hour from home to get there, keep your creativity flowing by staying longer, immersing yourself in nature and photography.
NANPA recently held two online town hall meetings with our members; one with professional nature photographers and the other with enthusiasts. These meetings and a recent e-mail discussion thread among our board members are part of our ongoing search for the answer to one question: How do we better connect with our nature photography community, both professional and enthusiast?
The reality is that this pandemic crisis has given members of the board of directors and staff time to slow down and think about where we are as an organization and where we are headed, and maybe that is not a bad thing. And, much like the photo of the roseate spoonbill landing, it may be awkward, but we will get it done.
How can we stay connected with nature through our photography when our ability to safely venture outside of our homes has been curtailed? How do we connect with other nature photographers who share our passion and inspire us when our opportunities to meet through regional events, meetups and nature photography celebrations have been suddenly swept away?
Eventually, we will get beyond this crisis and will again be able re-establish our connection with nature, cameras in hand, as well as network in-person with our fellow nature photographers. By this time next year (April 28-May 2, 2021), many of us will be finally gathering in Tucson, AZ, at the NANPA Summit to again meet and greet our fellow nature photographers.
Beyond the short term, there are longer-term questions, such as how can NANPA engage a wider audience in sharing and caring about nature through photography? And especially, how can NANPA successfully connect with the younger generation faced with living most of their lives in an increasingly stressed natural world? These long-term questions are the ones that are the most difficult to answer.
A few particular questions in the town hall meetings resonated with me. From the enthusiasts’ town hall meeting:
Does NANPA have a mentoring program? While NANPA does not have an official mentoring program, NANPA members often network to find others with similar areas of interest who may be willing to share their skills and experience. During these weeks that we’re unable to network in person, you may want to explore the member directory to look for nature photographers near you. Find a few and look at their websites. Follow them on social media and/or subscribe to their email lists. Meeting virtually in this way can put yourself in a good position to introduce yourself in person when restrictions are lifted. If you aren’t sure how to use the member directory in this way, this tutorial can help:
Does NANPA have a way for those with limited mobility to participate in photography events? This is something that the board has discussed, and I believe we can and should find a way to accommodate those who may have physical limitations. Our regional event in Badlands National Park, May 31-June 3, 2021, is wheelchair friendly, and that’s moving in the right direction.
And from the town hall meeting for professionals:
How can professionals increase their visibility? Our reach in several programs goes well beyond our members, making these excellent opportunities to get noticed. For example, anyone who belongs to NANPA’s Facebook Group can post images there, but NANPA members can also share promotional posts once a week when their membership number is included (check the group rules for specifics).
Host an Instagram takeover of NANPA’s account, and/or tag your Instagram photos with #NANPApix for an opportunity to be featured in our Instagram feed.
Write blog posts, give a webinar, and submit photos for the Showcase competition. Showcase winners are featured throughout the year on our website and social media accounts and are published in Expressions.
Unlike other photography organizations, NANPA is solely dedicated to nature photography.
Perhaps you enjoy using your photography to further conservation. Personally, NANPA has opened my eyes to how photography can tell a story about a conservation issue. That is why we published our Conservation Handbook and why we added a category in our Showcase competition for conservation photography.
Maybe you believe in our advocacy efforts to protect the rights of photographers or that educating photographers about ethics in nature photography is needed now more than ever.
Perhaps being a member means that you can purchase good insurance for your valuable photography gear. Improving your photography skills is a common desire of NANPA members, and there are many opportunities to improve your photography skills through online webinars, regional events, summits and our blog posts.
Perhaps as a professional, being a NANPA member increases your visibility. Publications such as our soon-to-be published handbook Make It Work: The Business of Nature Photography, helps established professionals reach new audiences and will give every photographer ideas and tools for improving your nature photography business.
Maybe the biggest benefit you get is just being part of a network of photographers with a passion for being out in nature and sharing the beauty and awesomeness of nature in photographs. Could it be that you just love nature and photography, and that is reason enough to want to join with NANPA in celebrating and promoting the joy and satisfaction of nature photography?
Whatever your reasons for belonging to NANPA, the board of directors, staff and many volunteers are working hard to make NANPA the place where you can connect with nature while connecting with a community of nature photographers.
Story and photos by Tom Haxby, NANPA Board President
It is an understatement to say that these are unprecedented times, but we nature photographers are a hardy bunch. We’re accustomed to physical and intellectual challenges in our pursuits of excellent visual stories. And this isn’t the first time we’ve weathered the need to re-imagine how we do business.
In short, you’ve got this, and NANPA is still here to help.
From the Editor: Membership organizations like NANPA can keep the costs of membership and conference registration low and to develop new resources thanks to the support of companies like Hunt’s Photo and Video. If you’ve been to one of NANPA’s Nature Photography Summits or Celebrations, you probably have met Gary Farber of Hunt’s Photo and Video. Hunt’s and Gary have been long-time NANPA sponsors, including at this year’s Nature Photography Summit in Las Vegas.
Hunt’s has been a partner with NANPA since 1999. When Gary Farber first joined, he was only 22 years old. During his years as an active NANPA member, he has gotten to know and befriend many other members and built many long-lasting relationships. He’s been involved with both the high school and college program and continues to stay in touch with many of the people who participated in each.
Susan Day on a foggy morning in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Photo by Richard Day
June 30 is the last day for Gordon Illg’s term as NANPA’s 25th president and when the board terms for Sean Fitzgerald and Ted Moreno end.
If there was a prize for the most meetings presided over, Gordon definitely qualifies! In the last twelve months, Gordon led twelve teleconference board meetings, three teleconference executive committee meetings, two in-person multi-day board meetings, and the NANPA Business meeting held at the 2019 Summit in Las Vegas. Not to mention, he participated in almost weekly meetings with me plus dozens of committee and planning meetings in the past year. Gordon has been great to work with, and even though he travels a lot for his workshop business, he was always available to answer questions and kept in regular contact with me. Gordon will continue his board service to NANPA as Past President for another year—where he’ll still get to attend plenty of meetings (but won’t have to lead them!)