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Great Blue Heron in Flight

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.

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Join in the Celebration: Spring event offers something for every nature photographer

View of Smokey Mountains from Foothills Parkway
Foothills Parkway

Story and photos by Tom Haxby, NANPA Board President

In my opinion there is nothing more wonderful for a nature photographer than to welcome spring in the southern Appalachian Mountains. Local and migrating birds are singing, blooming wildflowers are everywhere, waterfalls abound, and night skies on the Blue Ridge Parkway are amazing.

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Membership Has Benefits Beyond the Obvious

Photo of a bird in a tree by Tom Haxby.
Photo by Tom Haxby.

By NANPA President Tom Haxby

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.

Cover of the NANPA Conservation Photography Handbook

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.

Sandhill Cranes flying together © Bob Coates.
Sandhill Cranes © Bob Coates.

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 publications@nanpa.org. 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

Laptop on desk showing NANPA website

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.

From the President: Come to Asheville in the Springtime

Foothills Sunrise view.
Foothills Sunrise

Story & photos by Tom Haxby

Winter will soon be upon us and while many photographers revel in the unique opportunities for winter photography, I always look forward to spring in the southern Appalachian Mountains with my camera in hand. My annual visits there quite literally put a spring in my step. Birds sing for mates from the newly green trees, waterfalls flow from spring rains, flowers bloom in profusion and it seems that the whole world is new again.

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From the President: NANPA Upper Peninsula Regional Event

Colorful fall foliage in the UP.
Colorful fall foliage in the UP.

Story & photos by NANPA President Tom Haxby

On the first evening of the NANPA Regional Event from October 3-6 in the Munising area of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, 22 NANPA members met as strangers with a common interest in photography. By the end of the event we were no longer strangers. 

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From the President: Photography with a Purpose

Loss of habitat is one of the major causes for the decline in Monarch butterfly numbers.
Loss of habitat is one of the major causes for the decline in Monarch butterfly numbers.

Story & photo by Tom Haxby

Once, in a tongue-tied moment, I used the phrase “photography with a porpoise”, but what I really meant to say was “photography with a purpose”. In the tradition of Ansel Adams, Phillip Hyde, George Masa (yes, you may have to look him up) and a long list of photographers who have utilized their photography to advocate for conservation of wildlife and landscapes, NANPA photographers continue to use photography as a medium of communication, nature appreciation, and environmental protection – yes, part of our mission statement.

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It’s Showtime!

This photo of monarch butterflies was a Top 250 image in last year's Showcase. (It was also a winner in Nature's Best Backyards contest. ) Photo © Tom Haxby.
This photo of monarch butterflies was a Top 250 image in last year’s Showcase. (It was also a winner in Nature’s Best Backyards contest. ) Photo © Tom Haxby.

From the President: Tom Haxby

It is always amazing to look back through my collection of older NANPA Expressions magazines (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2018 and 2019) featuring the top 250 photos from the Showcase competition for that year. I may be missing a few years in my collection, but I am sure the photos in those years are incredible too. NANPA has a lot of really, really talented photographers and I am always in awe of the award-winning nature images our members capture. Occasionally, I have been fortunate to have an image place in the top 250 and I always enjoy seeing my photograph along with all of the other spectacular photos.

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From the President: Tom Haxby

Bears, Salamanders and Snakes – Oh My!

NANPA High School Scholarship Program participants at Spruce Flats Falls. Photo by Tom Haxby.
NANPA High School Scholarship Program participants at Spruce Flats Falls. Photo by Tom Haxby.

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.”  I thought about that proverb a lot during the NANPA High School Scholarship Program in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where I was one of the instructors. A month ago, ten high school students from around the country spent a week learning about photography, conservation, ethics, biodiversity and a whole lot more through this annual program, made possible by your donations to the NANPA Foundation.

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From the Executive Director – Susan Day

Susan Day on a foggy morning in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Photo by Richard Day

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!)

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From the President: Tom Haxby

Tom Haxby at Olson Falls near Munising, MI.

Tom Haxby at Olson Falls near Munising, MI.

Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Tom Haxby, and for the next year I will be the President of the Board of Directors of NANPA. I’ve been a member of NANPA for over 10 years and have been on the Board of Directors for the last two. I have always enjoyed photography, but several years ago, after a career of almost 30 years as a natural resource manager, it was time to leave behind the 10 x 10 cubicle, endless meetings, toxic office politics and administrative tedium. So, I dove into nature photography full time and have not regretted for one minute the photographic adventures and time spent behind my camera.  Along the way, there have been a few photos that have made the Showcase top 250 and a few other award winners as well as six weeks as an Artist-in-Residence in 2016 in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There have been so many trips to the Smokies, that some thought that I am local to there. Not yet! I currently reside in the Traverse City area of Northern Michigan.

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