You might say the recent Great Smoky Mountains National Park Regional Event last month (October 2021) was years in the making. Normally, planning for a NANPA Regional Event starts nine to twelve months in advance. The planning for this event began in spring 2019, when I was asked if I’d like to lead it. It quickly became apparent that this would be popular. NANPA likes to keep a ratio of about ten participants per group leader, so Tom Haxby (past NANPA President) was asked to join me as co-leader. We planned the event, discussed shooting locations and where we wanted to base it (Townsend, Tennessee – the “Quiet Side of the Smokies”), meal possibilities, dates, and other such initial decisions, came up with an agenda, and sent that info off to the NANPA Regional Events Committee for their review and eventual approval. In turn, they sent the event proposal to the NANPA Board for final approval. We planned it to coincide with NANPA’s Nature Photography Celebration in nearby Asheville, North Carolina, so that participants might be able to attend both if they wished. Approval was granted and, in autumn of 2019, the event was announced. It quickly filled and a wait list was started. Then….
Back in June Sandy Zelasko led a NANPA Regional Event in and around South Dakota’s Badlands National Park. Badlands is one of the less crowded parks, with a little under a million people visit each year. By comparison, Yellowstone National Park recorded about the same number of visitors that month alone.
“The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing.” –Tom Fishburne of the marketoonist
Are you using your NANPA membership to market your photography business? There are some obvious and some not-so-obvious ways to do so. If you’re not, you aren’t maximizing the return on your membership investment.
When it comes to dating in the world of grebes it is not as easy as just going out for a fish dinner or a morning swim. These birds have much higher standards. If a mate cannot “walk” on water, they are out of luck. I have spent years studying the grebes and the sounds they make right before rushing, so much so that my clients call me the “Grebe Whisperer.” Knowing the behavior and sounds they make is crucial to being prepared to get a shot of this unique phenomenon, since the whole production only lasts five to seven seconds.
I never pass up a chance to travel, and I am behind on my goal of visiting all of the national parks by my birthday this year. (I currently have visited and photographed 43 of 63 national parks.) Part of that is due to the pandemic, partly due to the addition of five new parks, and partly just due to a busy schedule.
Although many people across North America aren’t even thinking about this colorful season, and won’t for several months, here in Colorado it has already started. The tundra started turning red and gold a couple of weeks ago. The bull elk have started bugling outside of my door here in Estes Park. The weather forecast is showing some really cool temperatures for the first week of September, providing some nice opportunities for frost and fog in the meadows. And I have already started to see some pops of gold on the aspen trees.
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.
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.
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.