How one hobbyist nature photographer found inspiration and learning at NANPA

View of coastal wetlands from the NANPA Foundation Funded Photo Blind in St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Florida, © Chris Herig
View from the NANPA Foundation Funded Photo Blind in St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Florida © Chris Herig

By Frank Gallagher, NANPA Blog Coordinator

Chris Herig has been interested in photography since age nine when she went away to camp for the first time, but she didn’t “get serious,” she says, until much later in life.

“It wasn’t until both of my parents had passed away and no longer needed me that I truly began traveling for pleasure and then eventually traveling longer distances and visiting the places I had only dreamed of, most especially our national parks,” Herig explained. “I started my national park adventure with Grand Teton and then Yellowstone on my 50th birthday!”

Herig registered for a brown bear workshop led by NANPA member (now President) Dawn Wilson and was inspired by Wilson’s 15-month journey traveling across the U.S. by RV. So she joined NANPA and keeps discovering new things.

A photo blind in St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge

While participating in a NANPA webinar, Herig mentioned that she frequently photographs at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in northern Florida. The refuge is home to numerous waterfowl, hawks, eagles, bobcat, deer, butterflies, alligators and, well, a lot of wildlife. But Herig didn’t realize it is also home to a photo blind funded by the NANPA Foundation.

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Summit Trivia: Fun Quiz

George Lepp and John Shaw are deep in discussion during the 2019 NANPA Summit conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo credit: Dawn Wilson
George Lepp and John Shaw are deep in discussion during the 2019 NANPA Summit conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo credit: Dawn Wilson

By Shirley Nuhn

How well do you know NANPA’s Summits?  Whether you’ve gone to only a few or have attended all of them, there are facts and just plain trivia you might have forgotten or never realized.  For part three of my blog on Summit history, I’ve put together a fun 20-question quiz with the help of my husband, John.  When you click on an answer, if it turns green, you’re right! If it turns red, well, try again. 

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Reflections on NANPA Summits, Part Two

Joe and Mary Ann McDonald

Summit Memories, Continued

By Shirley Nuhn

NANPA has a rich and interesting history spanning more than a quarter century. Members who joined more recently might not know some of the unique individuals and memorable events that came before them, so we asked Shirley Nuhn, who serves on NANPA’s History Committee, to share some of her memories. Those who have been members longer may enjoy these trips down memory lane, too.

For Part Two of my blog on NANPA Summit reflections, (see Part One here) I’m turning the spotlight on long-time attendees.  Joe and Mary Ann McDonald are the recipients of NANPA’s 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award. Here’s what Mary Ann recently told me:

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Welcome to Women’s History Month!

Hey girls! Don't be afraid of getting a little dirty or looking a little less than feminine. I may not look the prettiest in my mud-stained waders, but I sure do like staying dry when getting low-angle shots in water. © Dawn Wilson
Hey girls! Don’t be afraid of getting a little dirty or looking a little less than feminine. I may not look the prettiest in my mud-stained waders, but I sure do like staying dry when getting low-angle shots in water. © Dawn Wilson

By Dawn Wilson, NANPA President

There have been numerous female photographers who have paved the way for other photographers by taking thought-provoking and emotional images from the early days of photography.

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Secrets to Showcase

2021 NANPA Showcase Graphic

NANPA member Wendy Shattil is a full-time professional wildlife photographer with a list of accomplishments as long as your arm. She’s no stranger to awards and photo competitions, having won her first (of many) awards back in 1972. But did you know she was one of the people most responsible for creating NANPA’s Showcase photo competition, which grew out of a member photo slideshow at the 1999 NANPA Summit? She continues to be involved in the competition and administers the entire process. So, who better to give you some tips for selecting your best images, insight into the judging process and the critical role that good captions play.

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Wow!

Photo of members of NANPA's board, St. Louis, 2019.
August 17, 2019. St. Louis, Hampton Inn. NANPA board meeting.

By Tom Haxby, NANPA President

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.

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Connections

A Roseate Spoonbill landing on a tree.
Roseate Spoonbill

Story & photo by Tom Haxby, NANPA President

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.

Questions

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.

Why NANPA?

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.

How are Photo Stores and Manufacturers Adapting to COVID-19? Part 1

Home Page of Tamron's Website

The precautions taken to reduce the spread of the novel corona virus have hit the photography business hard. While the impact on us photographers has been immediate and painful, what about the companies who make the products and services we love and rely on? How has the virus affected them? What are they doing to survive, to continue to service customers and, eventually, thrive?

It’s tough for them, too. Even the companies with quality products, great customer service and smart business operations are being tested.  Supply chains are disrupted. Sales are down. Some have had to temporarily close stores, offices or repair facilities and attempt to work from home. But they’re not just hanging tough, they’re also adapting. They’re adding education, training, support features and more. Still providing value to customers and taking care of employees.

We started by speaking to three of the companies (Tamron, Hunt’s & Fotopro) that have been supporters of NANPA. Over the next few days, you’ll hear what they said.

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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.

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.

Finding Community in NANPA

Sunset over water. Photo by Mark Kreider.
Photo by Mark Kreider.

Story and photos by Mark Kreider

I have been a NANPA member for a year and a half. Even in that short time, NANPA and its supportive community have influenced me in many meaningful ways. Life seems to be full of wonderful flukes, and my introduction to NANPA was one such instance. One morning in November of 2012, when I was a high school senior, I received word from a fellow photographer of a great photographic opportunity that existed for high school students. Though just three days away from the deadline of NANPA’s High School Scholarship Program application, I immediately jumped at the opportunity. I quite honestly remember thinking it looked too good to be true – a chance to spend a week in the field and at the NANPA Annual Summit, all the while learning and being inspired. I wondered to myself a little incredulously, How could I not have heard of NANPA before? It looks awesome!

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