2019 NANPA Lifetime Achievement Award winner John Shaw
Professional nature photographer John Shaw was the recipient of NANPA’s first Outstanding Photographer Award in 1997. This year, he’s being honored with NANPA’s Lifetime Achievement Award and will also become a NANPA Fellow. Registered for the 2019 NANPA Nature Photography Summit? You can see John Shaw interviewed by Kathy Adams Smith on Saturday, February 23, at 10:30 AM.
He’s written seven books and ten ebooks and his work has been featured in numerous books and magazines. He’s photographed on every continent and has been recognized by Nikon as a Legend Behind the Lens, as an Icon of Imaging by Microsoft and, since 2001, has been part of Epson’s Stylus Pro fine art print makers group. Last month we had the opportunity to ask him a few questions.
The following Showcase images have been selected to appear on the NANPA home page for the week beginning Monday, January 14, 2019. Starting last week, we began highlighting the best photos from NANPA’s 2019 Showcase competition. To view all of the top 250 photographs, see the photo gallery on the NANPA website.
Sunrise behind “The Wheel” on Steel Pier, Atlantic City Beach, Atlantic City, NJ
Story and photos by F. M. Kearney
Webster defines serendipity as “the faculty of making providential discoveries by accident.” In photography, it’s more like capturing that once in a lifetime shot that could not be recreated again in a million years. The internet is full of these types of images, usually classified as “Photos Taken at the Perfect Moment,” or “Things You Have to See to Believe.” Of course, almost anything you see on the internet should be viewed with a certain degree of skepticism, and even more so when it comes to photos and videos. The old saying, “The Camera Never Lies,” has never been less true than in the digital age in which we live. However, assuming that even if a fraction of these photos are, in fact, real, they truly are serendipitous moments caught on camera.
I recently spent several days in Atlantic City, NJ shooting ocean views. Most of my visits in the past have been day trips lasting only a few hours – just enough time to grab a quick lunch, lose all my money and head back home. On this occasion, I had the luxury of time on my side – time to see the real beauty of this town, beyond the bells and buzzers, and the glitzy flashing lights within its casinos’ walls.
One morning, I took a walk along the beach to The Steel Pier – a 1,000-foot-long amusement park built on a pier of the boardwalk. Its latest attraction is a 227-foot tall Ferris wheel, known as The Wheel, which began operating in 2017. I arrived just as the sun was rising behind it. My main objective was to get the surf in the perfect position – far enough into frame to be a dominant foreground element, but not so far in that it covered up the sun’s reflection on the wet sand. I also wanted to get the rising sun directly between the spokes of The Wheel. The sun’s position changes quite rapidly when it’s this low on the horizon. I took several shots and the photo above was the only one where the sun and the surf lined up in the perfect positions. This was the result of careful timing (and a little bit of luck). However, the serendipitous aspects were the inclusion of the seagull and the woman – things I had absolutely no control over. I saw when the seagull walked into the reflection during the shoot, but I didn’t even notice the woman in the background until I was reviewing the images back home on my computer. She had walked into one of the openings of the pier directly beneath The Wheel at precisely the right moment.
Another serendipitous moment was the inclusion of the honeybees in the daylily image below. I was all set to shoot the flowers when I suddenly found myself surrounded by a small group of bees. Like little helicopters on a mission, they methodically visited each flower in the area – hovered for a few seconds, then landed to pollinate. Since I already had my camera locked down on a tripod and focused on one particular bloom, I decided to wait and see if they would pay it a visit. Eventually, two bees flew into the shot and hovered close enough for my flash to cast a catch-light in their eyes. When they landed, they went down too deep into the flower to be seen, so I was lucky to get this photo of their approach.
Honeybees “photo-bombing” daylily image.
Serendipitous moments in photography are unplanned and often referred to as “lucky shots.” But you can increase your luck if you’re prepared, have a little patience and are aware of specific patterns of behavior – as in the case of the honeybees. Sometimes, however, you just get a pleasant surprise. Careful planning made the image of The Wheel a good shot. Serendipity made it one-of-a-kind.
From the Editor: This article has consistently been one of NANPA’s most popular blog posts, despite being originally published in 2015. We bring it back in case you missed it the first time and to kick off an occasional series of articles on the business side of nature photography. If you have tips or ideas on running a successful nature photography business, share them with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am often asked if it’s possible to make a living as a nature photographer. No matter whether you attempt to do it as a full-time professional or a part-timer to supplement income from an existing job, there are many things to consider. Nature photography is a tough way to make a living. However if you do it right, you can make it work.
Both full-time and part-time photographers need to remember and understand these concepts:
You need to get really (and I mean really) good as a photographer. This takes many years of working hard. As the late, great Henri Cartier-Bresson famously observed, “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.”
Be prepared to spend as much or more time in your office as in the field.
You must deal with rejection.
Full-time photographers can add these to the list:
If no one buys your work or attends your workshops, you don’t eat.
You have to know your market and change when necessary.
Develop business savvy.
Be able to justify expenditures such as travel, equipment and extensive marketing (website, social etc.).
The following Showcase images have been selected to appear on the NANPA home page for the week beginning Monday, January 7, 2019. With these images, we begin highlighting the best photos from NANPA’s 2019 Showcase competition. To see all of the top 250 photographs, see the photo gallery on the NANPA website.
Danae Wolfe shows how you can do “Macro on a Budget” in an upcoming NANPA webinar.
Have you made your resolutions for 2019? What will you be doing to grow as a photographer and improve the quality of your work?
We all can find ourselves in a rut. Maybe you’re shooting the same subjects, in the same way, at the same places. Maybe your inspiration or creativity feels tapped out. Maybe you’ve hit a plateau and your photography isn’t improving like it used to.
January is a purely arbitrary time to reassess your photography, but it’s something we should all do every so often. So, why not a set of New Year’s resolutions?
It’s holiday time! That special season when we wish for Christmas miracles, Hanukah miracles, Saturnalia miracles…basically we’re looking for miracles. Grant us another year of health, livelihood, friends, family, and as nature photographers, the continued existence of the things we like to take pictures of. Grant us another year of not just rattlesnakes on dirt roads, but an abundance of wildlife of all kinds, as well as scenic vistas with a capital S and a capital V. We’re talking landscapes like those that greeted the first humans. That’s all we want.