Finding Nature in the City: A Young Photographer’s Quest

Photo of a creek with the water rushing over and around medium-sized boulders. On the banks of the creek, trees are showing the yellows, oranges, and reds of fall. Rock Creek winds through the heart of Washington, DC. © Dhruv Cohen
Rock Creek winds through the heart of Washington, DC. © Dhruv Cohen

Most adults don’t think of young people as nature photographers, or of there being lots of wildlife in a big city. Wrong on both counts! Dhruv Cohen is a high school student who lives in Washington, DC, and is interested in biology and mathematics. He’s also an avid bird photographer. And he has a lot to say about photography, wildlife, and the experience of being out in nature with a camera.

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My Post-COVID Resolution

Photo of a creek flowing down to and under a bridge. There are boulders an water patterns in the creek, which is bordered by trees in colorful fall foliage. Rapids Bridge, Rock Creek Park, Washington, DC © Frank Gallagher
Rapids Bridge, Rock Creek Park, Washington, DC © Frank Gallagher

By Frank Gallagher, NANPA Blog Coordinator

A few months ago, my yoga instructor started our practice with an inspirational quote: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Her intent was to have us approach each pose we do and each breath we take as if it was the first time. Notice how it feels. Revel in it. Too often, the things we see and do every day become part of the background, items we see without seeing, experience without awareness. As a nature photographer, I seized on the word “landscape” in that quote and started thinking about how it might apply to my work.

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Get Ready for Nature Photography Day

Nature Photography Day poster

This has been a very difficult year for all of us. Just as the stay-at-home restrictions of COVID-19 were beginning to lift around the US and overseas, protests following the death of George Floyd put many places under curfew and left many Americans reeling and emotionally drained. It’s no wonder that we photographers look forward to getting back out into nature and experiencing, once again, the sense of calm, peace and wonder that the natural world provides. Perhaps we will appreciate the healing effects of nature even more for having missed it so much lately. In this respect, Nature Photography Day (NPD), June 15th, couldn’t be better timed.

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The Many Flavors of Conservation Photography

The Rock Creek Conservancy is partnering with the National Park Service and working with the local community to strategically restore five sites ("mini-oases") within Rock Creek Park.

The Rock Creek Conservancy is partnering with the National Park Service and working with the local community to strategically restore five sites (“mini-oases”) within Rock Creek Park.

Story & photo by Frank Gallagher

When we think of conservation photography, we often have in mind images of the grand and majestic:  elephants, whales and tigers; the Grand Canyon, glaciers and coral reefs.  You don’t have to be a well-known photographer like Joel Sartore or Florian Schulz, or work with National Geographic or the Sierra Club to have an impact.  Those are all important, to be sure, but not everything has to be charismatic megafauna, epic landscapes, famous names or mass media.  There are also many opportunities for conservation photography in the small, in the local and in the mundane.  Sometimes, opportunity is knocking in places you’ve come to take for granted.

I was thinking about that recently, during a project for Nature Photography Day.

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