Editor’s note: Massachusetts-based photographer Rajan Desai is a frequent contributor to the NANPA Facebook Group but it’s not often he gets the kind of reaction he saw after posting “Least Tern Courtship.” That photo reached more than 3,500 people, generated 563 engagements, and inspired 44 comments, including “Beautiful photo. It’s like an image of ballet. I can hear the music in my head.” and “Fabulous capture!! I like your explanation of the courtship rituals also. So well done!” His detailed caption explained the birds’ behavior, but what else made the photo so compelling? We asked Desai to tell us about how he got the shot.
This photo is special to me because it evokes emotion. My goal as a photographer is to capture pictures in such a way that the viewer will feel the same thing I feel at the time of the photo. There are some pictures that I think are great as a photographer, but they don’t resonate with others. I could tell immediately after sharing this picture that it evoked the kind of emotion in others that would help facilitate positive change. It has been used by conservationists throughout Louisiana to help clean up our stormwater collection system and bring attention to our litter and pollution problems.
This experience was one of the most incredible spectacles of nature I have ever witnessed, in some ways fulfilling dreams I have had since I was a child. I have always been fascinated by the mystique of big cats—the more elusive the better. Some of my earliest artistic memories are drawing big cats out of the well-worn photography books I adored, which gave me my initial interest in pursuing wildlife photography. After what had been a slow winter for wildlife sightings, this mountain lion was such a gift to me as she spent about a week of her life in Jackson Hole, feeding on a mule deer she killed during the night. It was of crucial importance to me when I arrived on scene to capture an action shot of this sleek creature as it was a situation I had dreamed of my entire life.
We humans take ourselves far too seriously. Out of habit, we allow the minutiae of our daily lives to block our ability to see the big picture. That picture is one in which our species is but one of a multitude of creatures eking out a living on the crust of this still molten rock hurtling through space. Like it or not; choose to admit it or not, we are all interrelated to some degree. As for how these ruminations connect me to my role as a nature photographer? Hang in there. I’ll get to that.
As a photographer, there is a feeling you get in your gut, when you know you’ve got something special. I felt it with this shot.
This image was taken on Mother’s Day, an emerging round-tailed ground squirrel mom and her babies. She exemplifies a great mom, ever watchful to their needs and alerting them of dangers. I have seen her run around nursing them, and at other times warning them of a snake, “whistling” loudly and furiously stomping her hind legs. It’s pretty incredible seeing her face a snake. She’s a tough lady. Yet she often has a smile on her face. Really!
I enjoy creating animal portraits that exist within a whole ecosystem context. Unlike land photography where we have the luxury of spending hours patiently waiting with our telephoto lenses to capture tight shots of animals hundreds of feet away, photographing mammals underwater is a different beast. It’s close up, it’s unpredictable, it’s fast paced, and you’re shooting in what amounts to a hostile human environment that requires a life support system just to keep breathing. While challenging, these conditions also make it endlessly exciting and rewarding. The California sea lion colony of Los Islotes in the Sea of Cortez is an intensely fun place to make photos, and I was ecstatic to capture this moment in the life of one of the most charismatic marine mammals on our blue planet.
In the entire history of human life on Earth, we have never faced two more broad-based and existential environmental threats than those posed by climate change and biodiversity loss. Right now—every day—the world is adding more atmospheric pollution, more destruction of habitat, and more threats to species, creating a metaphorical (and sometimes literal) enveloping shroud that may eventually doom our own species. On a geologic time scale, we are accelerating these processes at warp speed. A 2014 study in Science magazine reported that species were dying off at a rate 1,000 times faster than normal because of human activities. So, what’s the solution? I have some ideas but first it’s necessary to acknowledge and understand the problems, their urgency, and why nature photographers should care.
When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. – John Muir
By Debbie McCulliss
The Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve is a world-famous, 48,000-acre area in which one of the world’s largest gatherings of bald eagles feast every fall on spawned-out chum salmon. As winter moves in, the eagles migrate into this open water reservoir in which the water temperature remains somewhat warmer than the surrounding waters. It is a place full of photographic opportunities and offers countless chances to make lifelong memories.
Certain photos get tons of engagement on social media—likes, shares, comments. Others don’t. Why? What is it about these photographs that grabs viewers’ attention enough to comment or share? What can we learn from them? NANPA’s Facebook group has more than 20,000 members and dozens of posts each day. It’s an active community of nature photographers and people who enjoy great nature photography. This article is the first in a series in which we take a closer look at the most engaging photos from the group and see if we can tease out why they had such an impact.
Keith Freeburn posted his photo of two raccoons on September 13th and it was an immediate hit. To date, it’s garnered more than 1,300 likes, 109 comments and 191 shares. We asked Keith to tell us a little about himself and reflect on why this photo just took off.
All of this week’s Weekly Wow! images can be seen in the slideshow on the NANPA homepage at nanpa.org.
The following Showcase images have been selected to appear on the NANPA home page for the week beginning Monday, November 16, 2020. To view all of the top 250 photographs from NANPA’s 2020 Showcase competition, see the photo gallery on the NANPA website. The 2020 edition of Expressions contains all of the top 250 photos from the Showcase competition as well as interesting and insightful articles. Order your copy here!