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Celebrating 20 Years of NANPA

by Kari Post | March 12, 2013

© Kari PostNothing says “Let’s celebrate 20 years!” like throwing a good party, and the North American Nature Photography Association did just that last week at its annual summit. Held in Jacksonville, Florida, the event celebrated the birthday of the organization in style, combining art, conservation, and education with stunning imagery and motivational stories presented by some of the most accomplished and inspiring nature photographers in the world.

The North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA) is an organization like no other. Built from the strength and passion of its members, NANPA promotes nature photography as both an art form and a tool for educating and communicating about the environment, and encourages ethical practices among photographers in the field. NANPA’s programs support nature photographers of all levels, from supplying scholarships to young photographers and grants to those working on conservation projects, to recognizing professionals who have captivated and changed the world with their images. The annual summit brings all of these photographers, young and old, emerging and established, together to learn from, inspire, and support one other.

This year’s summit was particularly meaningful, because it marked the organization’s 20th year of existence and ended a longer-than-usual gap between events. Due to a number of reasons, NANPA announced at the 2011 summit in McAllen, Texas, that it would not hold a summit in 2012 and would instead focus its efforts on hosting a spectacular event the following year. Fortunately, it was worth the wait.

After a full day of a pre-summit “Advance Your Skills Boot Camp” taught by Lewis Kemper, Greg Downing, Mike Moats, George Lepp and Tony Sweet, the summit officially opened with a spectacular evening at the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, the first event of its kind in summit history. Two-hundred-fifty showcase images from NANPA members along with the work of Robert Glenn Ketchum were displayed on projectors as the orchestra played beautiful classical numbers by Copland, Debussy and Beethoven. NANPA summit attendees, Jacksonville visitors, and people from the local community filled 1,100 seats in the concert hall, providing an excellent opportunity for NANPA to share the beauty of nature with a larger audience.

Art Wolfe at NANPA Summit © Kari Post

The NANPA Foundation provides selected high school and undergraduate and graduate college students with scholarships to attend the annual NANPA Summit. Here, Art Wolfe, who received this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award, is shown speaking with the students at breakfast.

Friday, the first full day of summit activity, opened with greetings from NANPA President Bill Campbell and Summit Chair Jamie Konarski Davidson and the presentation of awards by NANPA and the NANPA Foundation. Since some awards were issued in 2012 despite not having a summit in which to celebrate the winners, the ceremony was doubly impressive. The morning session ended with a wonderful presentation by Daniel J. Cox, winner of the 2013 NANPA Outstanding Nature Photographer of the Year award. Cox shared with the audience the years of work he had done documenting polar bears and the vanishing arctic and discussed his evolution as a photographer from shooting film to digital and now incorporating video and multimedia into his work. Particularly moving was a series of images he shared of a mother polar bear having lost her cub; the essay was both heartbreaking and a powerful example of how photographs can connect the viewer with a subject, inspiring compassion and even conservation.

During the day, summit attendees were able to choose from a number of great one- or two-hour long breakout sessions, covering everything from e-books and marketing to Lensbabies and conservation. Attendees could also check out the exhibit and trade show area, where dozens of vendors, tour guides, workshop leaders, and product manufacturers gathered to show off neat photo gizmos and gadgets and make lustful photographers drool over exotic trips to far-off destinations. Various demos and short presentations provided ever-changing excitement to those browsing the trade show area.

This year’s summit was sponsored by NatureScapes.Net and Hunt’s Photo and Video, so both companies were present, as was the much-loved Gary Farber, who also serves on NANPA’s board. Canon was also on hand to wow Canon shooters with fancy new cameras and big new glass, as well as offer free equipment cleanings to summit attendees. Non-Canon shooters could still play around with lenses from Tamron and Sigma, and everyone had the chance to enjoy a variety of toys from numerous other manufacturers.

Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra © David Small

The 2013 NANPA Summit opened with an evening Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra. During the performance, photographs by Robert Glenn Ketchum and 250 showcase images by NANPA members were displayed.

Friday came to a close with a wonderful after-dinner presentation by Clyde Butcher. His black and white large format images of Florida swamps and landscapes were stunning and his winning personality and delightful sense of humor made us laugh and smile. He ended his talk with such genuine love for his work and the life he has shaped around it that one could not help but be inspired.

The second day was even more jam-packed. After a morning business meeting in which the NANPA Presidency changed hands from Bill Campbell to now president Bruce Haley, and Gura Gear kindly matched summit donations to the NANPA Foundation, NANPA recognized its two student scholarship programs. Each year, NANPA awards scholarships to allow talented and deserving high school and undergraduate and graduate college students to come to the summit and benefit from the learning and networking opportunities the summit has to offer. Following the introduction of the students by each program’s respective chair, the awards ceremony from the morning before continued and more awards were given out to recognize the outstanding work done by nature photographers and NANPA members. James Balog, who received the 2013 NANPA Environmental Impact Award, wrapped up the morning with a presentation of his work with the Extreme Ice Survey, a project he created to document retreating glaciers around the world using time-lapse photography.

Midday was consumed with more breakout sessions and the trade show. The sessions covered a variety of topics, from video storytelling to macro photography and licensing and publication. So many interesting and varied sessions were offered it is a wonder that participants were able to choose which ones to attend. Saturday’s trade show was open to the public, so it became a wonderful opportunity to meet people new to NANPA and to engage photographers who were not yet members.

One of the sad things about the NANPA summit is that it is so short. Saturday evening’s presentation marked the conclusion of the regular summit activities. Yet, akin to the grand finale of fireworks celebrating the end of holiday festivities, the final evening was chock full of material that bursted with energy and beautiful light. It started with a heartwarming slideshow that looked back at the 20 years of NANPA, presented by some of NANPA’s charter members. Students from the high school program then presented a slide show of their work at the summit, sharing the story of how the group of teens and their mentors bonded while camping on Cumberland Island in the pouring rain. Next were the college students, who in just a couple days time researched, photographed and documented the conservation work done to preserve nearby Big Talbot Island. They shared with the audience an incredible short multimedia piece highlighting the efforts of the North Florida Land Trust and other groups. Following the students’ work, Art Wolfe accepted his NANPA Lifetime Achievement Award, scolding NANPA about how his work was not nearly yet done. He then shared the story of his yet-unfinished lifetime of nature photography, touching upon his various achievements including the founding of the International Conservation Photography Awards and his brief but popular TV series, Travels to the Edge. He ended his presentation with gorgeous images from his most recent project, Human Canvas. After a brief intermission, James Balog returned to address the NANPA audience and moderated a special screening of the trending documentary Chasing Ice, which focuses on his work with the Extreme Ice Survey and paints a harrowing view of anthropogenic climate change and its increasingly catastrophic impacts on our planet. Anyone who left the night not exhausted yet incredibly moved by the work done by fellow photographers was probably not breathing.

James Balog and Art Wolfe © Mark Larson

James Balog and Art Wolfe each received awards from NANPA and delivered compelling presentations at the 2013 Summit.

The next day, some attendees stuck around for an “Advance Your Business Pro Day” with Mary Virginia Swanson, John Harrington, Grover Sandschagrin and Ian Shive. The rest milled about the hotel, savoring the last hours they had with one another, many sacrificing the chance to sleep in for the opportunity to spend just a little more time brainstorming, sharing, and laughing with friends old and new. They knew that soon the real world would pull them away from that moment and that place, where inspiring images, motivational words, and collaborative ideas slip into a melting pot from which creativity and genius is born. Perhaps because so many had gone one year too long between summits, they lingered. But soon, last goodbyes were murmured and thank you’s said, and slowly, ever so slowly, people parted ways, got into cars, boarded planes, and went home.

The NANPA summit brings together nature photographers from all over North America and the world for an event that is part reunion, part think tank, and part celebration. Each summit is special, and gives birth to new friendships and projects inspired by the collaborative energy that permeates the summit experience. This energy is what nurtures NANPA, and the excitement and dedication of its membership is what drives the organization. With a successful 2013 summit now in the past, NANPA has already begun to look forward to next year and the future beyond. While the exact details of the next NANPA summit are at the moment uncertain, most will agree on one thing: regardless of when or where, it’s a party you won’t want to miss.

2013 NANPA College Scholarship Program Presents: Big Talbot Island from NANPA College Students on Vimeo.

Students from the NANPA College Program were challenged to capture the story of conservation efforts on Big Talbot Island in just a few days. Their resulting multimedia presentation wowed the summit crowd.

About the Author

Kari is a self-described adventurer, photographer, outdoor enthusiast, conservationist, and nature lover. She loves being outside in nature, exploring the world around her, and doing just about anything that keeps her on the move. Kari picked up photography as a young girl and developed a serious passion for the still picture in high school. In college, she combined her photography hobby and love of nature and began photographing wildlife and outdoor subjects, which now make up the bulk of her work. Kari views photography as a way to share the beauty she sees in the natural world with others. She hopes her images can be used help educate and inspire others to appreciate, preserve, and protect wild places and creatures, and aspires to one day work as a photojournalist for National Geographic documenting conservation issues. Visit Kari's website at: www.karipost.com and her blog at: www.karipost.com/blog.

3 thoughts on “Celebrating 20 Years of NANPA

  1. Pingback: NANPA Summit 2013 Jacksonville – Bill Campbell Photography

  2. Special thanks to Mark Larson, David Small, Gabby Salazar, and all of the other photographers who helped round up and contribute photos of the summit events to this article.

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