I debated for considerable time about going to the NANPA (North American Nature Photography Association) summit. It is somewhat pricy but since I live in the host city it was tempting and when they came out with a black Friday special I decided it was too good a chance to pass up.
The regular events started Thursday evening. At registration they gave me a green ribbon to attach to my badge proclaiming my first time status. I hoped this didn’t set me up as a target for newbie hazing but was informed they hoped it would get me free drinks.
After the president’s remarks the audience was introduced to the event’s host of ceremony, the self-proclaimed most interesting nature photographer in the world, also known as Roy Toft. Each general session had carefully crafted video segments highlighting tips and tricks of the most interesting nature photographer in the world. These tips included when to drink champagne versus wine in the field, how to set up a blind in a hot tub or dressing like a turtle.
Dewitt Jones, who was receiving his lifetime achievement award from a previous non-summit year, inspired everyone with his keynote address. With stories of his many years working for National Geographic to the inspiration he got from a 5-year-old named Adam with a juice box camera. He continues to inspire people everyday with his series of daily images called Celebrating What’s Right with the World and is now working to bring the healing power of art and beauty to walls of hospitals around the country with his Healing Images foundation.
Friday began with NANPA awards and another episode of the most interesting nature photographer in the world followed by the incredible work of Flip Nicklin and how he became and still is the ‘whale guy’ for National Geographic discussing his more than 30 years of documenting and collaboration with the scientists who have dedicated their lives to studying cetaceans.
The day was filled with three different sections of breakout talks allowing the attendees to customize their summit experience by selecting technical, visual or business related talks.
Another renowned National Geographic photographer, Steve Winter, delivered the evening keynote discussing his work with the world’s most elusive big cats and the continued threats to their existence. Closing out the evening was a series of lighting talks. These 6 minute talks gave a glimpse into some personal or work related projects being done by other NANPA members.
Saturday was another early morning taking care of official business, more awards and another installment of the most interesting nature photographer in the world to be followed by the inspirational story of Nevada Wier’s evolution from a river guide to a travel photographer including her National Geographic expedition down the Blue Nile River and her work with various cultures throughout the world. The rest of the day was spent in and out of the dealer room and in breakout talks on topics ranging from macro to copyright. During lunch I got to meet one of the college student scholarship recipients who was working on her Ph.D. on the thermoregulation of lizards in deforested habitats and reconnect with a fellow graduate program classmate.
I was shocked to learn that some people were actually leaving before the evening keynote talk. Even without them there was still a full room to welcome the newest Lifetime Achievement winner, Frans Lanting. Before he could take the stage there was the obligatory final episode of the most interesting nature photographer in the world as well as the result of a week of filming and 500 man-hours of hard work put in by the college student scholarship recipients creating a documentary of the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge. They did an amazing job which you can watch here: http://youtu.be/jXIfMzg7VRM . As for the keynote, what can I say, it was Frans Lanting. He discussed his first photographs, how he achieved some of his iconic images as well as his role as a founder of NANPA.
What impression was I left with after my first summit? This was a gathering of a group of extremely friendly, helpful and supportive people. There is none of the hiding trade secrets attitude that can be found in some areas of photography. The most seasoned veteran is as equally approachable as a first time shooter. I now have 2 years to save up for the next summit in Jacksonville.