Picture: Heron at sunset, Baytowne Wharf Marina, Sandestin Resort, Destin, Florida
Review of the North American Nature Photographers Association (NANPA) 2008 Annual Conference in Destin, Florida.
Last year I wrote a review of the 2007 Nanpa Conference after my first year as a Nanpa member, and my first visit to a Nanpa Conference. I figure it would be good to follow suit and offer up my thoughts on my experience at the 2008 Nanpa Conference that happened recently in Florida.
Unlike 2007, I was an active participant in the 2008 conference, for better or worse. I co-led the Pro’s Meeting, and was a Portfolio Reviewer. Overall it was a great experience, despite a few hiccups, and I’m already looking forward to the 2009 conference that will be in New Mexico.
The conference was held at the Grand Sandestin resort, and the village of Baytowne Wharf. It was a nice place to stay, and transportation to and from the airport at Fort Walton Beach was easy and painless. The first big hiccup happened almost as soon as I got settled into my room, when I realized this huge $130.00 per night modern facility had no wireless internet access in the hotel room. I gotta say that in this day and age, staying at a top billed resort that is beat out by a Super-8 motel that offers free high speed wireless access in all of their rooms kind of, well, sucks. And from what I heard from others, that word also described how well other people were able to access any wireless internet anywhere else on the property.
With the exception of being bussed to the closing dinner, all of the meals where served in a giant tent on the lawn outside of the hotel. This would normally have been OK I suppose, lacking other large dining facilities. However, I packed for Florida, and feeling much like the proverbial tourist visiting San Francisco in the summer, I wasn’t well prepared for near freezing temperatures at meal time. Our first breakfast was spent fighting the chill of a 34 degree morning. I will say, as an ex-cook, the lunches where quite tasty.
I really enjoyed my chance to be a Portfolio Reviewer, and I loved getting to meet a number of very interesting people, and to talk with them one on one about their work. I really hope I’ll be invited to be a Reviewer again next year.
I also helped lead the Pro’s Meeting this year. I’ll be the first to admit that I was a little bummed with how things turned out, and that it didn’t go as well as I would have liked. Such is the nature of “live & learn”. I knew there was some dissatisfaction from the 2007 Pro’s Meeting, including my own issues with the amount of time spent figuring out what needed to be discussed. This year, we had a goal of trying to get relevant industry updates and information out first, without having the meeting degenerate into the same old basic “beginner” questions, or the usual debates about captive or wild animal nature photography. I will say that my attempts to keep some order at the outset may have squashed some of the energy in the room, but I also had a good number of people tell me that despite the awkward lack of questions at the end of the meeting, they had learned more than at any other Pro’s Meetings. So with that, I had to give myself a B-minus, as some goals were achieved, and other aspects fell short of my expectations.
Picture: The Grand Sandestin Resort and Baytowne Wharf Marina, Destin, Florida.
I may post more about this later, or not; but I will say that I am now of the opinion that if Nanpa is going to better server the professional aspects of this business, it will need to divide it’s focus into two specific camps, namely the “getting started” and the “established pros”. I’m going on record to say that I think the Pro’s meeting should be a closed door event, with attendees vetted by credits and years working, or under some type of “by invitation” format. I’ve heard that many established pros have been seriously disenfranchised and no longer attend the pro’s meetings because it always seems to fumble around with business basic 101 type questions. Frankly, I can understand that being part of why I see so few ‘name’ photographers walking the hallways. The best news on the Pro’s front is that there is now an official “Pro’s Committee” as part of the NANPA order. I’ve indicated that I have an interest in being on that committee, and I hope to keep actively trying to promote Nanpa as a place where professional and aspiring professional nature photogaphers can turn to for business related information.
I also want to be sure and note that the conference had some truly exceptional presentations. The first stand-out keynote speech was by Robert Glenn Ketchum, who gave a wonderful history lesson on Nature Photography, and the line of influences that have shaped how many of us see and share our vision of the world. I was delighted to spend a few minutes in conversation with him, and found him to be wonderfully personable, open, and passionate. He very much reminded me of an old boss I used to work for.
Michael “Nick” Nichols, best known for his great work as a National Geographic staff photographer, and especially for his coverage of the Mega-Transect hike across Africa, gave a highly entertaining keynote about his work with setting up remote trigger cameras. I will say that I never ever want to see elephant porn again, thank you very much! Finally, as Photographer of the Year, and recent Rowell Award winner, James Balog gave the closing dinner keynote speech on his work with the Extreme Ice Survey. I sat at a table with a number of other professionals, and we were all in awe of some of the still and moving images that James shared with the audience. I remember remarking as we stood applauding, that I’d never seen a presentation that made me feel so small. I was amazed that despite being a firsthand witness to the global climate change and loss of global ice, he was able to close with a statement of optimism that we has humans can summon the force to make positive changes in the interest of self preservation. Let’s hope…
Finally, the one thing that I will say that I missed at this conference that I really liked seeing last year was a big print exhibit of members work.
I just want to close by saying a big thank you to everyone who helped make this a memorable experience for me, including everyone that helped with the Pro’s Meetings and having me as a Portfolio Reviewer, and the many, many fine people that I got to visit with throughout my week in Florida. I also want to be sure and offer my congratulations to everyone at Nanpa that worked so hard to produce this wonderful venue, and I’m already marking off my calendar for next year. You can learn more about Nanpa and next year’s conference at the Nanpa web site.
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