Joe and Mary Ann McDonald's

Wildlife Photography

October 2003

Question of the Month

Is It Time for a Summer NANPA Summit?

In mid-September, Mary and I were one of the keynote speakers at the Mid-West Birding Symposium in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The symposium was attended by around 350 birders, naturalists, and photographers. The Symposium was held at a Regency Suites Hotel with adequate space, I felt, for meetings and breakout sessions for NANPA. More importantly, the symposium was held during the fall migration, and attendees were able to drive to the conference from a 7 state area, and bird at many locations around Green Bay on organized field trips. Rooms cost around $92 a night, and the rooms were huge -- all are suites, with a large sitting room, large bedroom, and 2 TVs. 3 or 4 people on a budget could easily utilize one room. The food was excellent, and the cost was low.

The vending area had as many vendors as we usually see at a NANPA summit. B&H was there, as well as Bushnell, Eagle Optics, Swarosky, and many smaller companies, including some book sellers. Although I didn't inquire on the cost of a booth space, I suspected that the booth rental was rather low -- based on the modest offerings some booths offered. A high tariff booth would have been impractical of many of these vendors.

A few years ago, I was one of the speakers at the New England Council of Camera Clubs, held at Amherst College in Massachusetts. Over 1,200 photographers attend that conference, with the college providing great auditoriums for large sessions, banquets, and, most importantly, exceptional classroom auditoriums for breakout sessions. Attendees had the option of staying in the campus hotel, or other local hotels and motels, at typical motel rates, or they could stay in the now vacated college dorms and save a heap of money. While the college rooms featured shared bath facilities and no air-conditioning or TV, the rooms were cheap and for photographers on a budget, it made the NECCC conference affordable and do-able.

The Outdoor Writer's Association of America has around 1,200 - 1,500 members -- approximately what NANPA has had most years. The OWAA holds their conferences in late spring or early summer at destinations around the country, offering writers and photographers that attend the option of driving to a new location and spending some time there getting new material. By holding the conference in the summer, weather is not an issue and the OWAA is not limited to high-priced, highly competitive sun-belt locations, or to less attractive sites where weather could severely impact attendance or travel to, from, or during the conference. Further, by holding their conference literally anywhere in the US (one year it was in Phoenix in June), OWAA has the chance to pick sites that are diverse, and where Chambers of Commerce are anxious to bring in the business, as may a convention center anxious to obtain business.

OWAA provides their members with a huge list of motels, campgrounds, and other alternative lodging facilities for those who cannot afford to stay at the convention headquarters. Local businesses associated with the outdoors offer all sorts of packages for outings, from fishing to hiking to cultural excursions. Admittedly, OWAA is a professional organization where, when businesses offer a trip, it is expected that the writers and photographers will cover the event and later write and publish about the experience, but the fact is, there are a lot of things offered.

Further, for all of these -- OWAA, the Mid-West Birding Symposium, and NECCC, participants traveling from a distance are doing so in the summer or spring months. If one wished, one could spend time in the area, or take time traveling to or from to visit photo-rich locations en route.

Four years ago I completed a three-year term as a Board of Director for NANPA, and I lobbied yearly, and unsuccessfully, to have NANPA change the summit to a summer conference. I didn't succeed, as the Portland in January summit illustrates, or next year's summit in North Carolina -- I believe. In the past, the New Mexico conference, the Corpus Christi conference, and the Austin, Texas, conference all held potential for disaster. Had bad weather shut down the conference site, or airports serving the area, or, indeed, almost anywhere in the North, the summit attendance would have suffered. This could have exposed NANPA to hotel penalties, it could have prevented speakers from being present for their awards or presentations, and multiple other complications.

I'm no longer on the NANPA board of directors but I'm still an avid NANPA supporter. Mary will be emcee at this year's summit, and I'll be doing a pre-summit seminar on high speed flash photography. Mary and I will be helping with the kids in the Infinity Foundation Scholarship Program, and we'll be helping to lead a post-summit workshop as well. So we'll be busy with NANPA.

It's not my intention to stir up trouble with this question, but I'm hoping it may generate some discussion and some action. Personally I think it is a bit silly to schedule a yearly summit in winter in non-sunbelt locations where bad weather could shut down a conference. Having the summit in the same state, or in the same region, every second or third year isn't an attractive option either. Consider -- how many photographers want to go to southern California or Florida for fresh material. Consider -- how many photographers would elect to visit a new location each spring or early summer to see a region's wildlife and natural habitats at a prime time? NANPA would have the entire country to choose from, and might be able to offer a summit that is more affordable since Convention sites would be competing nationally for our business. As it is, using the southern tier states, it is a seller's market, and NANPA, or those with limited budgets, suffer for it.

If you're at NANPA this year, and you think this idea has merit, you might wish to mention this to the in-coming president, or to members of the Board of Directors, or the staffers of the Resource Center, our management company for NANPA. Perhaps nothing can be done, but I think we're missing the boat, both financially and in terms of opportunity for attendees to photograph in new regions each year while benefiting from the summit.


Previous Questions of the Month




 Camera Techniques

 In the Field

How would you meter these images?

Why should you know Manual Mode? 

 The Sunny 16 rule -- is it worth knowing today?

  How do you shoot silhouettes?

 How would you meter these challenging images?

 Who should go Digital,
and when?
Last Posting

 What do we really think about digital photography?

 What do we think of the Canon D30 digital camera?

 How long will film be around?

 Should you have a depth of field Preview button on your camera?

 Using Zoom lenses with tele-converters and extension tubes -- can you use both together?

 What the heck is the Scheimpflug Law?

  Reciprocity Failure

 What is the Best Composition?

 Are Image Stabilization Lenses Worth the Money?

 Hyperfocal Distance

  How do you determine distances? Last Posting

 Flash and Tele-flash Techniques

 What is the most versatile remote release camera firing system?

 What the heck is a Plamp?

 What is the best flash for closeup and
macro photography?

 How do you shoot high-speed action images?
 How did I photograph that flying wasp?

 What is the Fotronix's
Flash System?


 How do we carry our film when traveling?

 How can you attract insectivorous birds to your feeding stations and bait sites?

 How do you make things happen in wildlife photography?
 What is our Favorite bird-shooting location?  What are our Five Favorite Shooting Locales?  Which binoculars do we just love to use?

How Easy is Whale Photography?

 What is the best
Game Caller?
 Is NANPA for you?  What is NANPA and how will it benefit me?  

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