National Park Photography Expedition Retrospective – Part 5

In 2021, many of our NPPE Alumni created expression-filled photography that attracted the attention of art professionals and collectors. The NPPE staff decided to shout out their achievements with several retrospective groups to inspire other National Park Photography Expedition Alumni, future Alumni, and creative photographers everywhere.  Without their personal aesthetics, their computers and cameras would be mindless machines producing effects without substance, forms minus relevance, and narration without meaning. For all of them, their art photography fills a large part of their lives and the lives of those who appreciate their work.   

Wings & Fur

Wildlife photography is a process of moments, and while chance plays a role in being there for the magic moment when the wildlife subject presents itself as itself, there is much more. Photographers who create meaningful wildlife images are not squeezing their shutter in hopes of getting the ‘hero shot’ but to capture and present a deeper understanding of the subject and the relationship we have with or because of the wildlife world.

Several NPPE Alumni have pushed into this area and the sub-genre of bird photography. Their work has earned recent awards and publications not because of biological accuracy but due to the deep characterization of our winged friends. Through their work, they capture and present the magic moment, but they give us that all-important more— the creative portrait of a bird in the flight of life.

Art Photographer Marti Phillips—

My Student-Teacher relationship with Marti Phillips predated NPPE and began when I taught Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom in the classroom. Like many beginners, Marti struggled with post-production classes and repeated several of these workshops— but she never quit. She was determined to succeed and continued to study, practice, and, from those difficult early moments, has grown into an accomplished landscape and celebrated award-winning Audubon Society bird photographer. Her dedication and experience will inspire all photographers who are developing the techniques and systems to connect their in-the-field visualization with the post-production expression process. 

“The pandemic was the best thing that ever happened to my photoshop skills because I finally wasn’t distracted and could focus on tutorials as much as I wanted. The Audubon Photography Contest was the first contest I had ever entered.  I was thrilled that three of my images made it to the top 100.  I believe that only two other photographers had three in the top 100 and while my favorite bird pictures are many the one from Bosque Del Apache is one of the three that made the Audubon top 100.

In addition to my bird work, I have explored other naturalistic opportunities and I granted Topaz social media use of my snow monkeys. I think my favorite landscapes of the year were captured while camping on site with my van. The camper van has been a game changer because I can scope out an image the day before and then be right there for the shot at sunrise.  It’s a lot more fun than those 3am Masterclass wakeup calls.

Free of the Pandemic I am setting off to the Yukon next Sunday for northern lights work and a full schedule for 2022.  I have plans to create images this year in the Galapagos, Kenya, Namibia, and Botswana; Northern Italy; Churchill, Manitoba; Antarctica and Patagonia; Florida, New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado. Of course, with the virus, nothing is certain until you get there, but those are the plans.”

Art Photographer Amanda Thompson—

Amanda Thompson is a 2021 NPPE alumnus and is an active bird, wildlife, and landscape photographer. She has undertaken a project from locations within the Sepulveda Basin near her home capturing intimate portraits of the Avarian life found there. She continues to work in the Advanced Post Program, and two of her recent images were selected by The BBC for publication and she has projects pending with the Rhode Island Center for Photographic Arts.

Amanda’s work presents the complexity of the photographic message beyond the details of the ‘here and now of the Canadian Geese, American Pelicans, and others. As such, her work demands more of the viewer as we feel the organized chaos or winged activity life often portrayed against ethereal backgrounds that are feather-soft.   It also is rarely about benign beauty or recognizable places and thus the activity in her project demands to be considered for its aesthetics and editorial impact.

“The BBC recently published two of my photographs which is consistent with my goal to help people recognize and deeply feel the magnificence of our planet and thus be inspired to experience, revere, and preserve it. I’m anticipating great photography opportunities in 2022, starting with a workshop in the Ecuadorian Amazon in February.

 Shortly before the Covid, 19 pandemic throttled global activity, I became acquainted with a small wildlife reserve near my home in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles. Like most, I was oblivious to the exquisite sights and sounds of the Canadian geese, American pelicans, black-crested cormorants, black-necked stilts, coots, various ducks, herons, egrets, and other birds that regularly grace the waters of the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Refuge. The pandemic gifted me pre-dawn mornings to observe and photograph the birds there. It was a wonderful solace and peace, secluded, unseen by anyone other than the birds I photographed. My Sepulveda Series is an homage to the sanctity of the site and the birds; to the serenity and beauty they never fail to provide. Hopefully my photographs can be an avenue to gain more attention and support for one of the most precarious and precious natural landscapes in the Los Angeles region. ” 


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(1) Comment

  1. Marcia Levetown MD

    Beautiful photographs and lyrical narration. Thanks to Bob and these talented photographers!

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