You're looking at a stand of pines on a small island in the Florida Panhandle, near Destin, last month. That's my camera and lens on the path in the early morning mist. Somewhere in the foggy frame are dozens of Yellow-rumped Warblers, Marsh Wrens, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Northern Mockingbirds, and Brown-headed Nuthatches (my favorites). While I enjoyed seeing the birds, they weren't the main reason I was in Florida. I was there to attend and speak at the 14th annual trade show and summit of the North American Nature Photography Association. Hundreds of the best nature photographers I know gathered there to listen and learn from one another, including many of our favorite bird photographers.
Remember the Rose-breasted Grosbeak on our August 2007 cover? It was taken by Marie Read, who's had her photographs on six Birder's World covers. She's pictured here with Bob Tope, editor of Nature's Best magazine, during an informal portfolio review. Marie and I discussed her upcoming photography travels, and I expect to see more spectacular images from her in the near future. She took the fantastic Yellow-bellied Sapsucker image that accompanies Eldon Greij's column in our April 2008 issue. You can also see eight pages of her photos of Australian birds in the winter 2008 Nature's Best.
Here I am with one of the best-known bird photographers in North America -- Arthur Morris. (I'm on the left.) Artie's also a long-time contributor to this magazine, one who sets very high standards for bird photography. I met with him at his booth at the trade show. We chose his photo of a Gray Crowned Crane as the opener for Editor Chuck Hagner's article about birding in Uganda in our February 2008 issue. Artie's also had three of his photos on our cover.
Kathy Adams Clark, whose photo agency has supplied us with many photos over the years, is the outgoing president of NANPA. One of the most striking photos to come from her agency is this Magnificent Hummingbird, which ran on our contents page in December 2006. The photo is by Rick and Nora Bowers. Kathy always seems to have time for every NANPA member and was happy to discuss with me issues that are important to the nature-photography community.
They have us covered
Clearly, it wasn't hard to meet Birder's World photographers at the summit. I had dinner with Tom Mangelsen, one of the nation's top wildlife photographers. The Pacific Life Insurance Company makes extensive use his whale photos -- a major achievement for a nature photographer, but Birder's World had him first. Tom's photo of a Brown Pelican graced our cover as early as August 1990.
I also renewed acquaintances with John Van de Graaff. That's his Painted Bunting on our June 2006 issue. John learned birding from his wife, then turned his passion for birds into a passion for photography. Shortly after sharing memories with John, I dined with long-time contributor Connie Toops and her friends. Connie's Eastern Bluebird photo made our April 2001 cover. Through Toops, I met Russ Kinne, a long-time friend of Roger Tory Peterson. Listening to Kinne's stories about Peterson brought me much closer to understanding the great man on a human level. We ran Peterson's photo of Tufted Puffins on our April 1994 cover.
I managed only a brief chat with Richard Day, who is a master at backyard bird photography. He's had two Birder's World covers: a Great Horned Owl in December 2005 (shown here) and a Northern Cardinal in December 2004. Tom Ulrich was also there, and we sat together during a presentation by a noted undersea photographer Brian Skerry. Tom shot the beautiful Western Tanager for our October 1990 issue. (Nice without the coverlines, don't you think?)
So at one convention, in the space of only a few days, I made direct connections to photographers responsible for 16 Birder's World covers -- 17 if you count me. My photo of a puffed-up Mourning Dove coping with sub-zero weather ran on the February 2006 cover. -- E.M.