Volunteers are the life blood of membership organizations. At NANPA and the NANPA Foundation, volunteers serve on committees, help plan conferences, present webinars, judge competitions and evaluate grant applications. Volunteers serve on the Board of Directors and play other key roles in keeping NANPA vibrant, relevant and growing.
This is the third of an occasional series of volunteer profiles, saluting those whose hard work, ideas, passion and commitment benefit NANPA and its members.
NANPA recently had the opportunity to ask NANPA ethics committee member Daniel Dietrich a few questions about his volunteer experiences.
Are you a full-time professional photographer or do you have a different “day job”?
I work full-time as a photographer. I left my ‘day’ job to pursue a career in photography some time ago. It was a difficult decision to leave the comfort of a job that paid me reliably and well, but it was something I have dreamed of doing for many years.
Like many others, I have had to stretch my tentacles out in many different directions to be able to make a living at it. I operate a guide company in Point Reyes National Seashore (Point Reyes Safaris), guiding photographers to the amazing wildlife that exists here, with bobcats being the most popular. I do some writing, with recent articles in Audubon, Outdoor Photographer and Sierra magazines. I also do contract work, sell images, teach workshops and do international photography tours.
Last year I started a non-profit called Conservation Kids, which has been very rewarding for me. I teach young adults the power of imagery and how it can support protecting our environment. In addition, I provide professional cameras for them to use and then take them on a field trip to use their newly-learned skills.
What types of photography most interest you and why?
I focus on wildlife and conservation. Wildlife has it rough in this world. Every day these animals are eking out a living, trying to find food, protect their young and avoid the dangers they face. There is an overwhelming feeling of awe mixed with excitement that comes with finding and observing an animal in its natural surroundings. It is almost an honor. Being able to document some of these animals and their actions is an exciting privilege for me.
As for my conservation interests, we are losing our wildlife and our natural resources at an alarming rate. Using my camera to help protect these animals and wild places is very important to me. Places that are supposed to be forever protected, such as my home, Point Reyes National Seashore, are today in the crosshairs of development and of climate change. Capturing images of the incredible wildlife we have here is one thing, but turning my camera toward the issues that will protect these animals is far more important.
How have you been involved in NANPA as a volunteer?
I have been a NANPA member for 3 years and have been a volunteer since joining, serving on the ethics committee. We are tackling a very tough and emotional topic in today’s photography world. Ethics are often a personal choice; what someone thinks is unethical may be very different to another. We are trying to provide information and guidelines that can bring all people together around the protection of our wildlife and wild places.
What was it about this work that most interested you?
When I pulled the trigger to leave my ‘day’ job to pursue wildlife photography full time I was naïve. As I grew as a professional, I found that many of the images I had greatly admired were taken in a manner that compromised the safety of the subject. Owls were being thrown store-bought mice for a more dramatic images. Branches were being cut away for better shots, but exposed nests as a result. Nature photography fans were being misled by shots taken at game farms being passed off as wild. And there are many other examples of unethical behavior.
I wanted my photography to be different and I wanted to help others make better choices that did not compromise the safety and survival of the animals we all love. The NANPA ethics committee was a great place to put this energy.
What is the biggest highlight or accomplishment of your service in NANPA?
While the ethics committee has been around for quite a while, I feel the past few years we have propelled this very important topic into the spotlight. We have produced NANPA’s ethics position statement, constructed its Ethical Field Practices document, formulated the NANPA Truth in Captioning document and are close to finishing NANPA’s ethics handbook.
Did you have a goal going into your NANPA volunteer experience?
My goal in joining NANPA’s ethics committee to was to contribute to a store of knowledge that would help others make ethical choices when it comes to our profession. No image is more important the welfare of the very subjects we love and want to protect.
Does volunteering have benefits for you?
Volunteering in any capacity is rewarding but isn’t always easy. We are all busy. We have jobs, financial needs, families, etc. There are times when adding volunteering to all the other tasks in daily life just feels overwhelming. But if you take a step back and look at why we are all doing what we do professionally, volunteering has to be part of it. Without it, we and those we could be helping miss great opportunities. In the end, knowing that my efforts are helping protect animals brings me great satisfaction and makes volunteering more than worth it.
Daniel Dietrich’s interest in photography began at age 13 with a roll of film he shot with his mother’s camera and developed in a darkroom. His interest in and passion for nature photography has taken him around the world and all over his “neighborhood” of Point Reyes, where he spends much of his time and energy. You can see more of Daniel Dietrich’s work at his website, Daniel Dietrich Photography.