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Tips and techniques

Join in the Celebration: Spring event offers something for every nature photographer

By February 28, 2020No Comments
View of Smokey Mountains from Foothills Parkway
Foothills Parkway

Story and photos by Tom Haxby, NANPA Board President

In my opinion there is nothing more wonderful for a nature photographer than to welcome spring in the southern Appalachian Mountains. Local and migrating birds are singing, blooming wildflowers are everywhere, waterfalls abound, and night skies on the Blue Ridge Parkway are amazing.

This year NANPA is holding its Nature Photography Celebration in beautiful Asheville, North Carolina, from April 19-21. And, the best part is the Nature Photography Celebration is a hands-on event, so you will have the opportunity to get instruction and to photograph all of the above and more—during the event.  There will be something during the Celebration for just about every nature photographer.

Bird photography

Are you most interested in bird photography? The bird track, led by bird photography expert Kathy Adams Clark, will include sessions with equipment tips; color, composition, and storytelling tips; processing tips and keywording techniques; plus a trip to the Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary. Yes, I like to photograph birds, so this track sounds great.

Did you know that the southern Appalachians are one of the most biologically diverse habitats in the world, and that Asheville, NC, was the first city in the US to bear the nickname “Bee City” because of the community’s early efforts in honeybee protection?

Gear demonstrations and loans

Kathy will cover bird-specific gear suggestions in one of her sessions, but you can learn even more about that and other kinds of gear from on-site vendors including Canon, Fotopro, and Tamron. You can even borrow some gear to take into the field with you during the event, and Canon Professional Services will be on site for cleaning and repairs.     

Night photography

Perhaps you’re interested in photographing starry skies and night photography. Local photographer Kevin Adams will lead that track, including shooting opportunities and a session on night photography processing. That’s another track I am excited about.

White Trillium
White Trillium

Flower photography

For those who photograph in the daytime, we have a track with local flower photography expert Donna Eaton. Learn about composition, creative depth-of-field, selective focus, using diffusers, capturing a feeling of movement, controlling backgrounds, in-camera techniques and much more.

A trip to the North Carolina Arboretum for photos will be followed by more opportunities at the Mountain Lens Retreat in nearby Hendersonville, North Carolina. How awesome is that, an entire facility centered around photography and nature? While on the 20-acre wooded property, you’ll explore flower textures and processing in their high-tech classroom. Perhaps this would be a good opportunity to see one of our vendors about macro lenses to consider for flower photography.

Foothills Parkway photo in Black and White
Foothills Parkway in Black and White


Looking for broader horizons with your camera? Maybe you would like to do the track on landscape/scenic photography with experts Richard Day and Mary Louise Ravese.  This track starts with sessions like “Image Editing with Finesse Using Photoshop Layer Masks” and “Fundamentals of Panoramic Photography.”  

Trips in this track include opportunities to photograph just a few of the many local waterfalls, as well as trips to the Pounding Mill and East Fork Overlooks on the nearby Blue Ridge Parkway.

Did you know that nearby Whitewater Falls is the tallest waterfall east of the Rockies?

The landscape track also includes a session on how to transform color images to black and white for maximum impact.

Conservation photography

Perhaps celebrating nature means that you want to learn more about how to tell a conservation story with your photography.

With biologist and conservation photographer Andrew Snyder, you will learn how to tell a conservation story with your photos.  The track will include a trip to the Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary followed by a “next steps” session on funding, publishing platforms, and how to produce your pitch. The track concludes with an opportunity to assemble materials for a short program at the event. Yes, I want to do this too.


Fine art photography

Perhaps you want to find your inner Ansel Adams and learn more about fine art photography. Local instructor and photographer Jon Holloway will lead this track, beginning with a “personal interpretation of the landscape” session to help you define your work and create a unique “voice.” You’ll also go on a trip to Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary to take photos and go for a behind-the-scenes tour of Blue Spiral 1 Gallery to learn about submission opportunities and representation. This track concludes with a critique session and opportunities to share your work. Wow, another track I want to participate in!

Hotel accommodations

O.K., so I stay out all night doing night photography, and then birds, landscapes, and flowers during the daytime. Somewhere I’ll find time to slip into the conservation and fine art sessions, too…Who needs sleep anyway? 

Luckily, our accommodations are quite nice at the beautiful DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Asheville-Biltmore. Celebration attendees get a special rate of $119 per night plus tax. That is something to celebrate.

And more

If you want to branch out on your own, you can do that too, as the last day is free time to set up your own trips. Take some of what you have learned from Celebration plus  newfound energy and enthusiasm and apply it in the surrounding areas. The nearby Biltmore Estate is a must see and there is so much more to see and do in the Asheville area.

There really is something for every nature photographer at this year’s Nature Photography Celebration. Just thinking and writing about it has gotten me excited for this upcoming opportunity. Hope to see you there.