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A Different Kind of Summit

By November 11, 2022No Comments

Crowds start to gather at the registration desk near the start of the 2019 NANPA Summit. © Janice Braud

By Frank Gallagher, NANPA Marketing, Communications & Blog Coordinator

It’s been a long time since NANPA members have gathered together. Sure, we’ve had some terrific Regional Events and two very successful virtual summits, but it will have been four years since the last in-person summit by the time we meet in Tucson next May for the Nature Photography Summit and Trade Show. A lot has changed in that time, so it’s only natural to expect large gatherings, like the Summit, to have changed as well. The 2023 Summit will be a different kind of Summit, with several new options as well as some old favorites. Let’s take a look at what’s been added, improved, reimagined or retained.

A very different world

The Summit planning team, led by Kathy Adams Clark, has been hard at work reinventing the NANPA Summit for a very different world than we had last time, in 2019, in Las Vegas. Expectations have changed. People don’t want to spend all their time sitting in meeting rooms. Folks want more interactive sessions, more opportunities to put into practice what they’re learning, more time to get outside, more chances to socialize and network. The planning team listened, looked at other conferences, and came up with a new vision for Summit.

Field trips to iconic places like San Xavier del Bac, the “White Dove of the Desert” are only some of the changes you’ll see in the 2023 Summit program. Photo credit: Frank Gallagher

What’s new?

Field Trips

One of the biggest changes you’ll notice is the addition of a variety of interesting field trips. We’ll be heading out of the meeting rooms to other photogenic locations within easy driving distance of the hotel to photograph the Sonoran desert landscape, southwestern plants and cacti, birds, reptiles, and macro subjects. A NANPA member who is familiar with the area will be at each location to point you in the right directions and answer questions. The field trips will be a great opportunity to put into practice new skills you’ve learned during breakout sessions or to visit and photograph some of the locals’ favorite spots, many of which are a little off the beaten path. Most field trips are free with your conference registration, but a few locations charge an admissions fee.

The Hotel

Instead of being in a downtown hotel, surrounded by the city, we’ll be at the Westin La Paloma in a beautiful, resort setting. Nestled into the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains, the hotel’s lushly landscaped grounds provide many opportunities for nature photography, from cactus flowers to cactus wrens. Whether you’re out with your camera or just taking a stroll, there’s a lot of desert “eye candy” right at the hotel. And La Paloma is close to numerous photogenic locations, many of which will be explored in the field trips mentioned above.

Breakout Sessions

There are a lot of great topics and presenters in the Summit breakout sessions. So many, it may be hard to choose. And don’t you just hate it when two sessions you want to see are at the same time? At the 2023 Summit, most breakout sessions will be given twice, so you have a lot more flexibility when crafting your schedule.

In addition to some great presentations covering virtually all aspects of nature photography, a number of the breakout sessions also tie directly into field trips or other hands-on activities. You can go to Roman Kurywczak’s breakout session on bird photography and then join him on a field trip to photograph birds at Sabino Canyon. Or you could take Stephen Vaughn’s breakout session on photographing hummingbirds and then practice those techniques in one of Vaughn’s field trips to hummingbird photo stations he’ll have set up on the hotel grounds.

Meal Plan

With sessions and field trips and everything else that’s going on, do you want to spend your lunch time waiting for a table at a busy restaurant? Instead, you could sign up for the meal plan. NANPA and La Paloma are offering take out breakfast and lunch, Thursday through Saturday—that’s six meals—for $120. You can grab a breakfast to take with you on an early morning field trip. Grab lunch and sit outside enjoying the hotel grounds and warm, desert sun. Maybe you want to see one of the product demonstrations an exhibitor is offering during lunch time. Whatever you want to do, the meal plan gives you the flexibility to set your schedule any way you want without having to worry about missing something because you’re waiting for food or a table. You could even grab a meal with a group of friends and head out for your own photo shoot or just find a quiet place to sit, eat, and catch up.

Portfolio reviews are one of the popular activities that are returning to the 2023 Summit.

And what’s familiar?

Keynote Speakers

As with past Summits, there’s a terrific line up of keynote speakers, with several who are known for their work in Arizona. You won’t want to miss Michael Frye (recipient of NANPA’s Fine Art in Nature Photography Award), Wendy Shattil (recipient of NANPA’s Lifetime Achievement Award), Daniel J. Cox (recipient of NANPA’s Environmental Impact Award), Gabby Salazar (recipient of NANPA’s 2021 Emerging Photographer Award), Adam Schallau (known for his 20-year journey photographing the Grand Canyon), Dave Showalter (who has been documenting the Colorado River), and Greg Johnson (the Tornado Hunter).

Super Sessions

Super Sessions are optional ad-on activities that take a deep dive into a topic. Lasting two hours, there’s plenty of time to really get into techniques, best practices, tips, tools, and more. At the 2023 Summit, Ray Pfortner will lead one super session on how to show and price your work and another super session on “photostyling.” Joe McDonald leads a two-part super session on macro photography, with part one focused on demonstration and lecture and part two a hands-on session.

Portfolio Reviews

A popular feature of past conferences and one of the best ways to get a sense of where you are with your photography and where you might go is a thoughtful portfolio. You can learn what you’re doing well, where and how you might improve and how to tie your images together into a powerful portfolio. A number of experts representing all aspects of the nature photography business have volunteered to be reviewers. You may learn enough in a just 20-minute portfolio review to make the whole conference worthwhile. It’ll certainly be worth your while.

Expo and Trade Show

It seems like the exhibit hall is always crowded. Maybe that’s because things change so fast now. Every few months brings another new camera with photo capabilities expanding by leaps and bounds. And there are more options to go on photo tours all over the world and put that expensive gear to use. You can learn all about both—the gear and the tours—in the expo and trade show. Some companies are sponsoring field trips. Some are doing gear demos. And there will be a wide variety of offerings available from representatives in the exhibit hall through the conference. Got a question about a piece of gear? Want to see and handle it before you buy? Want to talk to a photo tour leader before signing up? Want to feel different types of photo paper? All this and more in the exhibit hall!


The most important part of any conference is you, the attendees. You’ll have opportunities to learn new skills, try out new gear, get out in the field and photograph some of Tucson’s iconic sites, and connect with others. From field trips to food plans and from sessions to exhibits to breaks, even just wandering around the hotel’s lush grounds, you’ll be making new friends, meeting new contacts, renewing old friendships, and enjoying being with other nature photographers. Even though the Summit offers so many things to help you learn, grow and thrive as a photographer, just between you and me the networking might be the best part!

We hope to see you there! Get all the details about the 2023 Nature Photography Summit and Trade Show here.

Frank Gallagher is a landscape and nature photographer based in the Washington, DC, area who specializes in providing a wide range of photograph services to nonprofit organizations. He serves as NANPA’s Interim Marketing and Communications Coordinator and manages NANPA’s blog. He can be found online at or on Instagram @frankgallagherfoto.