Saturday, March 19, 2011

NANPA Summit

NANPA High School Scholarship winner Kathryn Boyd-Batstone with one of Canon's
behemoth lenses and 7D bodies at South Padre Island, Texas. 

Every year the North American Nature Photography Association hosts a conference inviting the nation's top shooters. The annual summit lasts three days providing the attendees with keynote speeches, workshops from the industry leaders, and a trade show of exhibitors showcasing the latest equipment. It's an overwhelming place and I've met some lifelong friends and mentors at this conference over the years. The most rewarding part, however, is getting to participate as an instructor for the high school scholarship program.

Before the new year NANPA selects ten high school and ten college students to attend the conference which usually falls in February or March. The students arrive three days early and are thrown into the lion's den with mornings that begin at 5:00 AM and end at 12:00 AM. Sponsored by Canon, Hunts Photo and Video, Wimberley, Delkin, Nik Software, and Manfrotto tripods, they get the chance to use the best gear in choice locations with direct tutelage from professionals like Raymond Klass, Sharon Klass, Ellen Anon, Michael Nadler, Lou Nettlehorst, Ray Pfortner, and myself.

This year's winners were Joe Sulik, Jayleen Beedle, Alex Sandlin, Johan Doornenbal, Timmothy Brooks, Benjamin Knoot, Ben Walker, Kathryn Boyd-Batstone, Luke Crouch, and Danny Waterman.

Instructor Ray Pfortner with student Timothy Brooks at South Padre Island

I could write a novel from all the stories and experiences we had in our short week together, but I'd rather you hear it from them. Here's a video which we showcased to the 300 attendees on the last night of the conference put together by Raymond Klass. They received a standing ovation from the most respected names in nature photography. How's that for wind at your back?

Eight years ago, I was a student and one of the ten recipients of the NANPA high school scholarship. At that conference I was offered my first professional job, promoting and building a photography ranch in McAllen, Texas. The following three years they sent me to attend the summit's tradeshow on behalf of the Cozad Ranch to promote photography excursions in McAllen. Three years ago I accompanied one of my students from the Honduran organization GUARUMA as a translator and liaison in a life-changing trip. I was with him on his first airplane ride and next to him as he said his tearful goodbyes to the other students. Now I'm an instructor at the annual summit in McAllen, Texas and I find myself glowing with coincidence.

NANPA gave me a foundation for my confidence to build and a fertile place for my ideas to grow. It's been a long beautiful ride. I love a full circle and even more so, the potential energy stored in our youth. It's impossible to predict the ways they will change this world but I can't wait to follow along.

Did I mention my middle name is McAllen?

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