being-different,-being-powerful,-being-you
Photo of a horse galloping across a hill covered with small bushes and brush. This wild palomino stallion running free in Sand Wash Basin, Colorado was one of the last horses I photographed before the roundup. © Dawn Wilson
This wild palomino stallion running free in Sand Wash Basin, Colorado was one of the last horses I photographed before the roundup. © Dawn Wilson

By Dawn Wilson, NANPA President

First, my apologies for this late blog post this month. It seems every year I get to the end of summer and freak out about all the things I didn’t finish on my to-do list or wish list before the leaves start turning gold and orange. This year was no different.

One thing that did come up was the last-minute announcement about an emergency roundup of wild horses at Sand Wash Basin in northwest Colorado.

I realize there are two, maybe more, sides to the story about wild horses, but these animals of western high deserts were a subject I have photographed since 2013. I was devastated to hear that of the 896 estimated horses in the basin, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) planned to gather 783 horses starting September 1. I not only wanted my last chance to photograph some of the most recognizable horses in the basin, but I also wanted to document the roundup itself.

My heart begged me to leave after the first band was captured. My head, on the other hand, knew the power of these photographs for telling the story about animals and a landscape not visited by many people.

It took five days to gather a set of images, but I had the photos I wanted to show the heartbreaking roundup activities.

Photo of a helicopter flying low across the desert. Two helicopters were used to chase the horses miles across the high desert landscape and into a trap before being shipped to their holding facility. © Dawn Wilson
Two helicopters were used to chase the horses miles across the high desert landscape and into a trap before being shipped to their holding facility. © Dawn Wilson

The photographs and determination by the Sand Wash Basin advocates worked, especially those by NANPA member Scott Wilson (no relation). 

After seven days of active trapping, BLM ceased the roundup early at 150 horses shy of their goal. The final count was 529 gathered, with 50 of those being released back into the basin. The final reason: photographs and video delivered by social media and the news, as well as the support of Colorado Governor, Jared Polis, and First Gentleman, Marlon Reis, pushed the issue to stop the roundup.

Photographs can be a very powerful tool to raise awareness about a wide variety of issues. How will your photos be a powerful message for our environment?

A bull elk with full set of antlers looking at the camera and standing in tall grass. A satellite bull elk walks through a meadow on a sunny Colorado morning. © Dawn Wilson
A satellite bull elk walks through a meadow on a sunny Colorado morning. © Dawn Wilson

A different view

It is elk rut season in Colorado, and one of my favorite seasons. Living in Estes Park means I typically don’t go a day without driving by, walking by, or stopping to photograph the bugling elk.

And I am not the only one. A few days ago, I was with a group of six photographers. All of us watched a satellite bull walk through a meadow and headed straight for a split-rail fence near us.

I knew all of us wanted the jumping-the-fence shot, and I knew at least one of the guys sells his elk photos as do I. So, my thought: rather than take the same shot as everyone else, let me find a different angle. That was a risk because it may not work, and I only had one shot at the photo.

I crouched down and got close to the fence so I could photograph down the fence line and get a side-angle view of the elk rather than take the wider view of the elk jumping toward me. In hindsight, maybe I should have gone for the wider shot or maybe find a spot down the fence on the other side of the elk. That would have put the sun behind the elk, however, and I wanted something different. In the end, my photo had a busy background, but I liked that I pushed the options and came up with something different.

How can you find your own style and be different with your photos?

Photo of a bull elk leaping over a fence with pine trees in the background. It may not have turned out to be my best image, but I like that I was willing to take the risk for something different. © Dawn Wilson
It may not have turned out to be my best image, but I like that I was willing to take the risk for something different. © Dawn Wilson

Showcase closes soon!

Hurry! Entries close September 20 at 11 p.m. EDT!

NANPA’s annual Showcase photo competition is accepting entries through September 20. This popular contest for NANPA members offers an opportunity to see how your images stack up against other NANPA members and offers $6,000 in prize money. In addition to prizes for the top 24 winners, the top 100 and top 250 winners get recognition as well.

This year there are six categories: altered reality, birds, conservation, macro/micro/all other wildlife, mammals and scapes. With so many category options, there is a spot for a wide range of photographs.

For more information about entering photo contests, download the free NANPA handbook and read this blog post on NANPA’s blog, which gives seven tips for selecting images to enter.

Get involved

Want to get involved? Consider volunteering for a committee. There are numerous options available for a variety of interests. For more info about volunteering, visit http://www.nanpa.org/membership/built-by-volunteers/

Keep letting our membership and marketing teams know about your projects. There may be ways to share the news, like writing a blog or being interviewed on the podcast.

Do you have ideas for events or topics you want to learn more about? Reach out to us through our contact form

And be sure to recommend NANPA to your nature-loving friends and fellow photographers. Word of mouth is the number one way people learn about NANPA. New members can join online at nanpa.org.

“Whatever you are not changing, you’re choosing.” ~ Laurie Buchanan

Let’s stay positive. We are in this together.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>