finding-a-photo-blind-in-a-national-wildlife-refuge
View of coastal wetlands from the NANPA Foundation Funded Photo Blind in St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Florida, © Chris Herig
View from the NANPA Foundation Funded Photo Blind in St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Florida, © Chris Herig

By Frank Gallagher, NANPA Blog Coordinator

Chris Herig was participating in a NANPA webinar and mentioned that she frequently photographed at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in northern Florida. The refuge is home to numerous waterfowl, hawks, eagles, bobcat, deer, butterflies, alligators and, well, a lot of wildlife. It is also home to a photo blind funded by the NANPA Foundation.

View of the NANPA Foundation Funded Photo Blind in St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Florida, © Chris Herig
View of the NANPA Foundation Funded Photo Blind in St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Florida, © Chris Herig

Photo Blinds Grants Program

Like many, Herig was aware of the NANPA Foundation, but not of the Photo Blinds Grants Program. To date, NANPA Foundation funding has helped build 40 blinds in 37 National Wildlife Refuges in 24 different states. Organized groups can apply for a $1,500 grant to build or modify a photo blind on a refuge, wildlife, reserve or park. Complete details and the application form can be found on the Foundation’s website.

While Herig was a regular visitor to St. Marks NWR, she was not aware it contained a blind. Not surprising, given that the refuge covers 80,000 acres of coastal marshes, tidal creeks, wetlands, the estuaries of seven rivers, and swaths of longleaf pine spread over three counties and 43 miles of the Gulf Coast. For six months or so, she had been photographing at the refuge, learning the ins and outs of her new camera.

Coastal brown bear cubs playing in the grass, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, Alaskka, July 2021© Chris Herig
Coastal Brown Bear Cubs, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, Alaskka, July 2021© Chris Herig

Getting Serious About Wildlife Photography

She’s been taking photos for a long time but got much more serious about photography somewhat later in life. “I picked up a camera when I was 9 years old and went away to camp for the first time” she said. “I never put it down! As the digital age emerged, I was working with photos on my very first computers. I did desktop publishing for work and pleasure and learned with every new program that came along. While I used my camera to document the chapters of my life, my first love has always been my dogs and wildlife. It wasn’t until both of my parents had passed away and no longer needed me, that I truly began traveling for pleasure and then eventually being able to travel longer distances and visit the places I had only dreamed of, most especially our nnational parks. I started my national park adventure with Grand Teton and then Yellowstone on my 50th birthday! This summer’s trip to Alaska is definitely the pinnacle of my photography and my travels, but it has only increased my thirst!”

“I am not pursuing being a professional photographer,” she continued, “but I am a strong advocate for not allowing photos to languish on a card or computer. I make extensive trip books whenever I travel and I make all manner of gifts for friends and family. I never tire of finding new ways to inspire others with what drives my passion to spend hours behind the lens and focus on the positively magnificent wonders and wildlife that surround us.”

Osprey, standing on a branch, about to take flight, St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Florida, August 2020 © Chris Herig
Osprey, St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Florida, August 2020 © Chris Herig

Photographing a Blind

When NANPA asked if she’d look for the St. Marks blind and send photos, Herig jumped at the chance to find a new place to photograph and photograph from. The blind, built in 2005, is still in good condition and has a wonderful view.“I joined NANPA shortly after signing up for a brown bear photography workshop with Dawn Wilson,” she said. “Her podcast about 15 months in an RV hooked me on following her career, which soon included Dawn becoming president of NANPA. Having made that financial leap in traveling for wildlife photography and jumping into manual mode, meant I needed a whole lot of help. With the transition to online learning during 2020, it made it easy and exciting to learn so much about all things photography. When the NANPA Foundation advertised portfolio reviews, I jumped at a chance to get a baseline for how I was doing. At this year’s Summit, I again did a review to see what progress I had made in learning and using manual mode. I am thrilled that the Foundation funds blinds, I can’t think of a stronger way to promote truly responsible wildlife photography. I will continue to support the Foundation any way I can. I would have to say that the educational opportunities are worth the price of membership and everything else is just golden light on the subject.”

A sign points the way towards the photo blind in St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Florida © Chris Herig
A sign points the way towards the photo blind in St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Florida © Chris Herig

If you’re a regular user of one of these blinds, drop us a line. If you haven’t used one, the next time you’re heading out to a National Wildlife Refuge or Reserve, check the NANPA Foundation Photo Blinds Grants Program map of photo blinds and see if there’s one where you’re going. We’d love to see photos of what they look like now and hear how you are using them. Send photo blind images to publications@nanpa.org with the subject line “Photo Blind” and we may include your story in a future blog.

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