Don Saunders, Smyrna Chapter

In our newsletters, we feature short profiles of GNPA members from across the state. This month, it’s Don Saunders, a founding member of the Smyrna Chapter.

When did you join GNPA?

I joined the formation meetings that led to the creation of GNPA. I had several different roles in GNPA. The most demanding role was Program Chair, where I scheduled all speakers and meetings for over two years. At this time, GNPA had only a single meeting and individual chapters had not been formed yet.

What is your occupation?

I am retired now. My occupation was medical sales and most of that was diagnostic ultrasound systems (contrast resolution and detail resolution).

How did you get into photography?

I received a Kodak Brownie as a Christmas gift. Later I “upgraded” to a Kodak Instamatic, placed it in an underwater housing, and took underwater photos of fish with it.

What are your favorite photography subjects?

I love to photograph wildlife, landscapes and macro subjects.

 What are your favorite places to shoot?

The North Georgia mountains and Great Smoky Mountains National Park are my favorite places for landscapes and mammals. There are several locations in central Florida that are great for photographing birds. 

What would be your photographic “dream trip?” 

Banff, Yoho, Jasper, and Kootenay national parks in the Canadian Rockies. Those would be followed by Glacier, Yellowstone, Tetons, Zion and Bryce national parks, the Wave, Antelope Canyon, Bandon, OR, Cannon Beach and the national parks at Grand Canyon (North & South Rims), Canyonlands, Death Valley, Yosemite, Redwoods, Crater Lake, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier and Olympic. Also Denali NP and Lake Clarke NP for brown bears.

Which camera body and lenses do you use most often?

Canon R5 with 16-35, 24-105, 180 macro and100-400 lenses. If traveling by air and there are weight and size restrictions, I’ll use the Olympus E-M1X & E-M1.3 with 7-14, 12-100, 40-150, and 300 lenses.

What are your go-to websites for photography information?                                                                                               

Recently, I have been watching YouTube videos by certain photographers, like Mark Denney, Erin Babnik, Marc Muench, Kathleen Clemons, Sean Bagshaw, Joshua Cripps, Matt Kloskowski and Tim Grey.

Have any photographers inspired you?

John Shaw was my primary inspiration since he excelled at photographing landscapes, wildlife and macro and wrote several outstanding instructional books covering these subjects. Others are Ansel Adams, George Lepp, Bill Fortney, Art Wolfe, John Netherton and Rick Sammon.

What’s your favorite part of belonging to GNPA?

Shooting with fellow GNPA members at beautiful locations and learning from the other members.

Something interesting about you that most people do not know:

I am passionate about scuba diving. As a young boy in central Ohio, I watched the “Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau” and was hooked. I became a certified diver at age 17 and dove for nearly 20 years. In 2015, I jumped back into diving by beginning my training from the basics. In a year and a half, I had earned my Master Scuba Diver certification. Last year was a dry (no diving) year, but I am hopeful that I will get wet in 2021.

Where are you from?

I grew up in Granville, Ohio.

Tell us a little about the photos you have provided:

Aurora Borealis in Iceland. My first and only time seeing the Northern Lights. We were on a trip with Iceland Photo Tours and arrived at Kirkjufell in the afternoon. After dinner, we went outside and saw the lights. We hurried to the mountain overlook and photographed it continuously for two hours. The lights constantly moved and changed colors.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers. While photographing birds at the Venice Audubon Rookery, I noticed two photographers by this dead tree. I joined them photographing this mated pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers as they explored a nesting cavity. Of all my images, this one had the most compelling composition, color, head angles and catch lights in the eyes.

Black bear cub in tree. I joined Chas Glatzer for one of his workshops in Minnesota. This cub’s mother had just sensed another bear approaching and made a warning sound to her cub, sending it scurrying up a tree. I walked up on a boardwalk, which put me at eye level with the cub, and photographed it. It was cold and wet that day, and the look on the cub’s face with its wet fur made a connection with me.

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