Photo by Bill White
A Busy Second Half of 2021
After a challenging year, things are looking up. Not only are our local chapters beginning to resume in-person meetings, but other events are being planned for the rest of the year. Here is quick update of what’s going on in GNPA:
We now have our own statewide Meetup page, listed as the Georgia Nature Photographers Association (GNPA) Group. This is a great group to join, because it will allow you to stay abreast of all GNPA programs and events. (If you’re not signed up for Meetup, you can join by opening a free account at Meetup.com). Some GNPA programs may be listed in both the local and our state Meetup groups.
GNPA also is hosting a brand-new Instagram feed, administered by member Jenny Burdette. Just search for gnpa_pix on Instagram to see photos from our members and learn more about the site. Be sure to read Jenny’s article, elsewhere in this newsletter, on how (and why) photographers should get started on Instagram.
Meanwhile, our group’s Facebook page has recently switched from a public page to a private one. This move, prompted by changes in Facebook’s rules, will allow us much better control of our page and help reduce spam. Our members aren’t likely to notice any changes, but let us know if you encounter any issues.
More good news for 2021: After having to cancel our 2020 Expo due to Covid, a new virtual Expo is being scheduled for September. This year’s event will feature in-person field trips across the state, as well as virtual speakers and webinars. Be on the lookout for more details coming soon.
Later this year, the GNPA will be hosting its fall trip to the Smokies on November 4-7. This event is a great opportunity to explore a wide range of locations around Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. One of the biggest benefits of visiting the Smokies as part of this event is the chance to discover new shooting locations with knowledgeable trip leaders, who can show you exactly where to go and provide advice on getting the best photos. Plus, this trip is a good way to make connections with other photographers.
Our new Programs Committee has been putting together monthly programs with interesting speakers that supplement your local chapter meetings. Keep sending your suggestions for speakers to Lee Friedman. His email address is listed on the officer’s page at gnpa.org (as are those of all our officers) if you want to get in touch.
Of course, without volunteers, we wouldn’t be able to provide the programs, chapter meetings, field trips and other events that GNPA offers its members every month. If you are interested in learning more or getting involved, please let me know.
See you in the field.
Photo by Bill White
Moving Ahead for 2021
With a new slate of officers from the recent GNPA elections, our organization is now putting together plans for 2021 and beyond. Based on the new Covid guidelines for vaccinated individuals released this month by the CDC, we hope to resume in-person meetings in the fall, if not sooner for some chapters, such as Coastal.
At this moment, we’re in the evaluation and planning stages for a virtual Expo to be held later this year. We’re looking at virtual programs and speakers, combined with outdoor field trips across the state. To help us accomplish this, please fill out the Expo survey on the Member page of our website (go to gnpa.org and sign in. Or click on this link to take the survey) so that we know the type of speakers you want to hear. Plus, if you are interested in helping develop our Expo concept, please contact me or Lee Friedman.
Our annual fall trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee is currently planned for November 4-7, 2021. This is a great trip with many different photographic opportunities. Over the years I have photographed wildlife including bears, deer, elk, birds and coyotes as well as incredible sunrises, sunsets, mountain streams and the famous troll bridge. Like the Expo, guest speakers will be featured.
At its last meeting, the GNPA board approved a programs committee. This group will be responsible for selecting some nationally known speakers to address GNPA members this summer and fall, supplementing our current speaker lineup. The first of these new speakers is scheduled for May 25. If you have suggestions for certain speakers you’d like to hear, please send your ideas to Lee Friedman.
Meanwhile, we have scheduled the 2022 Expo for Jekyll Island on April 7-10. Based on the latest Covid trends and health guidelines, it’s looking good for a more traditional Expo next year.
We’re fortunate to have many talented volunteers committed to making GNPA a great organization for our members. Without those volunteers, we simply couldn’t do many of the things that make our group special. If you are interested in contributing in any way, please let us know. We are always looking for volunteers, especially with membership, field trips and chapter meetings. Be sure to contact your local chapter coordinator if you have ideas or can lend a hand.
Sunrise at Jekyll Island, March 7, 2021. Photo by Eric Bowles
Despite Covid, A Year of Accomplishments
Wow, what a year! In the past 12 months, we’ve all had to adjust to massive changes related to Covid-19. But during that time, GNPA has adapted and made changes, so I’d like to update everyone on just how much we have accomplished.
The GNPA webinar program was launched in May 2020 to help provide information and outreach to our members. Since then, we’ve conducted nearly 50 webinars by a wide range of speakers from across the country. Most of those have been recorded, and we now have 36 programs available to members at anytime on the GNPA Member website. Thanks to all the speakers, chapter leaders and Lee Friedman for creating this webinar program while we could not meet in person.
The GNPA Newsletter and related Blog program were also launched last May. Tom Wilson helped kick off a communications strategy for GNPA that includes the newsletters, website, blog, video and social media. We are very lucky to have some great support from members, including Ken Dunwoody as newsletter editor, Armetrice Cabine, Cindi Kurczewski and Brian Lucy working on our Blog, Brian and Jamie Andersen tackling newsletter production, Alfie Wace and Lowell Sims managing our Facebook page, Lee Friedman handling our YouTube programs, and Chris Dekle continuing to work on the website and technology platforms. There have been many other members participating in these programs as well – too many to name here. The result of these efforts has been the publication of six newsletters annually, more than 50 blog posts a year, and the addition of valuable fresh content on a regular basis to our members and the public via our website.
In the past year GNPA membership has declined slightly, but remains strong. Currently we have 639 individual members of GNPA, spread out through eight chapters around the state. Plus, we are continuing to attract more photographers with 30 new members in the past 90 days, despite the fact that we can’t meet in person or conduct our normal Meetup activities. Stewart Woodard has been the go-to person for our entire membership, managing the database and member renewals. Stewart has worked endless hours to clean up bad data, resolve renewal and access problems, and resolve a host of other issues. John Criminger has now volunteered to take over Stewart’s role heading the Membership Committee.
Our Conservation Committee remains very active in support of conservation programs and community partners. This year, the committee made it possible for members to contribute more than 1,000 photos to the Wildlife Resources Division of Georgia DNR, which will help promote wildlife, conservation, the environment and parks across Georgia. In addition, GNPA members contributed over 800 images to other conservation partners and organizations in the state.
In spite of the Covid limitations, we are still making photos. Our members have created some great images, and we’ve seen those photos in a number of contests. In fact, GNPA members have submitted over 1,500 images in a range of competitions and gallery exhibits this year. The quality of work by GNPA members continues to improve and impress, while it highlights the natural beauty of Georgia and our adjoining states.
Financially, GNPA is in good shape. Due to Covid, we had to cancel the Expo and field trips, which contribute to the revenue we use to run the organization. That lost revenue was partially offset by the suspension of rental fees associated with chapter meetings, a reduction in insurance premiums, a reduction in chapter speaker fees, and conservative management of expenses. Collectively, we had a surplus of $4,565 for the calendar year. We continue to maintain adequate liquidity with cash reserves and adequate cash balances.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the Board members, Chapter Coordinators and volunteers of GNPA. This is an all-volunteer organization, so we can only operate by having a large number of members who are willing to contribute their time and expertise. We try to run the organization professionally and efficiently to make good use of each person’s time. Our general approach is to include multiple people in each GNPA activity to help share the work and to make sure it remains fun.
We already have some great plans in place for next year and beyond. GNPA has a new contract for the 2022 Expo at Jekyll Island on April 7-10. The keynote speaker will be renowned photographer Arthur Morris, who is also planning a multi-day workshop for GNPA members following the conference.
In lieu of our annual member meeting at the Expo, we’d like you to join us next month to celebrate the past year, provide some updates, and welcome the new GNPA Board members and officers. Please mark your calendar for a virtual GNPA Annual Meeting, scheduled for April 7, 2021, at 7:00 p.m. on Zoom. I hope to see you there.
Photo by Eric Bowles
Get Involved in GNPA
Eric Bowles, GNPA President
I don’t know about you, but I’m glad to put 2020 behind me. GNPA has had a pretty good year, but it certainly had its challenges. We’re looking forward to better times in 2021 and beyond. As a result of cancelling the Expo and chapter meetings, GNPA revenue is down for 2020. But we were able to successfully trim insurance, rent and other charges, so we had a small surplus for the year. Our financial position is solid and we are moving forward.
Meanwhile, we’re starting to work on the annual election of officers and board members for GNPA. This process is how we select the leaders to represent you and guide the strategy of GNPA. If you have an interest in becoming more involved, be sure to let us know. We’re especially looking for people with experience on other boards, or with relevant professional skills. We are lucky to have a lot of very talented business people involved in GNPA, and those professional backgrounds are very helpful.
We also need to help rotate some of the chapter coordinators out of their current role and into other positions within the organization. The chapter coordinator, co-coordinator and other leaders of our local chapters are critical to our member experience. Of course, the job of chapter coordinator is a lot easier when we have a team of people working together, and it’s another good way for members to get involved. We always are looking for people to help with membership, lead or coordinate field trips, plan chapter meetings and support communication (Meetup scheduling, email reminders, announcements, etc.). Many hands make light work, and it’s member involvement that makes our chapters successful and prevents great volunteers from feeling burned out. Please contact your chapter coordinator if you are willing to help out.
Finally, we have made the decision to cancel the Expo 2021 due to the ongoing risks associated with Covid-19. We have confirmed the dates and signed a contrast to hold the 2022 Expo at Jekyll Island on April 7-10, 2022. We hope it will be a more traditional Expo with some much needed in-person events. We do have a team of members working on a possible Virtual Expo later in 2021, and if you are interested in helping plan this concept, please let me know. We would like to have some input from members who have attended virtual conferences in the past. We are still planning to hold the Smokies event in November, 2021.
Thanks again for your continued support of GNPA.
Photo by Eric Bowles
Getting Out Again
Eric Bowles, GNPA President
We’ve just completed a very successful Smokies Weekend field trip. Thanks to Mike Thornton, Tricia Raffensperger and all the trip leaders and competition leaders who made this weekend such a terrific experience. While things have changed due to Covid, it was great to be outside again and have a chance to photograph some familiar locations.
Great Smoky Mountain National Park in Tennessee was exceptionally crowded – and that has been the case for months. We’re all looking for ways to get out and make photographs in nature, but recently that has often limited our travel to locations that are within driving distance. Fortunately, the Smokies and Blue Ridge Parkway match that description for most of us.
There is no doubt things have changed. Across the country, conferences are largely on hold for now as we avoid large groups and meetings. Our Smokies event certainly had to adapt, and it felt different without the camaraderie of our large group meetings and photo competition. Travel to field locations was done in our individual vehicles – possibly with one other person – in order to maintain social distance and limit contact. But it was sure great being in the park and enjoying nature and photography. A lot of memories, stories and photos were created.
We’re going to use this experience to help us decide on a plan for the annual GNPA Expo in 2021. Many similar conferences are evolving into virtual events now. One of the big attractions of Jekyll Island as a conference site is that it provides so many photo opportunities. We could create an event that takes place mainly in the field, in order to limit gatherings. We could also consider a hybrid event, with field activities and virtual programming via Zoom. We’ll be asking for your input via survey later this month.
Before I close, I’d like to recognize the members who have joined our Communications team to help with the online blogs and newsletter. We now have more than 40 articles on the GNPA Blog, which can be accessed on our website. In addition, we have created the GNPA Newsletter, which offers additional content and feature articles which then become part of that website archive. Blog posts are updated on an ongoing basis, while the newsletter is produced every-other month. Our team – consisting of Tom Wilson, Ken Dunwoody, Armetrice Cabine, Cindi Kurczewski and Jamie Anderson – are responsible for coordinating the overall effort, selecting and assigning content, editing and posting the articles, and finding great photos to support those articles. Please join me in thanking them for all of their work on the newsletter and the blog. Make sure you check out those articles on our website, or when the GNPA newsletter hits your inbox.
Thanks for your continued support of GNPA.
See What’s New for GNPA
Eric Bowles, GNPA President
It’s been about six months since Covid-19 forced our organization to shut down chapter meetings and most in-person events. During that time, we’ve been working to reinvent GNPA in ways that will help it thrive in this new world.
First, we’re updating and improving the GNPA website. When you visit our website (www.GNPA.org), you’ll find a new home page featuring some terrific images from GNPA members. You’ll also discover a new Blog page, which offers the ability to view current and archived posts from our blogs and newsletters. To make it even more useful, you can search this content by topic or keyword.
In place of chapter meetings, we’ve launched a webinar program using the Zoom platform. At this point we’ve delivered more than a dozen webinars, and those recordings are posted on the Member Home page. One great aspect of this approach is that it allows our members to virtually attend meetings from any chapter in the state, so you never have to miss an interesting speaker or topic. If you can’t watch the live webinar, you can always catch the recorded version at your convenience.
Meanwhile, we see a lot of members who are eager to get outside and make photographs with other members. Jamie Anderson’s Jekyll Island astrophotography program sold out in just four days and had a waiting list. The Fall Smokies event (November 5-8) already has 50 people registered, but don’t worry, there is plenty of space available. The program has been revised this year to support social distancing and safe travel. Even more trips and programs are in the works, with the emphasis on regional travel.
Don’t miss these opportunities. To register for events, sign up for webinars, listen to recordings or find out about other member activities, just click on the Member Login on the top right corner of the GNPA home page. After you log in, you’ll see your Member Home page with a list of member-only activities and programs at the bottom of the page.
Thanks for your continued support of GNPA.
— Eric Bowles