GNPA Expo 2017 Review

The Georgia Nature Photographers Association (GNPA) Annual Expo was held last week (March 30th - April 2nd, 2017) in Young Harris, Georgia, specifically at the Brasstown Valley Resort and Spa.

The GNPA Annual Expo is always a awesome experience for nature photographers like myself because you get to meet other like minded nature photographers from across Georgia and the southeast. These nature photographers come from all over Georgia, usually in numbers around 150 or so. Most of these photographers have a high level of expertise and are very enthusiastic about their craft, whether they are doing this type of photography as a hobby or as a professional.

I will give this review from the standpoint of my own personal journey during the Expo. There were a variety of workshops and field trips that you could sign up for when you registered for the event, and it is not possible for one person to attend them all. I also volunteered to lead one of the field trips on night photography (more on that later, lol).

So, my journey started with a drive from Savannah to Atlanta to see my son (Jimmy) Tuesday evening. That is always fun and we had time to go out and get a burrito at Moe's Southwestern Grill. My plan was to get to Young Harris, Georgia on Wednesday in order to attend the Expo on Thursday morning.

On Wednesday, I decided to leave at the same time my son was leaving for work and drive to Hiawassee, Georgia where I had reservations at the Lake Chatuge Lodge. Since he was leaving for work at 6:30AM, that is what time I would leave. This put me at the Lake Chatuge Lodge at 8:00AM. When I arrived, they promptly stated that the clean up crew was just arriving, so no rooms would be available until 12:00pm noon. So, since I would not be able to check in for four hours, I decided to drive up to the Brasstown Bald Observatory Tower where I would be leading a field trip the next night at 3:00AM for night photography. Here's a couple of photos I took and you can see the weather was nice and clear.

The rest of the day was uneventful.. Got checked into the hotel, went shopping for some groceries that I could eat during the week, and got some supper.

The next day I got checked into the GNPA Expo at the Brasstown Valley Resort and Spa, helped them with some of the setup, and attended my first workshop/field trip which was about photographing water with Larry Winslet. Larry is a very accomplished photographer and also teaches photography at such places as the Atlanta School of Art and the John C. Campbell Folk School. Here are a couple of photographs that I was able to take that afternoon during the field trip portion in the Nantahala National Forest.

The original plan was for everyone who was going on the night photography field trips to go get some sleep after the Thursday field trips and then get up at 2:30AM early Friday morning, however the weather did not cooperate. We had a strong thunderstorm role in and that postponed the night photography for a day. It also blew out the the lights at the Lake Chatuge Lodge that night and put us into pitch black darkness, but that's another story.

Friday was mainly setup for field trips so that everyone could get out and explore and photograph something that interest them, e.g. wildflowers or waterfalls. There were also three more classes scheduled for Friday morning in case you would just like to stay in and learn more. The classes were on the basics of DSLR photography, Topaz Plugins, and working with Photoshop. These were great classes and many people attended them. Because of the thunderstorm activity the night before and the chance of even more rain the next morning, the classes were well attended on Friday. I chose to go photograph some waterfalls. Although not the original field trip that I signed up for, we did find some waterfalls in the area and I thought it would give me a chance to practice photographing water again. Here are some photos:

Friday afternoon I was able to attend a workshop with Mark Buckler on "What makes a compelling photograph". Mark Buckler is also a very accomplished photographer who does photography workshops in the North Carolina Outer Banks area and it is who I learned how to do night photography from during the GNPA Expo 2016 on Jekyll Island, Georgia. I thought the presentation was very insightful and well worth attending. Oh, if only I could make each of my photographs "compelling", lol. Now it is a goal.

Friday evening the weather was better so we decided to proceed with the night photography field trips. We had two field trips planned, one to the Lake Chatuge Dam, and the other one that I was leading to the Brasstown Bald Observatory. Everything went well untill we got to the very top of the Brasstown Bald mountain (the highest point in Georgia at elevation 4,784 feet) and the top of the mountain was completely fogged in. You could not see 30 feet and the wind was also pushing more clouds up the side of the mountain with a wind speed of about 20 knots. There would be no night photography up there on that night! They had better luck at the Lake Chatuge Dam and some of the particpants were able to get some decent night photos.

Saturday was dedicated to Ken Sklute, our keynote speaker for Expo 2017. Ken is a "Canon Explorer of Light". This designation is only awarded by Canon to about twenty individuals at one time worldwide. What an honor! His morning presentation was about "Visual Depth". It was an awesome presentation on what goes into a photograph to create maximum visual depth. This was truely very insightful and presented with many examples of his own personal photography. Ken has had an amazing career in photography for over 40 years and has done everything from wedding photography, to storm chasing, to nature photography, to night photography. His insights and tips were truely amazing and have given me many things to think about when doing photography in the future.

After the luncheon/dinner was served to the GNPA Members (and these Saturday luncheon/dinners are catered by the hotel, 1st class, as if it were a wedding reception, exceptional to say the least), Ken Sklute began his afternoon session. Now, just for a minute imagine, what it could be like to listen to a Canon Explorer of Light for a full day (morning and afternoon). Someone who has access to all the latest Canon equipment, sometime even before it is released to the public. The cost of the GNPA expo would be well worth it if that was the ONLY event held all week! Anyway, Ken's afternoon session was about photographing something near and dear to his heart, Amish people in the northern parts of upstate New York. Now, if you know anything about Amish people, it is that they do not like getting thier picture taken, right? So, Ken's discussion was most insightful in regards to photographing people who may or may not like to get photographed either. Ken discussed everything, sometimes emotionally, about his journey into this subject matter, how he like photographing the old houses and barns on thier farmland, the horse buggies that they like ride in, the landscape associated with upstate New York, the clothing and style of the people which seemed to be locked in time in another era. Most of his photography was done at a distance, from roadways, sometimes shot through the windows of his car when he would see something and stop to photograph it. Ken was eventually able to make friends with one of the Amish families who were as curious of him as he was of them and they let him into their world, even letting him stay in their home for periods of time and introducing him to some of their friends and their way of life. Through this friendship, Ken was able to get even more up close photos of the Amish people, but I think he ended up valuing his friendship with them even more than his impressive photography of them.

Saturday night as far as night photography was concerned was "on your own". Some people went back to the Lake Chatuge Dam. I decided to google some other locations in the area for night photography and came up with the Popcorn Ridge Overlook in the Chattahoochee National Forest. I didn't want to stay out too late or too long becaue I had to drive all the way back to Savannah the next day. Here's some photos I was able to take.

Sunday wrapped up with a critique of most of the photographs that were entered into the GNPA Expo 2017 photo competition. For this competiion, the GNPA members could submit any photograph that they had ever taken as long as the rules were followed for whatever category they were entering it into. The critiques were done by Mark Buckler, Larry Winslett, and David Foster and were very insightful and helpful. 

Other announcements that were made before the Expo ended were the new GNPA officers, one of which is our own Coastal Georgian Alfie Wace. See: https://www.gnpa.org/index.php/about-gnpa/gnpa-officers-and-board . Alfie will be the new VP of the GNPA. It was sad to see Horace Hamilton step down as president. He was given a standing ovation for time served as President of the GNPA. He will be replaced by Tom Simpson.

The other big announcement was the location of GNPA Expo 2018. It is returning to Jekyll Island, GA!!! Once again, the Coastal Division of the GNPA can play a big part in making Expo 2018 a huge success.

None of the images above in this blog are currently for sale as the mountain region of Georgia is out of my niche which is Coastal Georgia. However, IF you would like the purchase any of these images, or if you see anything in this blog which is factually wrong or misspelled, please contact me. CLICK HERE