The DFW chapter of the North American Nature Photography Association hopes to eventually support local conservation efforts. All photos ©Sean Fitzgerald.
Feb. 4, 2015
By Rita Cook
Sean Fitzgerald, founder of the North American Nature Photography Association’s Dallas-Fort Worth chapter, already has big plans for this one-year old group.
Currently NANPA-DFW hosts meetups that allow amateur and professional photographers to come together with one goal in mind – to photograph and appreciate local nature. However, Fitzgerald sees a loftier purpose for its members – helping local conservation efforts.
“I want to eventually grow this into a conservation 'photo bomb' team, which would be great for North Texas,” said Fitzgerald.
He said it’s important because people these days live in such a visual world, connecting with photos in “emotional and powerful ways.”
"The ‘photo bomb’ concept,” he explains, “is simply a way to have dozens of nature photographers descend on a location, photograph what they see, and then use those images to help tell the story of that place, document the diversity, celebrate what is there and bring attention to it with a little press and publicity.”
In the future, Fitzgerald says expect big things from the group, like helping document the Big Spring area in the Great Trinity Forest, which local environmentalists have been working to help protect.
“We will definitely be doing more events like this, for example, at Big Spring. With the participation of those photographers, we can use their images to help document Big Spring’s ecological diversity, populate a dedicated website to Big Spring to help tell the story visually, and get some publicity for Big Spring itself.”
A professional nature photographer, Fitzgerald grew up in North Texas and now lives in Deep Ellum. After searching for photo subjects far and wide, he’s learned to appreciate the local scenery.
“I remember coming back from photographing wildlife in south Texas and looking down on the Great Trinity Forest from I-45 and thinking to myself that I really needed to start exploring what was right here, in my backyard.”
He took an interest in the North Texas prairies too, especially Blackland Prairie remnants.
“What I found when I looked was that these were incredible natural resources that deserve more appreciation. I am now working on long-term photography projects documenting both the Great Trinity Forest and the Blackland Prairie, with the goal of helping North Texas reconnect with our natural heritage through these two incredible yet fragile ecosystems.”
With one of the largest NANPA meetup groups out of the 20 around the country, the Dallas-Fort Worth group boasts 212 members, Fitzgerald says proudly.
As for how to join, he says it’s simple.
“All you need is a free account with Meetup.com in order to join the group. We try to have an event every month or so where we get together to photograph a natural place or subject here in the DFW Metroplex.”
The meetings are free and members range from photographers who come out to have a good time exploring new places to those just eager to share an experience. Camera levels range from the best cameras to cell phones.
"Mainly, we just have fun,” Fitzgerald says.
The group has so far visited everywhere from the Fort Worth Nature Center in Fort Worth to the John Bunker Sands Wetland Center in Seagoville. They've documented the butterflies at the Texas Discovery Garden as well as the pelicans at White Rock Lake.
“We have helped introduce a lot of photographers to some of the crown jewels of the Great Trinity Forest,” he says. “Such as the flowering buckeyes on the Buckeye Trail, and the incredible Big Spring, with its natural spring, forests, prairies and history. We have adopted Big Spring in particular as a location we will continue to explore and document since it has so much to offer and needs to be protected.”
Upcoming, NANPA has plans to visit a new location, the Tandy Hills Natural Area in Fort Worth to photograph "one of the most beautiful prairie remnants around,” Fitzgerald says.
The group’s next meetup will be Feb. 7 at 1 p.m. at Fitzgerald’s studio at 2814 Canton St. in Dallas. Fitzgerald will give a presentation on digital image processing with guest speaker Derek Broman offering an introduction to iNaturalist.org.
Rita Cook is an Arlington-based award-winning journalist who writes or has written for the Dallas Morning News, Focus Daily News, Waxahachie Daily Light, Dreamscapes Travel Magazine, Porthole, Core Media, Fort Worth Star Telegram and many other publications in Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago. With five books published, her latest release is “A Brief History of Fort Worth” published by History Press. Contact her at email@example.com.