February 2022 Newsletter


Here in Colorado, the snow has been coming down, coloring the world a dozen shades of white. Many of the wild creatures have gone into hibernation or traveled south for the winter, while a few of the hardier animals can be seen making their way through the deep snow in search of nourishment.

Longs © Erik Stensland 2022. All Rights Reserved.

Though the weather is at times harsh, this is also a time of great beauty.

Watching the world go through its seasons helps put life in perspective. Each of our lives has different periods with ebbs and flows, twists, and turns. It’s always an adventure of change and transition. That is certainly true for Nature First.

When we began this organization, it was just a vision; a dream for encouraging greater stewardship among photographers. We had no money and no personnel. Those of us who volunteered had full-time jobs and families. Making any progress and keeping volunteers was challenging. It felt very much like we were trudging through the deep winter snow. Today, we are reaching a new phase. Although we are right at the beginning of it, we are quite hopeful. It feels like we are seeing the first signs of the coming spring.

We’ve just hired our first paid staff member. They will be Nature First’s Director of Operations, providing a central point of contact between our various programs and volunteers. Their involvement will breathe fresh life into the organization and help us begin building a structure that can support the many projects and programs we have planned. We’re hopeful that this is just the start of being able to hire additional staff and create a robust organization that can help advance the cause of responsible nature photography.


I’d like to introduce you to Tracy Gross, Nature First’s new Director of Operations. Tracy spent over 15 years as the Director of Operations for a healthcare non-profit. When she arrived, it was a very small organization, but she developed it into one with 180 employees and significant impact in the lives of at-risk youth, families, and local communities.

When she began that role, she knew little about nonprofits or about healthcare. She dove in and learned all there was to learn. Now, she wants to use her organizational skills to help our natural world and sees the potential to build Nature First into an organization which has significant impact in this area.

We are thrilled to have Tracy as part of the team and are excited about the possibilities that lie ahead. Her first day of work is on February 21st. Tracy is looking forward to meeting the Nature First staff and volunteers in order to learn more about conservation and the world of nature photography, and we have already seen that she is an eager and fast learner. We hope that you will help give her the support that she needs as she works to build support for our collective efforts. You can read a little bit more about Tracy at this link.


We recently welcomed a new organization, Photo Rovers, as a Silver Partner with Nature First. To become a Silver Partner requires a significant commitment to sustainable practices and we applaud those organizations that have made the extra effort to achieve this level of partnership.

Photo Rovers provides private, customized, and carbon-zero photo expeditions through the beautiful countryside of southern France using luxurious trekking e-bikes. Their guides will take you on scenic trails and backroads bringing you to deep gorges, medieval villages, Roman ruins, and prehistoric caves. You’ll be able to create gorgeous photos while prioritizing care for the environment. Be sure to check them out.


As Tracy gets up and running over the next few weeks, we plan to start interviewing people for volunteer positions in Nature First. We will be seeking people with a variety of skills. If you are interested in getting involved, visit the Volunteer Page on our website. There you’ll find a list of some of the positions available and can submit an application.


We are pleased to announce that after a lot of time and effort, we have finally secured the domain name: NatureFirst.org. Currently, the new URL simply forwards to our existing website address, but we plan to make this the default address over the coming weeks.


Elk © Erik Stensland 2022. All Rights Reserved.

A growing issue of concern has been the increasing number of stories we’ve been hearing about unethical approaches to wildlife photography. In some instances we hear of photographers using food to attract animals and in other instances we hear of photographers chasing animals on foot, with a drone, or through other means so that they head in the right direction for the perfect photo. Such approaches prioritize photography over the well being of the natural world, contradicting the very first principle of Nature First.

Alyce Bender is a professional wildlife photographer and also the Nature First ambassador for the state of Texas in the United States. She recently wrote an article for the latest edition of the Journal of Wildlife Photography. In her article she writes, “We as photographers, for the greater good of the ecosystems we operate in and the animals we photograph, must act as if everyone is watching how and what we shoot. We must be the leaders by both action and words in advocating for ethical field practices if we are to protect these places and creatures we care about.”

Alyce’s suggestion is one we should all take to heart, no matter what type of photography we do. As Nature First members we have all committed ourselves to prioritize the well-being of the natural world. Together, through our actions and our words, we can help to educate and encourage one another to respect the natural world we all celebrate.

We’re so glad to have you as Nature First members. Across the globe we stand together to cherish and care for this amazing planet, as we create images that show the world how very precious it is.

Erik Stensland
Board Chair