UGA alumni can be found doing amazing things all over the world, so we were delighted to find Eric Bowles (BBA ’79) on the board of directors for the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA), which established Nature Photography Day (June 15). A professional photographer specializing in the Southeast United States, Eric’s work has been published in magazines, newspapers, and commercial publications.
Why did NANPA create Nature Photography Day?
Nature Photography Day was created by NANPA to enhance awareness of the power of nature photography in telling important stories. June 15 would be a time to invite family and friends outside and to learn about the natural sights and places in their neighborhoods. Why not look to local scenes, where you can see and appreciate nature even in your own backyard?
What are some of your favorite places to photograph nature?
The diversity of nature in the United States is quite amazing. We’re very lucky to have so many places to go to see and photograph nature. One of the best known parks is Yellowstone National Park. The geysers are the icons of the area – and Old Faithful is the most famous.
Closer to home, the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is one of my favorite places to visit. Wildlife thrives in the Okefenokee – alligators, snakes, and a tremendous variety of birds. But what people don’t think about are all the beautiful wildflowers that are found in the Okefenokee.
How has being a UGA graduate influenced your career?
My undergraduate degree is in finance, and I spent more than 20 years in banking with what is now Bank of America. The foundation I received in business and finance has helped me with roles on boards and leadership roles throughout my career.
UGA also has a tremendous research program, and photographs are part of many research initiatives. I’ve photographed several research projects through UGA. One project involved counting and photographing birds at the edge of the Gulf stream to document migration. Sometime you get the unexpected – such as a sea turtle that decided a scientific instrument was a toy – resulting in the measuring equipment being many miles off course.
What’s the story behind one of your photos?
One of my favorite photos was made in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This particular photo idea started with just a small plant on a mossy rock. I returned to the area at least a half dozen times over the next four weeks working on compositions and watching the plant begin to bloom. We had just enough rain for the stream to rise and create just the shot I wanted, but it continued to rain every day over the next week and the water continued to rise. By the end of the week, a torrent of water was flowing rapidly through the quiet stream and the blossoms were gone.
What’s your best tip for a Bulldog looking to get into nature photography?
Photography in general requires some degree of specialization. If you choose what you love and are truly passionate about your photography, you can build a successful career. It’s not just about making good photographs–that’s a given. It’s about spending the time and effort to find projects and work that you truly enjoy. You may not be ready to specialize right away, so it’s fine to explore different areas. Take a look at all the places you see still photography and short videos to get an idea of the opportunities available.