Q&A with Noppadol PaothongNovember 13, 2020
For the opening of Sage Grouse: Icon of the West exhibition, the Museum held a webinar with Noppadol Paothong. During the presentation, Noppadol shared about his work, the exhibition, and his conservation efforts for the Greater Sage Grouse bird. Unfortunately, we ran out of time to answer everyone’s questions during the webinar, but Noppadol was gracious enough to answer them afterward. See his answers below!
Q&A with Noppadol Paothong
Do you work with Dave Showalter, also an ILCP member, who also works with Sage Grouse?
[NP:] We didn’t work together on this project, although it would have been great. He and I shared photo blind for a few mornings during a photo shoot in Gunnison, Colorado. Dave is a great guy and he does many great works with wildlife.
Do you consider yourself a photographer or a conservationist first?
[NP:] I would like to consider myself a conservationist first because I like to use my images as a way to motivate people.
Can you tell us a little bit about the photographic equipment that you use, your editing platforms, that sort of stuff?
[NP:] I usually carry the least amount of gear to get the job done. Gear that I typically bring with me when shooting inside a blind includes a long telephoto lens such as a 600mm with 1.4X or 2x teleconverter, a 100-400mm zoom, and a wide-angle lens such as 16-35mm. I may bring some additional equipment for a remote-control camera on special occasions.
Were the coyotes and bobcats threatening?
[NP:] I don’t think they are. I had witnessed a coyote walking by on lek and sage-grouse didn’t seem to be bothered by its presence. The threat to sage-grouse happens the most during summer month when chicks are more vulnerable to predators such as raptors.
What’s your favorite food to take into the field? And do you enjoy going solo or with a partner?
[NP:] While working in a remote area in the high desert I ate a lot of freeze-dried food because it was easy to carry and eat in a field. Having something that easy and ready to eat helped saving me time so I can spend more time taking pictures. While I spent a lot of time myself, I do enjoy having company. However, it was hard for most people as I worked long hours from 2 am. until sundown with little rest.
Do you get special permission to photograph in places, for example, refuges, that normally people are not allowed to be on?
[NP:] I had to get special permission when I was working with endangered species such as Attwater prairie-chicken in Texas, and Gunnison sage-grouse in Colorado. This permission was very hard to get approval, and I had to explain my purpose and what I intension was.
What would you say has been your most challenging weather scenario to work in?
[NP:] Spring season was always challenged to work with especially after snow started to melt in the high desert area, where most access was so remote. Sage-grouse live in a harsh environment where winter temperatures can dip well below zero with strong gusts of wind. Even springtime can turn into snow-blinding conditions without much warning. One time I was with a field biologist who was scanning the area for sage-grouse hen with a telemetry antenna. A thunderstorm appeared out of nowhere, and we had to run for our lives over uneven rocks with heavy backpacks.