Alex Snyder with his photography gear in Tanzania.
Alex Snyder Alex Snyder with his photography gear in Tanzania. © Alex Snyder/TNC


Q&A: Right Place, Right Time

Behind the scenes of TNC’s Global Photo Contest

Alex Snyder, a senior photo editor for The Nature Conservancy who helps lead the annual photo contest, grew up exploring Ohio’s state parks and forests. He studied photojournalism at Ohio University and has spent his career capturing the connections between people and nature ever since.

Do people often tell you that you have one of the coolest jobs imaginable?
Yeah, I’ve been pretty fortunate. Before coming to TNC, I was the photographer at Peace Corps, which took me to 15 countries to document the volunteer experience. I lead communications for The Photo Society, where I work with over 200 National Geographic photographers and manage an online community of over 4.7 million. And now with TNC, I assign and edit photography that illustrates our organization’s purpose and goals.
Why is photography so important to TNC?
We have an innate need to capture and share our reality. If I do my job well, the photos we use and how we present them make people feel real emotions—be it joy, fear, kinship, anger—about what’s happening in the world.
How does TNC’s photo contest fit into that imperative?
The contest goes beyond the big land deals and the beautiful places to explore relationships between people and nature. It’s about great photography and getting a point across in a creative, new way.
Trumpeter swan Alex at age 12, while bird-watching with his stepfather, he captured an image of a trumpeter swan on a pond. © Alex Snyder/TNC

Alex vividly remembers buying his first camera at age 12 —a Minolta 35-millimeter film camera. Shortly afterward, while bird-watching with his stepfather, he captured an image of a trumpeter swan on a pond. “That was the first photo I took that I looked at and said, ‘Wow, that’s not bad!’”

The climate category was new in 2022. Why was it added?
More and more photos were arriving with captions that referenced climate change. In 2021, the first-place winner in the landscape category—an image of a dead Pantanal alligator in a dry riverbed in Brazil by Daniel De Granville Manço—brought home the fact that people are trying to capture the consequences of climate change and how this global crisis is touching down around the world.

What advice would you give to an aspiring photographer?
We have had winners who are professional photographers with expensive gear, and we have had winners who are amateurs that captured something incredible with a smartphone. Use what you have. Be curious, be creative. Everyone has a unique point of view. Show us!

a lizard stands on rocks with its head held high in front of two lines of wind turbines
Fan-throated lizard This photo won in the climate category in TNC's 2022 Photo Contest. © Sandesh Kadur/TNC Photo Contest


This 2022 photo contest winner is one of Alex’s favorites because it is helping TNC illustrate the complexities of nature and renewable energy. In India’s Chalkewadi plateau, the presence of wind turbines for more than two decades has led to fewer birds of prey and therefore allowed fan-throated lizard populations to increase. But the amount of food available to the lizards hasn’t changed, leading to a lower average weight and changes in the vibrancy of the male’s colorful dewlap. Through the Site Right initiative, TNC is investing in tools that promote renewable energy deployment while minimizing its impacts on wildlife, contributing to a more sustainable future for our climate and habitats.