Why do we do it? For the sheer love of the art? For the money?

Some of the impetus that drives us to continue in our quest for publication is the pride we feel at seeing our work honed to perfection and shared with all the world.

OWAC strives to recognize the superior work created by our membership through the annual OWAC Craft Awards and the 2019 contest is now open submissions. Download and print out the rules and the submissions form and send in your entries for judging.

The final date for entry post mark is February 15, 2019, so start pulling together those published works you feel are worth of praise and award. No matter what your medium might be, you could achieve that highest honor, having your entry selected as work by the 2019 OWAC Writer of the Year.

OWAC-2019-Awards-Entry-form.pdf  /  2019 Craft-Rules.pdf

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August-September 2019 Newsletter

August - September 2019 Newsletter

News and Updates

Douglas Croft's photograph of a Humpback Whale breaching earned the grand prize in the 2018 California Wildlife Photo of the Year Contest. In this spectacular display of athletic prowess, the whale dove beneath the surface for a few seconds or minutes only to surface vertically with great speed. Often these 45-foot, 40-ton animals will twist while in mid-air and then come crashing down with a thunderous splash. Getting a good breach photo requires skill and experience. A dedicated marine mammal photographer, Douglas scores high in both categories. The yearlong contest is presented by California Watchable Wildlife and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife's magazine, Outdoor California, and sponsored by the Sierra Nevada Conservancy and Out of This World Optics.


On January 28, 2019, Douglas joined his state senator, Senator Jim Beall (D-San Jose), on the floor of the State Senate, where he received a Proclamation honoring his photograph. The top eight images from the 2018 contest were part of a week-long display, February 25 through March 1, 2019, at the State Capitol outside the Governor's Office. The photographs included all of the year's top finishers and special honorable mentions selected by representatives from Sierra Nevada Conservancy and California Watchable Wildlife. Currently in its eighth year, the photos are submitted bi-monthly. During each submission period, three winning images – first place and honorable mentions for California Watchable Wildlife and Sierra Nevada Conservancy – are selected by our three judges. At the end of the year, the top three winners are chosen.

We would love to see Outdoor Writers Association of California photographers in the winners circle!

Board of Directors

Bob Semerau

Executive Director

Carrie Wilson


Carol Martens


Members at Large

Betsy Crowfoot

John Williamson

Gigi de Jong

Josh Asel

Chris Langley

Peter Schroeder

Barbara Steinberg

Tom Martens

John Poimiroo


Bonus Gallery:

Prescribed Burn at Pepperwood Preserve

Photos By Josh Asel

From OWAC Executive Director, Bob Semerau

Hello fellow OWAC members,

The hive is all abuzz with activity as our membership moves about the great outdoors in search of sweet stories during these glorious days of summer.

You’ll find us at Pinnacles National Park as board member, Josh Asel, goes in search of the magnificent California Condor.

Somewhere out on the open Pacific Ocean, between California and the Hawaiian Islands, you’ll see board member Betsy (Crowfoot) Senescu, covering the action in this year’s Transpacific Yacht Race.

And, not to be left out, your humble correspondent will be offshore of Southern California in search of tuna, tuna, tuna!

Take a moment and drop me a note about your activities and include a photo or two to help tell your story.

We have not planned a fall conference as there have not been any venues available that suit our needs. Spring of 2020 is looking very good, however, with two options in play.

Get out there and get the most of these warm summer days while they last.

Here’s hoping your travels are smooth and life gives you all you desire along the way.

Bob Semerau

Executive Director

Outdoor Writers Association of California

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



President’s Message

Hello Fellow OWAC Members ~

Well, it’s the end of July and normally your OWAC conference organizers would be hard at work right now putting together our annual fall conference itinerary. Unfortunately, the stars just did not align for us this year when the destination we’d hoped for fell through. We are, however, moving forward with planning for our 2020 spring conference. Hopefully, it will be in the Bay Area, we are just waiting on a signed contract now. 

While conferences are at the core of our organization, there’s plenty of other action going on. The Board of Directors have new Board Members who are stepping up in a big way to fill some vital roles. Gigi de Jong will be working with our webmaster to redesign some areas of the website that need attention, and to update others. Josh Asel stepped up to the challenge of producing this newsletter edition, along with Bob Semerau, while our newsletter editor, Chris Langley, is recuperating from a recent illness.

OWAC’s membership campaign is also ramping up with Tom Martens at the helm. New membership materials have been drafted and will soon be available for distribution to prospective new members. And for the first time in several years, we have a new Supporting Member Chairman and Liaison, Peter Schroeder. Thanks to Peter’s long running relationships with many outdoor industry organizations, I’m sure he will do a great job of recruiting new supporting members to join OWAC.

OWAC finances are in very good shape! Thanks to the hard work of Bob Semerau and Peter Schroeder, we now have $19,797.54 in the bank, and our Endowment Fund has holdings of $14,650, earning $425 in the last month. We are invested in eleven different stocks. At this rate we can expect continuing dividends. Most impressively, this has been accomplished in just two years. Bravo Bob and Peter!

In addition to our treasury and endowment funds, we also have our Pat Vachini Scholarship Fund that by next year will fund writing contests open to high school students interested in pursuing a career in outdoor journalism. In the fall, member-at-large, Don Vachini will work with six high schools in the Petaluma area to offer their students opportunities to apply.

Finally, despite our disappointments over no Fall Conference this year, rest assured that OWAC is healthy and we now have more board and committee members than ever pitching in with enthusiasm, new ideas and support for more improvements. It’s pretty exciting! However, there’s always room for more, so if you have some new ideas to offer or an interest in joining the team. Please contact either me or Bob Semerau, and we will hook you up. We would love to hear from you!

Hope your summer is going well and that you are enjoying the long, warm and lazy days of the season, mostly outside, doing exactly what makes you most happy.


Carrie Wilson


Outdoor Writers Association of California

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(831) 402-6003


Articles and Video


Wildlife Documentary

Saving Western Burring Owls

A short note from the filmmaker, Ian Anthony Nelson:

There is much work is being done by a host of organizations in the Bay Area to try to restore the population of these enigmatic and charismatic species and we are continuing to document future developments.

Go to: http://www.wewildlife.org/saving-western-burrowing-owls.html and enter the password BUOW707! This video is private to OWAC Members ONLY.


Down With Lead Ammo, Up With California Condors

Article and Photos By Josh Asel

It's easy to write that California Condors are the largest bird species in North America, but seeing one of these absolutely massive, intelligent individuals up close and personal will quite literally take your breath away.

Since California became a state, hunters have been and were the original conservationists. They were the individuals who first established protected lands for hunting and recreation, protected venerable species, and fed the monetary lifeblood of said conservation efforts, in most ways more reputable than others. Historically, hunters have been a vital component of conservation from the beginning.

Since then, the heavy responsibility of wildlife conservation has changed hands significantly to more of an evolved discipline. With that being said, it makes sense that July 1st, 2019 marked a new day in California's history: the ban of lead ammunition statewide.

This is no surprise to hunters who've been aware of the ban on lead ammunition coming up for a few years now, giving hunters chances to phase out their favored shot for primarily bronze bullets instead, although, lead ammo still can be purchased and used at private and public gun ranges. What is the cause for the switch, which means an increase in price per bullet? The safekeeping of wildlife. This ban will help many species, including humans, but the Critically Endangered California Condor is without a doubt the poster animal for this historic movement.

California Condors are North America's largest bird, not to mention also one of the rarest birds on the entire planet. They have come a relatively long way since the last 22 individuals were taken out of the wild in 1987 to start rehabilitation efforts at various zoos, mainly the Oakland and Los Angeles Zoos are to thank. The vital capture and transportation of the condors was headed by Lead Biologist Joe Burnette of the Ventana Wildlife Society and the VWS itself. Since then, the California Condor comeback has made headlines worldwide as a major conservation success story, one to be looked up to as a premier example of how to bring back a bird species from the brink of extinction. VWS, along with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, continues to monitor the condors' health and habitat to ensure their successful reproduction. It's a slow but steady process because each condor pair only raises one chick once every two years.

One juvenile California Condor rests with a mob of vultures in a lone tree tucked away among giant rock formations. The size difference is clear.

In their capture and blood testing, biologists have found significant sources of lead poisoning from eating carrion who've been shot by guns as opposed to bows and arrows. About 20% of all California Condor deaths still come from over-exposure to lead poisoning, the leading factor of the cause to ban lead bullets. With a minuscule population of 98 individuals soaring in California, lead poisoning is a significant, worrying factor for what is still an uncertain future in an extremely fragile species.

Led-infused carcasses don't affect just condors. Birds of prey like turkey vultures, eagles, hawks, and owls have all been admitted to wildlife rescue centers because of lead poisoning. On top of that, over 2 million ducks a year die from consuming spent lead pellets, contributing to an estimated 10 to 20 million animals deaths each year from lead poisoning. From hundreds of different frog species to squirrels and mountain lions to grizzly bears and our own citizens, it's no wonder that the lead bullet ban passed in the senate.

The type of people to be most commonly affected by lead poisoning, naturally, are hunters--children and pregnant women being the most at risk among any. Despite this and thirteen different types of alternative ammunition that can be used, hunters are not altogether content with the situation. "This makes practicing [hunting] very costly and doing long-range shoots more difficult," says Kenny Pederson, a 30-year-old avid hunter living in Sonoma County California. The light-weight material of the alternative bullets means that the bullets themselves do not travel as far. This, in addition to the price per bullet minimum, has become more costly overall for the hunter, which can result in less time spent out in the field leading to stunted hunting success.

Though the majority of people see the ban as necessary, hunters could feel alienated and so continue with using lead ammo anyway. It's not all bad for hunters though. Programs have been put in place to incentivize hunters to switch to new types of ammo. Testing out the alternatives and winning prizes during their hunts for using non-lead ammunition are part of the initiatives to boost moral. People caught using lead ammo face a first time fine of $500 and subsequent fines of $1000-$5000 thereafter.

Conservationists see the banning of lead bullets as a major leap forward for all wildlife and human health rights alike. Much like California legislature does, it boldly leads our Country in environmental movements as the first state to full ban this toxic, incredibly harmful material. California Condors still face major threats like electrocution from power lines and vehicle collisions, but for the first time in a long time, this incredibly rare and massive bird species has an even brighter future.



Survivalism: Outdoor Media Adjust to Social Trends

By John Poimiroo


Speaking of hunting, famed Montana outdoorsman Jim Posewitz said, “This legacy did not come to our generation to die.”

It’s a matter of survival, Kevin Orthman, executive director of the Professional Outdoor Media Association, indicated, when including Posewitz’ declaration in his talk to the Outdoor Writers Association of California at its Spring Conference in Siskiyou County.

Orthman believes that for traditional outdoor sports to survive, it is the responsibility of this generation of storytellers to recognize how outdoor recreation is changing, what segments of our society are taking up hunting, fishing and other traditional outdoor sports, and produce relevant and creative content that reflects these changes.

He said, “75% of Instagram hits,” are for subjects related to travel. That shows the importance of placing outdoor images and messages in social media. He continued, “Women are the fastest growing demo in fly fishing, one of the most male-dominated outdoor sports,” the New York Times reported. Because “women make 80% of buying decisions,” outdoor writers shouldn’t overlook their importance and instead, “write about mom” and how she is changing the landscape of outdoor recreation.

Hunters and anglers take pride in the recipes they use to prepare the game and fish they take. Coincidentally, the farm to fork movement is a very real national trend. So too, “field to table” should follow, Orthman opined. He suggested satisfying the media’s appetite for outdoor-generated recipes and announced that POMA is in the process of publishing a book of fish and game recipes from its members.

The shift to online media has increased the value of illustrating the experience, not just writing about it. Orthman, though a writer, now carries camera gear in a dry bag so that he won’t miss the opportunity to photograph and “sell the whole adventure, not just the outcome.”

Authenticity is important to today’s consumers beset by manipulated imagery. That means retro color slides taken years ago are seen as real representations of the experience and have new relevance when converted to .jpgs and made available to sporting goods marketers (e.g., Bass Pro) and media. Create an Instagram page with your images on them, keyword them and watch buyers come to you for their use. Or, add a stock agency (PhotoShelter) to your website with both current and historic shots.

Today’s communicators mimic social trends, often humorously, and use their creativity to shatter hide-bound clichés of what people think a hunter or angler should look like, introducing heavy metal fly tying, hipsters as the new hunters and ethnicities not previously seen as being outdoorsmen.

Most important of all, “sell the adventure,” Orthman encouraged. Look at what’s being watched on YouTube. Millions of views occur on such mundane topics as tying knots. Find what people are looking at in social media and write about it.

Outdoor media now understand that for traditional outdoor sports to grow, they need to work together. Media collaboratives such as the Outdoor Sports Group (outdoorsg.com) bring together competitors to grow outdoor markets. OSG seeks creatively written, audio and visual content.

New ways of collaborating among outdoor retailers are occurring, as well. Mossy Oak, a producer of camouflage gear, is a partner of the NRA and supports restoration of native habitats, development of healthier forage, farming for wildlife and land conservation. Stories about such conservation efforts help engage younger generations and lead them to a fuller understanding of the circle of life.

To that end, POMA has begun offering outdoor writing scholarships to high school students who podcast, video and blog. A similar effort is being undertaken by OWAC. However, for such an effort to have impact, it must be connected to rewarding outdoor writing, broadcasting, photography and videography that is both uplifting and relevant to today’s generation, that is: blogging, online video, podcasting and photo posting.

Kevin Orthman sees a bright future for America’s outdoor legacy, but one that will adapt to societal changes. To assure outdoor sports’ survival, today’s outdoor communicators need to adjust the content they produce to fit those new audiences and what they seek to experience.



Israel Trip: Case Lesson in Journalistic Research Ethics

By Peter Schroeder


           How do you decide whether to participate on a press trip? For me, I have three criteria: Can I get an article from it? Will they pay expenses? Can I write what I want without restrictions? If these conditions are satisfied, I will accept and don’t care who hosts the trip. But a recent journey made me weigh decisions more carefully.

           Last fall I traveled to Israel on a press trip organized by the Ski Club of International Journalists (SCIJ) with support provided by the Israeli government and several Israeli private enterprises. The week-long itinerary balanced the historic (Masada, Akko, Caesarea), modern (desalination plant, wineries, Fassuta, Tel Aviv), biblical (Jerusalem, Nazareth), political (West Bank, Golan Heights, Kibbutz Ein Gedi), and recreational (Hadera, Dead Sea, Tel Aviv).

After we returned, controversy began. Other journalist colleagues who did not participate on the trip deemed the visit unprofessional, unethical, and contrary to the standards of journalistic integrity. Wow! Was I taken aback!

Why? The first criticism was the itinerary included a visit to the Golan Heights, territory in Syria that was captured by Israel in 1967. When annexed by Israel in 1981, the UN Security Council said the action violated the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibiting acquisition of territory by force. Our travels also included presentations by Israelis living in the settlement of Katzrin about the local Golan Winery. International law regards the Israelis living there as illegal settlers.

The second criticism was that we participating journalists compromised the integrity of SCIJ by visiting territory that Israel occupies. Critics asserted we were unwittingly used as public relations tools. While in the Golan Heights, settlers (and most likely government representatives) photographed us enjoying ourselves and commenting on the excellent wine, as though this were all part of Israel.

The third criticism was the suggestion that after being feted on an excursion paid for by the Israeli Government, we would be unlikely to write anything negative about our experience.

After reflecting on these complaints, I decide to reject all three criticisms. This trip was about journalistic research and I needed to be there, regardless of the circumstances, for the first-hand experience. How else can I talk to Australian UN peacekeepers stationed on the border with Syria? Only when hearing the continuous gunfire of ISIS troops do I grasp how the fighting continues unabated. By seeing three Arab countries—Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia—less than a quarter mile away practically surrounding the southernmost city of Eilat do I understand why militaries of all countries are on constant alert. How else would I find a quote that sums up the complexity of the region as succinctly as Michael Asi, Greek Orthodox priest in the Christian village of Fassuta in northern Israel which is subject to frequent shelling by the nearby guns of Lebanon: “We are Israeli but not Jewish, Arab but not Muslim, Catholic but not Roman Catholic.

Bottom line:

--I’m glad I went on this research trip, which I could never afford as a freelance writer, and would gladly go again;

--Regardless of the occupied land issue, I found it informative to visit the Golan Heights;

--My articles are balanced and avoid political controversies.



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