National Geographic remains the world’s premier showcase of nature photography. But I often wonder for how much longer.

It is easy to maintain a virtual monopoly on high quality imagery when camera equipment and publishing are expensive and require a highly specialized skill set.  But neither of these things is true anymore.  Professional-quality photo equipment is broadly affordable. And numerous online venues allow anyone with an internet connection to distribute their photos for free.

Consider the following fantastic arthropod photographers, all from the galleries of the free online site Flickr:

While these amateur photographers show stylistic differences among themselves and from established Nat Geo insect photographers Mark Moffett and Christian Ziegler, I’m not sure one could find consistent differences in overall artistry between the amateurs and the professionals.  And given the abundance with which amateurs share their work online, it is now possible to get a fix of rich nature photography for free.  At any hour.  Without waiting for the mailman to deliver it.

Incidentally, I do enjoy Nat Geo when it arrives on our doorstep every month.  I’m not knocking the organization or the quality of their publication.  I just wonder about the brand’s longevity as a seal of transcendent quality when the world is now drowning in spectacular photography.