A photo says a thousand words – especially amazing conservation photography that evokes a myriad of emotions.
Conservation photography may be a discipline you’ve never heard of. The foundations have been around since the beginning of photography itself. However, using images to make people aware of, and respond to, environmental issues is a genre that has only been given a name in the last few years.
And yet, it is one area in which some of the best photographers in the world are spending their energies, using the power of photos to conserve natural spaces.
Below are some details on the works of seven really talented conservation photographers. Seven individuals who have devoted their lives to raising awareness on environmental challenges through the magic of photography.
Photo by Brian Skerry; A harp seal pup about 14-days old makes it first swim in the icy waters of Canada’s Gulf of St. Lawrence. People still hunt harp seal pups in Canada, where hunters target these animals just after they shed their white coat at an age of about 17 days.
1. Amazing Conservation Photography: Paul Nicklen
Paul Nicklen is an inspiration to anyone with an interest in Arctic wildlife. In fact, to anyone who grew up close to nature and wants to save what is left of it. Nicklen grew up on Baffin Island in Canada’s Arctic in an Inuit community.
Immersed in the habitat from an early age, Nicklen went on to complete a degree in marine biology and began a career as a wildlife biologist. However, it was his skill with a camera that finally took over and changed the direction of his professional life.
With a focus on connecting the public to climate change and the impact on Arctic and Antarctic wildlife, Nicklen’s photos exist ten times in National Geographic.
His willingness to get up close and personal to wildlife is at the heart of his photography’s success. From swimming with leopard seals (slideshow of images) to doing a solo expedition in the Arctic among wolves and bears – anything!
Neil Ever Osborne is one of conservation photography’s most vocal advocates. He has a degree in biology from Trent University. Osborne blends his scientific background with his artistic skills as a photographer to bring attention to issues around marine animals, particularly with sea turtles and manatees. He is an Associate member of the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP).
Recently, Osborne participated in an iLCP-backed trip to the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia. There he photographed the beauty and diversity of one of the last in-tact temperate rainforests left in the world which is under threat from an oil pipeline project.
In fact, Osborne believes that conservation photography can change the way humans interact with the world. This passion is apparent the moment he begins talking about the subject. There’s little doubt that Osborne will be a major contributor for years to come.
If there is one person to thank for giving Conservation Photography a name, it is Cristina Mittermeier. She is the founder of International League of Conservation Photographers where she was president for years.
Mittermeier was a biochemical engineer, focusing specifically on marine sciences. She then but moved into photography as a way to have a more immediate impact on conservation.
The skill with which she wields a camera and her dedication to conservation photography is apparent to many. In 2010, she became one of the 40 most influential Nature Photographers by Outdoor Photographer Magazine.
One of the projects she loves is documenting the ecosystems and communities that will be impacted by the construction of the Belo Monte dam in Brazil. The dam could disrupt the lives of 40,000 people as it floods over 500 kilometers of land.
Despite protests by environmentalists and indigenous people, Brazil has decided to move forward with the dam. That, as some say, undermines Brazil’s efforts to be a leader in environmentalism.
Mittermeier has written a heart-wrenching farewell to the wild river, as part of her 20-year project with the Kayapo Indigenous nation in the Brazilian Amazon. The photo above captures four of the girls from the community, and more of Mittermeier’s amazing images and the story are available here.
4. Chris Linder
“Satellite images show a network of freshwater lakes forming and rapidly disappearing high on the Greenland ice sheet during the brief summer season. One afternoon, we came across this spectacular moulin (hole in the ice), where there had been a lake the day before. ” Image Chris Linder © Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
When it comes to his conservation photography, Chris Linder has three goals:
- “to educate the public about science;
- to inspire the next generation of researchers; and
- to communicate the need to protect wild spaces.”
Linder has a background in oceanography and focuses on the Arctic Ocean. Indeed, there’s s a single place on earth that tells us the impact our actions have on the planet. It’s the ocean and the waters and ice at the poles in particular.
Linder has documented everything from Antarctic lava to penguins on Ross Island to reindeer herders in Siberia. Additionally, he has traveled all over the world and captured wildlife and habitats of all sorts.
Linder has a book called Science on Ice that documents four polar expeditions, covering how scientists do their work at the poles, from studying Adélie penguins to life under the pack ice in the Arctic.
5. Alison Jones
Ethiopia: Lower Omo River Basin, girl from Lebuk farm village collecting water from flooded plain; ©Alison M. Jones for www.nowater-nolife.org
Every conservation photographer has a niche, and for Alison Jones, it’s water. Jones has spent 25 years photographing natural spaces. She also received an Honorary Masters Degree in Photography from the prestigious Brooks Institute.
Jones founded non-profit No Water No Life in 2007 as part of a long-term documentary project. It came after years spent photographing ecosystems, protected areas and wildlife throughout Kenya. Accordingly, the project uses photography and science to boost awareness about the global fresh water crisis.
Interestingly, many westerners think the water crisis happens only in overpopulated, mismanaged arid areas like Africa and India. Yet, there is a freshwater crisis across the globe. Too many people waste too much water and abuse watershed areas. In fact, nothing tells this story more effectively than images, and Jones is a fantastic contributor of powerful photographs.
You can also check out a video on the effect of deforestation on water availability in the Mara River Basin that spans Kenya and Tanzania. Indeed, the 10-minute video filmed during a 2009 expedition is truly enlightening.
6. Amy Gulick
Photo by Amy Gulick, from her project “Salmon in the Trees: Life in Alaska’s Tongass Rain Forest“. In the Tongass National Forest of Alaska, more than fifty species feed on salmon. That includes: bald eagles, bears, wolves, mink, marten, sea lions, orcas, harbor seals, ravens, gulls, and people.
The abundance of salmon helps explain why the Tongass region supports the world’s highest nesting density of bald eagles. Also, why there are eighty bears for every one bear inland far from salmon streams.
Amy Gulick is a big inspiration to conservation photographers, especially those focused on North American habitats and wildlife. Gulick covers a range of important issues, including:
- endangered species,
- the illegal wildlife trade,
- plastic pollution in the oceans,
- how the aquarium trade impacts the health of coral reefs, and more.
The heart of her work at the moment is in the Tongass National Forest, located in Alaska. Gulick focuses on the importance of old-growth forests, and the cycles of life that revolve around the salmon runs
Additionally, her book Salmon in the Trees: Life in Alaska’s Tongass Rain Forest details the rich wildlife and scenery of a place worth protecting.
7. Brian Skerry
Photo by Brian Skerry; Doomed by a gill net, a Thresher shark in Mexico’s Gulf of California is among an estimated 100 million sharks killed yearly worldwide. They add to the devastating global fish catch: nearly 100 million tons.
Brian Skerry is arguably one of the most admired underwater photographers at work today. He has an incredible talent for capturing both the fact, the emotion and beauty of a scene.
When it comes to ocean conservation, this talent is exactly what connects the masses to what is too often (and wrongly) considered both an endless basket of sea food and an inhospitable desert for living things.
The oceans are over-fished, over-polluted, over-estimated, and over-burdened. In fact, everything we know about it is telling us that it has reached a breaking point. Skerry’s images reveal this breaking point, both by showing what we’re about to lose and how we are going about losing it.
Further, Skerry is a Fellow with the International League of Conservation Photography (photographers). He is also a photojournalist with National Geographic, covering stories from the struggle of harp seals to the decline in the world’s fisheries.
Indeed, Skerry works tirelessly to tell the story of our ocean. His images are able to connect viewers with their sense of responsibility to protect and conserve what we have left, and restore what we have lost.
Skerry’s book Ocean Soul is out with 160 photos paired up with essays about trying to take portraits of the ocean. Of course, we recommend it.
Photo by Brian Skerry. A lemon shark pup only a few months old (about 12 inches in length), swims in the shallow water (about 12 inches deep) of a mangrove on the Bahamian island of Bimini. Mangroves serve as nurseries for sharks and many other species of marine wildlife, offering protection until they are large enough to live in the open ocean.
Unfortunately, shortly after this photograph, much of the mangrove habitat in Bimini was destroyed by developers building a resort and golf course.
Credit: Treehugger, 7 Conservation Photographers Saving The Planet Through Amazing Pictures