This past week has been Polar Bear Week – observed during the fall polar bear migration to Churchill, Manitoba. Here the bears await the winter season and the cold that will freeze-over Hudson Bay, granting the bears access to hunt seals. One of the symptoms of a changing climate has been a shortened ice season. This provides an opportunity to photograph the bears with their stark white fur against darker backgrounds than the ice and snow we are used to seeing.
This was a great trip as several of the bears turned out to be real characters, mugging for the camera and putting on a show for us. Visiting Churchill is always unique experience. This is a town that exist on the fringe where the frozen north pole meets the rest of the earth, that has learned to co-exist with a local bear population that at times rivals the number of people living in the area.
I arrived home from my most recent trip this past Sunday and received an incredible birthday gift from friend and colleague Frans Lanting – the beautifully packaged and presented Collector’s Edition of Bay of Life, Frans & Chris Eckstrom’s epic book chronicling the rejuvenation of California’s Monterey Bay.
An area ravaged by rampant utilization by man during the gold rush which stripped the area of life and resources, Bay of Life documents the resilience of nature and the ways in which like-minded people can come together to help restore an ecosystem to not only a state of recovery, but one in which it thrives.
This message of hope and rejuvenation speaks directly to me. If you’ve caught any of my recent talks regarding my own projects, you’ll know the emphasis I put on describing how wildlife populations in many areas are beginning to recover after an initial decrease due to the influence and reach of man.
Though our climate situation remains dire, nature’s ability to rejuvenate when coupled with human awareness, consideration, and conservation efforts is remarkable. This book project not only documents this significant symbiosis between nature and man – it also helps educate and fund future endeavors to protect this beautiful habitat via the Bay of Life Project.
In a win for wildlife and indigenous communities, the last remaining oil and gas leases on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge have been cancelled. The US is on track to produce more oil and natural gas than ever before and tapping this vital ecological sanctuary was always a bad idea.
Called “the place where life begins” by the Yup’ik and Gwich’in, the refuge is home to 250 animal species including vast herds of caribou that migrate from wintering Canada every year to calve on the coastal plain, grizzlies, wolves, and millions of migratory birds from as far as Antarctica. As long as I have been photographing, which is a long time indeed, it has been the focus of heated debate over resource extraction. One thing we should know is that this ban is not permanent, and more advocacy must be done to make sure this biologically rich area remains wild and untouched forever—a gift to future generations.
After eight years away (even though it’s only a 5 hour drive), I led a small group of avid photographers through the rolling hills of grain in the Palouse. This is an area of graceful landscapes shaped first by nature then by man, subtle shadows cast by passing clouds, and opportunities for challenging abstracts. We were unaffected by the recent fires in the area, much of the smoke had dissipated, but it was constantly in the backs of our minds. Many families have lost their homes in Spokane County wildfires this summer, if you would like to help please donate to Red Cross Disaster Relief.
Happy Cinco De Mayo! Raise a toast to long-time friend and prolific ecologist Gregory A. Green. Greg has received much-deserved recognition with a lifetime achievement award for Leadership in Conservation by the Washington Chapter of The Wildlife Society.
While devoting nearly five decades of his life to conservation biology, Greg is a prolific photographer in his own right. We have been frequent travel companions, and Greg has been the perfect fit as the written voice accompanying the many photos in my latest project, Wild Lives—due out this October with pre-orders available soon. Sign up for my mailing list to be informed as soon as it’s available. Learn more about Greg and check out his photography on his website, greggreenphoto.com.
Earth Day arrives tomorrow, April 22nd and you can celebrate by visiting your local national parks for a fee-free day. With over 400 national parks and one in each state, there’s likely at least one near you. . . get your camera gear ready and head out for some photos and fresh air!
Don’t know which one to visit? The National Parks Service has created a handy interactive quiz that will help you narrow down your interests to a location that meets your needs based on distance, activities and more.
Share your photos online tagged with the #yourparkstory / #myparkstory hashtags and interact with others celebrating Earth Day at our protected natural places! Some of my best work, including photos from my upcoming magnum opus on international wildlife has been capture in our national parks. Enjoy the image gallery. Better yet, get out there and create your own!
National parks are powerful places that have many meanings and connections to those who visit them – our shared history, our sense of discovery, and our dreams of the future. They teach us about ourselves and the world around us, and invite us to continue to learn, grow, and explore. National Park Week is a time to reflect on what parks mean to us, enjoy what they provide to their visitors and communities, and commit to protecting these places we cherish.
Over the weekend, we officially entered into Dark-Sky Week! I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know the folks over at the International Dark-Sky Association for a while now and along the way I’ve learned much regarding the benefits of curbing light pollution. I’ve long known about it’s impact on night photography – but the issues that arise from an abundance of artificial light are much more complex than you might believe. To that end, IDA has created International Dark Sky week to bring awareness to many of those issues – from disrupting the patterns and habits of wildlife to artificially manipulating the moods and routines of human beings.
It may seem harmless, but light pollution has far-reaching consequences that are harmful to all living things. Effective outdoor lighting reduces light pollution, leading to a better quality of life for all. The dark sky movement is working to bring better lighting to communities around the world so that all life can thrive.
-International Dark-Sky Association
For more information and to find out what you can do to raise awareness within your community photographic or otherwise, visit DARKSKY.ORG.
To commemorate the increasingly popular topic of light pollution and efforts by the IDA to bring awareness to it’s benefits, I am currently running a 25% discount on my most recently (as of this post!) published book project, Night On Earth as well as my entire print collection – good this week only, until the end of Dark Sky Week on April 22nd.
I’ve picked out some of my favorite night-related prints, found below if you need a starting point. It’s always nice to be able to spark a dialogue with the photographs and artwork you choose to hang on your wall. With the accessible information in Night On Earth and the efforts of the IDA, these make for an excellent conversation piece.
Grand Teton National Park ranks among my favorite locations for capturing spectacular fall color. The balance of the massive Teton Range hedged by the beautiful golds, oranges and reds of the foreground flora provides a number of distinct opportunities to capture this juxtaposition of stone and verdure.
Last year a group of my associates were blessed with several perfect sunrise sessions, each with their own unique characteristics to explore. The gorgeous photos in this gallery were captured my my assistant Libby Pfeiffer – I think she got great shots! For a photographer, mornings always come early, and not always easily – yet when the click of your shutter echoes in the quiet morning hours you forget all about missing sleep and are captured in the exhilaration of the moment.
I’ll be leading a Grand Teton workshop next fall, and If this is a location you’ve wanted to visit or if capturing pristine fall color is on your agenda, I highly encourage you to sign up and join our group. I always enjoy seeing and helping our participants push their boundaries and each other to create unique and beautiful images. On top of that, the friends and stories you create along the way will last a lifetime.
It’s an odd thing, but I’ve had some good wildlife sightings when just standing still and, uh, relieving myself. Mostly owls peering down at me, but just last month I was in the Great Bear Rainforest attempting to photography the Spirit Bear and just when I took a break, one ambled by.
I first photographed these white-phase black bears way back in 1990, long before this region of British Columbia’s coast was designated as global treasure. Now, working on my magnum opus wildlife book, I headed back to this rich temperate rainforest in hopes of seeing this ghostly bear again. We had only four days and the waiting was long. To pass the time I taught a quick class in how to take abstracts; after all, there is always something to photograph, especially when the main objective is proving elusive. We were visited by spawned out salmon, Steller’s jays, American dippers, and a very curious, very black, black bear. Spirit or Kermode bears are merely a color phase of the American black bear. They just happen to carry two alleles of a gene that turns them a creamy white, but they are not albinos.
So when the spirit bear appeared for the first time, I zipped up and grabbed my camera. That session lasted a total of fifteen minutes. My fellow travelers implored me hourly to pee again, but that charm wore thin as did my stream. The next day she regaled us with another 15 minute appearance. Half an hour in four days and we all felt very lucky. That is the nature of wildlife photography.
A very famous French diver once called Indonesia’s Wakatobi an underwater Nirvana. I am not going to quibble with Jacques Cousteau. Last week I traveled with very good friends and serious underwater photography gearheads (which I am not) to this island archipelago. My friends endured lost luggage and had to rent equipment, and I, a fish out of water doing underwater camera work, battled against stronger-than-expected currents, a leaking mask, and balky SD cards. Fortunately on the last couple days of shooting things worked themselves out and I managed to get a few really nice photos that will fit very nicely in the huge new wildlife book coming out next year!
One of the more challenging aspects of photographing underwater in this and similar locations are venomous fish – in this case, scorpion fish. On top of managing the underwater camera system while trying to stay steady in a difficult current and not scaring away my subjects, I also had to keep myself from disturbing the sea floor. At one point my underwater guide and myself were balancing ourselves on a tiny wooden dowel stuck into the sea floor to try to stabilize ourselves. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it – enjoy the photos!
I used a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV camera with an EF8-15mm f/4L FISHEYE USM lens in a Nauticam underwater housing.