Today is “Monarch Butterfly Day” according to whatever mystical powers-that-be control the hashtags! I’ve had the pleasure of photographing Monarchs over the years at many of Mexico’s renowned preserves that harbor millions of butterflies as they migrate.
It’s with a heavy heart, then, that I make this post – one that should be about the beauty of this creature and the symbolism and joy it brings world-wide. However, tragic events that have befallen a pair of conservation heroes in Mexico should be taking center stage right now until answers are found.
As you may have heard, activists and outspoken critics of the illegal logging activities in preserved areas of Mexico, Homero Gómez González and Raúl Hernández Romero were recently found deceased, both under mysterious and possibly malicious circumstances.
González was an agricultural engineer and the manager of the El Rosario Monarch Butterfly Preserve. Growing up in a logging family, he was a skeptic of conservation efforts and their possible impact on contributing to poverty in the region. His background and education gave strength to his voice when, in the early 2000’s, he became an advocate for curbing the deforestation he was seeing first hand.
I recently returned from my second trip to Eastern Greenland in the last two years and once again it lived up to expectations. From ship to Zodiac, there was a lot to capture in between the wide seascapes and ancient detail in the upheaval of rock formations.
The bedrock of Greenland is some of the oldest on the planet, up to 3.8 billion years old and it shows in the tortuous folds and striations around the ice-free edges of the island. One of the most fascinating spots is called the Skaergaard intrusion, a relatively young formation of igneous rock extruded from the Earth 55 million years ago. Its layers, texture, and line make for a photographer’s dream.
The aesthetics and geological history is all well and good – but the REAL question is, can you find the bacon?!
Wildlife photography can be a frustrating pursuit at times, but you roll with it! In August I had the opportunity to photograph sea wolves in the temperate rainforest of Canada. It rained and rained and rained and the wolves made themselves scarce. Apparently they had moved their den site to another area, but I am pleased with the fleeting images I was able to create.
The surrounding landscape is so varied, from lapping water to rocky shoreline to impenetrable forest that it creates an extraordinarily lush backdrop to these elusive wolves. It was important to me to include the context of the environment, as you don’t find wolves in these kinds of surroundings often. Portraits and ‘hero’ shots of animals can be important to illustrate their personality and demeanor, but may not always inform you of what that creature’s environment and life might be like to the extent of capturing them in the vastness of their natural element.
Think about context and story when you photograph wildlife – and you’ll often come away with a winner!
I am deeply saddened to hear about the rampant fires currently ravaging the Amazon Rainforest. Relaxed policies on environmental protections and an increased focus on clear-cutting the natural areas has had an immediate and negative impact on a region that already sees numerous fires every year. According to Brazil’s Institute for Space Research, fires in the region number in the high tens of thousands, and an increase of 83% versus this time last year. Smoke pours across Brazil and it’s neighboring states.
Climate change is a hot-button issue these days, and I make an honest attempt to keep politics from being a factor in my work. I get to do what I love for a living, and along the way I also have the pleasure of sharing the world’s beautiful places, animals, and cultures with those whom don’t have the luxury to visit them all. It’s important to me we all share in this experience regardless of our backgrounds and beliefs.
Regardless of our beliefs, or the theories behind the how or why – world-wide climate is changing, and this region of the world is solely responsible for replenishing 20% of the oxygen in our atmosphere and purging a substantial amount of carbon from our air. In times like these I’m hopeful we can put the politics aside and realize the devastating ramifications that occur when we take our environment for granted.
For more information on the topic, and ways to help visit the World Wildlife Fund site on the subject.
I love bears! It is such a privilege to be able to see these intensely intelligent mammals every summer. A bear I photographed as a cub several years ago is now an accomplished mother of three.
This year the salmon were late to arrive, but arrive they did and in great numbers. Every year is a bit different, and though I have commented on the numbers of cubs in the past, it seemed like this year was a bumper crop. Or maybe I was just photographing the same bear over and over and over…I can’t help it if she liked the camera!
As many of you are aware, this glorious region of the planet is under threat. If the Pebble Mine goes through, the bears will lose, the fish will lose, Alaskans will lose, and Earth will lose. It’s short term gain for the few and long-term destruction for the many. Please make your thoughts known to your congresspeople.
Time for a little wilderness and wildlife advocacy. Alaska’s Bristol Bay needs our help. It is home to the world’s largest, most productive salmon run and it is threatened by the advancement of the Pebble Mine. The Pebble Mine would be a massive open pit mine that would leach into the ecosystem of one the most productive wildlife regions on the planet. I have been photographing in the region, which includes Katmai National Park and the famous McNeil River Bear Sanctuary, since the early 1980s, and understand first hand what this massive extraction project would do to the wildlife, the fishery, as well as the thriving, sustainable wildlife viewing industry.
Click here for a brief interview I did on the subject.
Brown bears associated with the Project area are a resource that has high ecological, economic, and social value. Southwest Alaska residents and visitors were estimated to spend nearly $145,000,000 (2019 dollars) annually to view wildlife and generated more than an additional $133,000,000 in associated annual economic activity. Much of the wildlife viewing activity in southwest Alaska is centered on observing brown bears. For more information, this study drills down on the economics involved in brown bear viewing ins South-central Alaska.
I strongly urge you to take 20 minutes and watch Koktuli Wild, a video by Brendan Wells which perfectly illustrates the fragile beauty of the wilderness that feeds the potent Bristol Bay watershed. It is uplifting, beautiful, informative, and most importantly galvanizing. Even if you never see it with your own eyes, just knowing this this wilderness exists is affecting.
UPDATE: 6/29/2019 – The U.S. House of Representatives passed amendment 90, being called the “Huffman Amendment,” to the Energy and Water Appropriations Act. However, this is only the begging and Alaskans have called upon Senator Murkowski to to stand with Alaskans in opposing the Pebble mine.
The annual NatureBridge Gala is coming up at 6 PM on May 9 at the LEED-Certified Bently Reserve, one of the greenest buildings in San Francisco.
NatureBridge is a national organization that inspires environmental stewardship and science-based experiential learning by connecting young people to National Parks. This year promises to be another inspiring event with keynote speaker, Sophia Danenberg, the first and only black and African American woman to summit Mt. Everest, and 2019 Student of the Year, Kinzie Klein.
I recently took a trip up to Northern Canada to photograph a variety of owls, and came away happy – if not chilled to the bone. It’s cold up above the 51st parallel, no matter the time of day. That didn’t seem to impact the hunting owls of the region, who’s keen senses can detect rodents beneath the snowfall dozens of meters away. They essentially do a graceful face plant into the snow, rummage around, and come away with a snack.
The light sky and the bright white snowy landscape make shooting a challenge. To control the light and capture a quality image, one first has to understand light in terms of it’s relationship to photography. This excerpt from “Chapter 6: Reading the Light” from The New Art of Photographing Nature explains it more succinctly than I might in a blog ramble:
Without light we would have no color. And without light, there would be no photography. In fact, the word photography derives from Greek roots meaning “writing with light.”
Primitive man did not have the benefit of science to explain natural phenomena such as the rainbow. Nor did we, until Sir Isaac Newton’s use of the prism separated white light into its component colors. Light is a form of electromagnetic energy, which, in the whole spectrum of frequencies, is only visible as colors in a very narrow band. Other frequencies, such as infrared, ultraviolet, gamma, and X-ray radiation, are invisible to our eyes.
Yet, despite our basic understanding of light, it is something we are apt to take for granted, like the rising and setting of the sun. But in photography, we can never take light for granted, and must learn to perceive it many nuances. The quality of the light creates a variety of colors and moods. Light also models form, and the direction of light is crucial to how we perceive shape and depth in the landscape.
When talking about light, it is important to distinguish between quality and quantity. Quality of light can, for the outdoor photographer, mean the time of day, the angle of the light striking your subject or whether it creates high-contrast or low-contrast conditions. It can also be measured as color temperature (in degrees Kelvin) with daylight on a sunny day being around 5500 degrees Kelvin. While color film required filtration to correct for changes in color temperature, digital cameras have a built-in white balance function that can adjust the camera to virtually any lighting condition, indoors or out.
Quantity of light refers simply to the amount of light reaching the camera’s sensor and recording an image. It is by controlling this light, through changes in aperture and shutter speed, that we arrive at a proper exposure.
On October 29th Trees: Between Earth & Heaven will be published. Thank you so much to everyone whom has already pre-ordered the book – I can’t wait to hear what you think! I have a feeling you’ll love it as much as I do – the early production copy I’ve reviewed is printed beautifully and I couldn’t be happier with the way it’s turned out.
There is still time to pre-order the book and receive the bonuses offered through my online store. If you’re looking for a thoughtful, meaningful holiday gift – look no further! Not only do I anticipate this book to bring awareness to trees world-wide, Roots of Peace will plant trees for every copy sold!
Today marks the 50th anniversary of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Created by Congress in 1968, (Public Law 90-542; 16 U.S.C. 1271 et seq.), it aims to preserve certain rivers with outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values in a free-flowing condition for the enjoyment of present and future generations. The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act safeguards the special character of these rivers, while also recognizing the potential for their appropriate use and development. It encourages river management that crosses political boundaries and promotes public participation in developing goals for river protection.
For more information including how to locate a local protected river, check out the National Parks page on the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act.