Environmental News

Photography Helps Puma Conservation by Jeff Parker

© Jeff Parker

© Jeff Parker

Images and Article by Jeff Parker

A large male puma makes his way down the hill to the kill we’ve spent the last hour watching. For the next 45 minutes, we have the privilege of observing the interactions between this adult male, a female, and two 1-year-old siblings as the pumas work at consuming a guanaco killed the day before.

The biologist with us at the photo shoot—a big cat specialist—had never seen such behavior before. Most research has been conducted on pumas in North America, where adult males such as this one—likely the mate of the female and the father of the two cubs—don’t hang out with, and especially don’t dine with, others. This behavior in South America may be because the ecological fitness of the habitat minimizes the sort of competitive forces we see in more northern areas.

Of course, there is a lot of wild puma behavior that has not been observed. Many people live their whole lives in cougar country without ever seeing one at all. And, when they are spotted, it’s typically a fleeting glimpse. Researchers generally depend on tracking collared animals or camera traps. The secretive nature of these cats is legendary.

At any other time and on any other trip this would have been the pinnacle experience. However, on this trip, it’s just the latest of many such experiences. Over the past few days we have observed and photographed four other pumas including a pair of 6-7 month old kittens. We viewed a variety of behavior including kittens playing and an adult stalking. These are wild, free-ranging pumas going about their daily lives – not photographed in captivity. A year ago I would not have believed this was possible. At this location it’s not only possible, but virtually guaranteed.

© Jeff Parker

© Jeff Parker

So, how were we able to witness so much activity? A new conservation program in southern Chile, which focuses on compensating land owners for access to their property made this achievable.

Most of our puma prowling took place on a 17,000-acre private ranch adjacent to Torres del Paine National Park. Due to a recent rule change, the park no longer allows off-trail hiking in pursuit of pumas. Thankfully, our local contact already had an agreement in place, which allowed us access to the ranch where we can roam as we wish. This is not only good for us – it is also good for the pumas. By collecting a fee for access, the landowner has an incentive to allow pumas to remain on his property without persecution.

One main reason for puma persecution is that the land is used primarily for sheep ranching. While pumas mainly prey on guanacos, they will also eat sheep. Unfortunately, they often don’t stop at a single ewe; biologists aren’t quite sure why, but the cats often kill many more sheep than they intend to eat.

But wildlife viewing and photography tours, like my Pumas & Peaks in Patagonia Photo Tour, include ranch access fees, which go directly to the landowner and provide tangible proof of the value of pumas. Some ranches bordering the national park have even agreed to remove all sheep from the land for a trial period in order to give photo tourism a try.

© Jeff Parker

© Jeff Parker

Puma concolor is the scientific name of the most widespread native mammal in the Americas. The cats likely also wear the highest number of common names, including: Mountain lion, cougar, panther, catamount, painter, puma, leon. But, whatever you call them, pumas are targeted for destruction virtually throughout their range.

California, where pumas are completely protected, and my home state of Texas, where the felines can be killed at any time, exhibit the extremes. Other states tend to the middle with several offering a mountain lion hunting season. Elsewhere in the Americas, such as Brazil or Chile, it may be illegal to kill a puma, but enforcement is minimal. Consequently, the cats remain elusive, and they are often killed if humans spot them. And, even in those places where cougars are protected, the habitat and terrain provide such fleeting glances of the animals that photographic opportunities are virtually nil.

Now, thanks to landowner cooperation, lack of eradication, and the open terrain of the Torres del Paine region, the pumas have grown accustomed to observation (as long as it remains a respectful distance away). The result? While the hike to the den overlook site can prove challenging (typically a hilly 1-2 miles each way, bearing photo equipment and braving Patagonian winds), once in place the photography—and the “awe” factor—comes easy.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be deleting images of mountain lions because they are just not quite sharp enough – I would have been thrilled just to see one at all.

 

To see more of Jeff’s images and to learn more about his photo workshops, including workshops in Patagonia, please visit http://jeffparkerimages.com or Like his Facebook page.

© Jeff Parker

© Jeff Parker

 

Hands Off by Gordon Illg

Land iguana walks through a group of photographers, South Plaza Island, Galapagos National Park, Ecuador. Image © Gordon and Cathy Illg.

Land iguana walks through a group of photographers, South Plaza Island, Galapagos National Park, Ecuador. Image © Gordon and Cathy Illg.

By Gordon Illg

This is a new monthly opinion column by photographer Gordon Illg about what inspires nature photographers and why nature photographers do what they do. Check back next month for the next installment! And please check out more of Gordon’s work at: http://www.advenphoto.com.

 

If you’re like me, you receive many, many petitions to sign. Well, one of the latest expressed the view that people should totally stay away from some sensitive parts of the planet just to better protect them. Their stance was that even ecotourism was too much pressure for some parts of the world, and they used both Antarctica and the Galapagos in their list of candidates that should remain totally people free. The petitioners felt that we would be better off reading about these places rather than experiencing them for ourselves. I did not sign that petition. In fact, my response was…how can I put this delicately? “What a crock!”

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Photographing the Unseen by Sebastian Kennerknecht

Malayan Porcupine © Sebastian Kennerknecht

Malayan Porcupine (Hystrix brachyura) at night, Tawau Hills Park, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia © Sebastian Kennerknecht

Using SLR Camera Traps to Photograph the Unseen

Text and Images by Sebastian Kennerknecht

How do you photograph an animal so elusive that the biologists studying them have never even seen the species themselves? The answer is simple: SLR camera traps. Photographing wildlife with a camera trap seems easy in concept. Place a camera trap in the wilderness, let it sit there, and have it take amazing pictures while you relax at home. This isn’t quite the case. One of the hardest parts about camera trap photography is getting your set-up to work like you want it to. The camera and flashes have to be ready to take a picture at a moment’s notice, but it also needs to conserve batteries enough to last for an extended period of time. And then everything has to be safe in a serious down drench.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Bio Blitz Concept For Photography by Kevin Fitzpatrick

Bio Blitz © Kevin FitzPatrick

Bio Blitz © Kevin FitzPatrick

Text and Images by Kevin FitzPatrick

A Bio Blitz is a short (usually one-day), intense team effort to discover as many different life forms as possible in one location. This often involves researchers and the general public working together to identify as many species as possible in a 24-hour period. To date, I have photographed over 45 Bio Blitzes from California to Maine and have done four with National Geographic.

For me, the Bio Blitz compasses all that I want to communicate to my audience about conservation and biodiversity and is a wonderful way to communicate with students and their parents about science! Depending on where they live, young people might get a chance to try their hand at species identification, photography, wildlife sketching, writing about nature, or the discovery of the natural history of their area. No two Bio Blitzes will be the same, as each one will be a reflection of the local environment. It is an opportunity for youth to not only enhance their appreciation of the environment through photography, art and exploration, but also to engage in true citizen science. This can be done through the iNaturalist Mobile Application, which makes use of the Encyclopedia of Life’s Species Collections, allowing participants to document species and upload their observations to a collective map that is available freely online. Read the rest of this entry »

Conservation Photography: Art Born to Protect our Planet by Cristina Mittermeier

Image © Cristina Mittermeir

Image © Cristina Mittermeier

By Cristina Mittermeier

The concept of conservation photography was first proposed out of the need to make a distinction between the creation of images for the sake of photography, and the creation of images to serve the purpose of conserving nature.

Conservation photography showcases both the beauty of our planet and its vanishing spirit, and represents the “pictorial voice” used by many organizations and corporations to further their messages about sustainability. Nature photography, documentary photography, and photojournalism are all part of conservation photography.

The creation of images that inspire and move people to change behaviors and take action requires an understanding of the issues. Anyone can purchase the equipment, travel to interesting regions and learn the secrets of wildlife behavior. What may not be purchased is the empathy and sense of urgency necessary to create awe-inspiring images that move people to take the necessary actions that ensure that the wild world persists. Photographic talent, when combined with environmental concern and scientific understanding and the ability to tell a story, make a fine recipe for conservation photography.

With the exception of the most technical, peer-reviewed scientific journals, photographs are the most necessary and constant element of conservation communications. Be it to document, demonstrate, compare, or inspire, images are an indispensable element of the conservation toolbox. Beyond inspiration, the critical importance of photography lies in its ability to bear witness, to build constituencies of support or opposition to environmental challenges, and to create political pressure that encourages change. The job of the photographer is to shine a light on issues and matters that would otherwise remain invisible. Photography is essential in the crafting and delivery of messages, and high quality, ethically-produced imagery cannot be underestimated.

Por el Planeta is a new Wildlife, Nature & Conservation Photo Competition that wishes to recognize the dedication, skill, and talent of those photographers who strive to create images that infuse society with understanding and care for our shared natural heritage. #PlanetaPhoto is currently open for entries. More than just a contest, it’s a global effort to make a change for the planet. I invite you to visit the website porelplanetaphoto.com for more information and to enter. Registration ends on the 27th of March! 

firmas ARCA compatible

 

Image © Peter Dombrovskis

Image © Peter Dombrovskis

Image © Peter Dombrovskis

Image © Peter Dombrovskis

Lost in the Longleaf by Todd Amacker

Longleaf pine forest in Blackwater River State Forest, Florida

Longleaf pine forest in Blackwater River State Forest, Florida by Todd Amacker

 

Images and text by Todd Amacker 

One of North America’s most biodiverse forests, the longleaf pine forest of the Southeast, is missing from 97% of its historic range. As a proud Southerner, I’ve spent a great deal of time ambling through pine forests in the Florida panhandle. Recently, I’ve made an effort to use my photography and my words to portray exactly what has disappeared along with the forests themselves.

There are a lot of treasures in longleaf pine forests that make them special, both aesthetically and scientifically. It all starts with the longleaf pine tree itself, Pinus palustris. It’s resistant to fire, and that’s important when frequent fires sweep through the understory and flames lap at the trees’ exteriors. Layers of specially evolved, crusty bark protect its delicate innards. It is actually unhindered fire that gives life to the longleaf ecosystem and contributes to its aesthetic beauty. Because of the fire, the undergrowth is burned away and you can see between trees. (This is quite refreshing for forest enthusiasts, as most forests hamper your ability to enjoy the view.)  Read the rest of this entry »

A Photographer’s Pompeii by Chad Anderson

Pine Rocklands

Pine Rocklands by Chad Anderson

Text and Images By Chad Anderson

Vast stretches of azure blue waters thinly vail a dark secret. It’s been happening ever since the melting of the Wisconsin glacier some 12,000 years ago, but now occurs at a hastened pace and with a new cause. Meanwhile, Margaritaville plays, tourists stroll, and wading birds perch on mangrove shores as the slow pace of everyday life in the Florida Keys continues. Scientists, government entities, and even the public are coming to a grim reality. Change is here. It’s not abstract, distant, or easily pushed aside but prevalent, pervasive, and imminent—and the evidence is everywhere. The vast stretches of post card blue waters are a result of recently submerged lands. Even the upland forests here can hardly conceal their ancient marine past. Just millimeters below the leaf litter lies weathered coral reef. One of the oldest permanent tidal monitoring stations in the United States is located in Key West, Florida. Without hyperbole, it states the bare truth. Nearly nine inches of sea level rise has occurred since 1913. That may not sound like much, but for perspective, the average elevation is less than four feet. This effect is amplified by the fact that the slope of the shoreline is near flat, imperceptible to the human eye in most cases. For this reason, a couple inches of rise can translate to hundreds of feet of land lost. In just a few decades the changes to the ecosystems have been staggering, rapidly shifting as the mangroves march inwards. Ancient buttonwoods stand like tombstones of a once proud forest. At times, mangroves, the most halophytic of all flora, can’t keep up the pace. Read the rest of this entry »

PHOTOGRAPHER PROJECT: Mountaintop Removal – Story and photographs by Carl Galie

Eight billion gallons

Eight billion gallons

I thought I knew all there was to know about strip mining, since I grew up in coal country in a mining family and even spent some time selling truck parts to the mining industry early in my career. Then in 2009, I was invited by members of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and St. Vincent’s Mission to go on a tour of a mountaintop removal (MTR) site in Floyd County, Kentucky, with a group of students from Berea College. I was not prepared for what I saw that morning.

Yes, it was a strip mine. But it was a strip mine on steroids. It went on for miles. At the end of the tour, I was asked by Sister Kathleen Weigand from St Vincent’s Mission if I would consider doing a book on MTR, and I immediately said yes.

New River 1

New River 1

Approximately 500 mountains and more than 2,000 miles of streams already had been destroyed by MTR throughout the southern Appalachians. My research revealed that MTR was not an isolated problem in Kentucky. It had affected all of coal country. Furthermore, legislation passed to accommodate the coal industry had the potential to affect water quality across the United States, making MTR a national problem.

A number of scientific papers were published in 2009 on the impact MTR was having on the waters of Appalachia and public health. President Obama had just taken office, and I expected that the EPA would finally be allowed to do its job and put an end to this mining practice. I was wrong, and six years later, MTR is still going strong.

Since the purpose of my project was to raise awareness and educate the public about MTR, I decided that a book—added to several books and powerful documentaries I knew were already in production—might not be the best way for me to get the story out. I decided to take my project in a slightly different direction: a fine art exhibit that would focus on the beauty of the region and what could be lost.

I reasoned that a traveling art exhibit could reach a different and broader audience and have a better chance to be viewed—not only by those against MTR, but also by those supportive of the mining industry. I partnered with Appalachian Voices and The New River Conservancy, two organizations working to protect the region, and with SouthWings—an NGO (nongovernmental organization) located in Asheville, North Carolina, which provided my flights. Funding for the exhibit came from grants provided by Art for Conservation and The Blessings Project Foundation.

Lost on the road to oblivion

Lost on the road to oblivion

In 2013, the exhibit, “Lost on the Road to Oblivion, the Vanishing Beauty of Coal Country,”opened at the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts at Appalachian State University. I collaborated with then-poet laureate of North Carolina, Joseph Bathanti, and the exhibit included 13 of Joseph’s poems in addition to 59 of my prints.

Joseph’s and my collaboration continues, and he has agreed to write poems about more of the prints in the exhibit. We are currently working on exhibit scheduling for 2015-2016. Oh, and remember the book that got the project going? We’re revisiting that idea as well.

Carl Galie is a North Carolina photographer who has worked on conservation issues for the past 19 years. Carl was awarded the first Art for Conservation Grant in August 2010 for his project “Lost on the Road to Oblivion, The Vanishing Beauty of Coal Country.” In March 2014, Carl received Wild South’s Roosevelt-Ashe conservation award for journalism for his work documenting mountaintop removal of coal in the Appalachians.

PHOTOGRAPHER PROJECT: Pantanal, Story and photograph by Daniel J. Cox/Natural Exposures.com

D440260We hear all the time that little things make a difference.Sometimes it’s hard to believe; other times, it couldn’t ring truer. Throughout my career I’ve combined photography with conservation, since a concern for our planet and its inhabitants has always been important to me. For the past few years, the Natural Exposures Invitational Photo Tours has taken guests to the Pantanal in the wilds of Brazil. Here, we do our best to incorporate the same philosophy of integrating photography and conservation, much like any of our travel destinations. Read the rest of this entry »

Web of Water: Four NANPA Members Collaborate for Conservation

Web of Water

Web of Water

 

Check out The Web of Water Project – A Collaboration between NANPA Members jon holloway, Ben Geer Keys, Clay Bolt, and Tom Blagden 

The Web of Water project is a unique partnership with Upstate Forever, Fujifilm, Hub City Press renowned writer John Lane, photographers jon holloway, Ben Geer Keys, Clay Bolt, and Tom Blagden and corporate sponsors. The goal of highlighting through fine art photography the beauty, fragility, and critical importance of the Saluda-Reedy watershed and Lake Greenwood was a five year undertaking.

The Web of Water project tells the story of the watershed and those that depend on it for food, water, business, or recreation. A unique combination of beautiful and alarming images raise awareness about the watershed’s importance to the surrounding landscape and communities, current threats to the watershed’s health, and steps that citizens can take to preserve this precious natural resource in their midst.

This project will provide Upstate Forever with new opportunities to educate the community. Photography is one of the most powerful communication tools in assigning a higher sense of value to our environment. Often in the field of research, the visual connection between science and community is the untold story. This project will help bridge the gap and become a catalyst for community responsibility, awareness of cause and effect, and provide the public with unique opportunity to directly make a difference in the future of South Carolina.

www.webofwaterbook.com

 

Here are a few images from the Web of Water Project:

 

Eastern newt, Jones Gap State park, Image by Tom Blagden

Eastern newt, Jones Gap State park, Image by Tom Blagden

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