We live on 7.5 acres of land in a little town in Louisiana. Although I’ve only been here for a few years, my husband, an ornithologist, has been living here for quite some time. It’s 95% woods. He gardens the area around the house exclusively for hummingbirds and the rest is untouched. Yep, we are the eccentric neighbors with the overgrown yard with signs designating the ditch in the front as a ‘Wildflower Area’ so the city won’t cut or spray.
I see swamp rabbits almost daily. We have deer…and deer ticks. I have heard foxes in the darkness just off the driveway in the woods. We have enjoyed listening to coyotes howling in unison. Barred owls belt out their crazy calls nightly. Prothonotary Warblers nest in boxes we make for them around the house and in the woods. Point is, it’s pretty cool out here and we share this land with a lot of critters and plants. Continue reading →
Nine years ago my life was irreversibly altered when I attended the NANPA Summit in Charlotte as a college scholarship recipient. My quiet dream was given breath and fanned into flame. It is the friendships I’ve formed with other NANPA photographers that have most influenced me on my path to becoming a pro nature photographer. In this community I have found continual inspiration, and I created ALIVE Photo to offer the public a taste of these rich friendships.
In a world of 24/7 social chatter via glowing screens we cradle with care, it is easier than ever to be distracted from total immersion in the solitude and power of wilderness. It’s easier than ever to lose focus on why we are even living this wild dream as nature photographers in the first place. In light of that, my interviews with these 23+ pro outdoor photographers explore the “why.” “Why do you do it?” “In what ways does photography personally affect your life?” “How does photography awaken you to the experience of being alive?”
For me, it was important to start with why. I could have asked these talented pros how they do the work they do. I could have asked what gear they use or what their secrets are for success. But I would not have touched the heart. ALIVE Photo is a celebration-song exploding from the hearts of those whose lives are captivated by the unquenchable pursuit of great light.
Some of the amazing photographers featured on ALIVE Photo!
We need not incessantly contemplate our navels. It’s okay simply to play. But we would be wise to pause occasionally and reflect on what a life-changing gift it is to be one who photographs nature.
I hope that these simple interviews serve as a reminder to each of us about why we do this. It’s a radical gift to live in this present age, to have a camera, to have wilderness and to have a space where we can be transformed. Let’s celebrate Nature Photography Day on June 15th and give thanks for the experience of being alive. ALIVE.photography
Listen in as Rob Sheppard speaks on connection, Clay Bolt on seeing with fresh eyes, Carl Battreall on yearning to be remote and wild, and Amy Gulick on her life-long passion for storytelling. Next week you’ll hear from the ever-hilarious Joe and Mary Ann McDonald, and the week after that the beloved and contemplative Dewitt Jones. Sign up with your email address on the right column of the blog and be the first to know about our next pro.
Painting by Caroline Mytinger. A young girl in dance costume, sorceress named Kori Toboro, wearing a net bag. Motuan village of Hanuabada, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. Courtesy of Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology, University of California at Berkeley.
In 1926, painter Caroline Mytinger and her friend, Margaret Warner, set out from San Francisco for a four-year adventure in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. With little more than $400, a few art supplies, and a trunk of clothing, they made their way through what was then known as the land of headhunters, with the goal of painting Melanesia’s inhabitants. Their journey was nothing short of amazing and, at times, fraught with danger. Mosquitoes engorged with blood had to be snipped off with scissors; cockroaches the size of hummingbirds chewed on their toes. They ran into male explorers who assumed they were the first to delve into the remote Fly River Territory—and who were shocked to find two very petite young women from America in this seemingly hostile environment. A storm almost washed away all of Caroline’s painting supplies, and a volcanic eruption threatened to destroy the artwork. Upon the women’s return to the United States in 1930, Caroline’s paintings were exhibited in notable museums such as the American Museum of Natural History in New York. After 1935, the paintings were crated away, not to be seen until 2004, when they were discovered at UC Berkeley’s Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology by NANPA photographer Michele Westmorland. Continue reading →
This winter proved an exciting time for birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts as the cold months in 2013-2014 brought a snowy owl irruption to the United States. The beautiful birds were seen as far south as Florida and Bermuda. Benjamin Olson spent a few months following a snowy owl that took up residence near his home in Minnesota. I greatly appreciate the time and dedication Benjamin showed in tracking this owl and making beautiful photographs without the use of bait, an all-too common practice among owl photographers. I love the natural blue and white backgrounds of Benjamin’s photographs and the artistic composition he employed in making his images. To see more of Benjamin’s work, visit www.benjamin-olson.com. Continue reading →
(Canis lupus) captive animal; Kalispell, Montana (c) Weldon Lee
Story and photograph by Weldon Lee
Prejudice is not limited to religion and racial ethnicity. It also finds targets among our wild brothers and sisters, not the least being the gray wolf. Wolf eradication can be traced back to the Middle Ages in Europe. It’s not surprising that it lifted its ugly head again as Europeans began arriving in the New World.
According to PBS, “By the middle of the twentieth century, government-sponsored extermination had wiped out nearly all gray wolves in the Lower 48 states. Only a small population remained in northeastern Minnesota and Michigan.” This came about as a result of wealthy livestock owners wielding their influence over policymakers in Washington, D.C., and demanding a wider grazing range.
In spite of Congress providing protection for wolves under the Endangered Species Act in 1973, wolves are still being killed.
The endangered species protection for gray wolves was repealed in six states. What followed over the last two years was the killing of more than 2,600 wolves. Now the government wants to delist gray wolves in practically the entire Lower 48. Continue reading →
Metamorphosis spawned out of a conversation I had one day in early 2012 with conservationist Gabby Wild. We were discussing the difficulties of raising concern for the plight of the most threatened group of all vertebrates, the amphibians, and committed to concocting a publicity campaign. We wanted to do something different, something that would make people look twice, or see amphibians in a new light. A few months later, we were in a studio in Los Angeles decorating a body-painted Gabby with live frogs and newts.
In my time as an amphibian biologist and a photographer I have shot (with a camera) a lot of frogs, but this shoot was different. Rather than wading mosquito-riddled swamps or hacking through thick jungle to find and photograph elusive frogs in their natural habitat, I was bringing them into the controlled environment of a studio and shooting them against the canvas of the human body. In doing so, I had to learn a whole new way of shooting. Instead of finding or waiting for the right light, I had to craft my own, and instead of patiently waiting for the action to unfold in front of me, I had to conceptualize and create compositions around a theme. It was both testing and creatively invigorating. Continue reading →
Bornean Orangutan, Pongo pygmaeus, Caretaker with infant at bath time, Orangutan Care Center, Borneo, Indonesia, (c) Suzi Eszterhas
For years I have specialized in documenting the family lives of endangered species. This work has taken me around the globe, spending long hours with wild animal families for weeks, months or even years at a time. In all of my projects I try to incorporate the conservation issues that surround my subject or the latest research presenting fascinating discoveries about that animal and its environment.
Some of my most recent work has taken me out of the wild and into animal orphanages. In the past, I have spent a lot of time with both Bornean and Sumatran orangutans, photographing them in protected areas where they have the ability to live wild and free. But the truth of the matter is that these protected areas on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra are too small to save the species. More and more forest is lost every single day to bulldozing for palm oil plantations. Orangutans cannot live in a palm oil plantation; they need the diversity of the rainforest to survive. What’s worse is that plantation workers routinely kill adult orangutans and sell the babies as pets on the black market. The lucky orphans are found and confiscated by government officials. There are thousands of baby orangutans in various orphanages on these islands. Continue reading →