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 →
Amazon River Dolphins (Inia geoffrensis) WILD, Mother and baby swimming through flooded forest, Rio Negro, Amazonia, Brazil
Images by Kevin Schafer
Story and Gallery Edit By Miriam Stein
Let’s face it – Kevin Schafer has proved himself in the world of nature photography. His patience and dedication allows him to catch the moments in photography that we all dream of. Over the last few years, Kevin has circled the globe for his “Empty Ark” project, the goal of which is to photograph endangered species whose stories have never been told. I find it most important that Kevin is photographing these species, firstly because they are not the iconic polar bears, tigers, etc. Secondly, he is photographing them in their natural habitats and this is important because there may come a day when photographs are all we have left to remember these species.
About Kevin Schafer:
Kevin Schafer is an award-winning natural history photographer, whose photographs appear in all of the major science and nature publications in the US, including National Geographic, Smithsonian, Natural History and National Wildlife. He also works regularly with conservation organizations such as the Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Fund, and is a founding Fellow of the Int’l League of Conservation Photographers.
This past spring, in upstate New York, I had the opportunity to photograph a family of wild Red Foxes at their den. The den was located under a shed in a suburban backyard, and the homeowners granted me permission to set up my pop-up blind in their yard, about 50 yards from the shed. Though they knew full well that I was in the blind, this fox family seemed pretty accustomed to human presence, and they went about their lives without appearing disturbed by me. This is of paramount importance to me when I photograph a wild animal, as I seek to capture behavior that’s as natural as possible, and I never want to disturb or endanger my subjects.
Over the course of about a month, I traveled to my set up whenever I had a free moment, spending hours in my blind; I always left wishing I could stay longer. I was fascinated by the relationship dynamics among the family members, and enthralled by the playfulness of the kits. I counted 6 kits at first, guessing they were roughly 2 months old. I was struck by how much they acted like puppies, which is no surprise, as foxes are members of the Canidae family. The kits roughhoused constantly, rolling and tumbling over each other. As time went on, their playfulness had an edge of ferocity, and their interactions became more adversarial. They honed their hunting skills by stalking one another around the tree trunks and shed corners, and familiarized themselves with prey by proudly carrying around the bodies of star-nosed moles and squirrels that their parents had brought back for them.
From Alaska to North Carolina, Mexico to South Africa, and everywhere in between, government leaders, indigenous peoples, scientists, oceanographers, writers, artists, and youth convened together in Salamanca, Spain for the 10th World Wilderness Congress (WILD10). The conference was held from the 4th – 10th of October and I was lucky enough to attend.
Launched by The Wild Foundation in 1977, the World Wilderness Congress is the world’s longest-running, international public conservation program and forum. Conservationists and environmentalists from around the world come together every four years to educate, train, network and share ideas on how to create a wilder world.
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 →
Of all the genres of nature photography, my most challenging one is wildlife photography.
Challenge one: the primary subject is mobile and doesn’t tend to stay in place very long unless sleeping, resting or nesting. Challenge two: the primary subject is more wary than a landscape, flower or inanimate abstract subject. Challenge three: The primary subject has eyes. It may very well be watching your every move.
The first inclination of many aspiring nature photographers is to remain standing to photograph a critter that is much smaller than they are. While I, too, will stand to photograph a smaller animal the first time I encounter it, I then make an effort to change my perspective and get lower. Continue reading →
Welcome. What an honor it is to share with other NANPA members my love for nature and nature photography through this column. As the title attests, my columns will focus on techniques you can use in the field to capture images that convey a true sense of place. After all, the joy of nature photography begins with our time in the field. Without nature, there is no nature photography.
What makes nature photographers unique in the world of photography? It boils down to three words: knowledge of nature. The more you know and understand nature, the better you become as a nature photographer. I guarantee it! Continue reading →