By Jerry Ginsberg
We humans take ourselves far too seriously. Out of habit, we allow the minutiae of our daily lives to block our ability to see the big picture. That picture is one in which our species is but one of a multitude of creatures eking out a living on the crust of this still molten rock hurtling through space. Like it or not; choose to admit it or not, we are all interrelated to some degree. As for how these ruminations connect me to my role as a nature photographer? Hang in there. I’ll get to that.
Among the myriad of subjects that have long held my interest, the two that top the list are the constant changing of our planet with its plate tectonics, subduction, continental drift, and persistent volcanism as well as the on-going evolution and adaptation of all of the species hanging out here.
With apologies to Charles Darwin, just look at the striking similarities among all mammals. We all seem to have at least the same basic organ structure and facial characteristics: one heart, two lungs, a nose, two nostrils, two eyes, a mouth with teeth and a tongue and ears, all placed in pretty much the same locations regardless of species. Yes, we humans do walk upright on two legs while the other guys are on all fours. A fine point, to be sure.
The carnivores and omnivores are busy eating each other and the herbivores are dinner for all of us. Anyone who has ever visited LA’s La Brea tar pits knows the story. Within that naturally balanced food chain, every creature has its place. Yank a single link out of the chain and we throw the whole equation out of whack. This delicate equilibrium has us all inter-connected and interdependent. Whether we realize it or not; whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, we are all in this adventure together.
What has all of this got to do with nature photography, you may well ask.
An excellent question!
It has been well demonstrated over many years that the more people see photographs of our fellow creatures, the more these viewers are able to identify with them and understand the importance of protecting them. That empathy is not confined only to photographs of mammals, but for amphibians, pinnipeds, birds and reptiles as well.
In order to be able to create these evocative images, we must first study, learn about these animals, understand and even predict their behavior. For example, while traipsing around a small wooded area in Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota one fine spring day, a big, lone, bull bison decided that he, too, wanted to be in the woods with me. Slowly, he strolled from the sunlit meadow into the shade of the forest. As I leaned against a stout tree, enjoying the company of my surprise companion, it occurred to me that, after having spent a fair bit of time observing the habits of bison, I stood a pretty good chance of anticipating the movements of this big guy. Sure enough, I knew just when he would start to roll around in a dust bath.
Many of us nature photographers feel this kinship with the animals we photograph. My thinking about connectedness in the natural world affects how I photograph and how I experience it. How do you express that feeling in your work? How does it impact the what, why, when, and how of your photography?
Being primarily a landscape photographer, I will leave the creation of really great wildlife images to those more skilled at it. However, knowing that we are all connected in varying degrees enabled me to not only walk away with the right photographs but, far more importantly, enjoy a great experience with a very distant relative.
Jerry Ginsberg is an award-winning and widely-published photographer whose landscape and travel images have graced the pages and covers of hundreds of books, magazines and travel catalogs. He is the only person to have photographed each and every one of America’s 63 National Parks with medium format cameras and has appeared on ABC TV discussing our national parks.
His works have been exhibited from coast to coast and have received numerous awards in competition. Jerry’s photographic archive spans virtually all of both North and South America.