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.) Continue reading →
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. Continue reading →
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
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.
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.
We 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. Continue reading →
Serengeti—it’s one of the most famous names in the world, an icon of wild places.
The Serengeti ecosystem, almost 10,000 square miles in area, includes Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, and adjacent reserves such as Loliondo, Maswa, Ikorongo, Grumeti and Kenya’s Masai Mara. It is one of the few large, protected ecosystems left on earth. Each year, more than two million animals—wildebeest, zebras and other herbivores—migrate from the eastern plains through central Serengeti and northward to Masai Mara and back, in a search for water and fresh grasses. It is the largest land mammal migration on earth.
I’ve been traveling to the Serengeti ecosystem annually for 30 years, leading photo tours, and working on book and magazine assignments. I always assumed that national park and World Heritage Site designations would protect this ecosystem. I was wrong.
In May 2010 I learned from Masai friends that the Tanzanian government planned a major commercial highway that would cut across the northern part of the park like a knife wound. Hundreds of trucks would speed daily from Lake Victoria in the west to the Indian Ocean coast. In addition to cutting off the migration route, the highway would become an avenue for poachers.
Within days of my discovery, I contacted a handful of other frequent Serengeti travelers and we started a Facebook page, Stop the Serengeti Highway. Word spread, and today that page has more than 60,000 followers worldwide. In addition, ecotourism consultant Dave Blanton and I started a tax-deductible non-profit called Serengeti Watch to rally support to save Serengeti and to inform select news media around the globe about the threat. Click the link to join and/or make a donation.
In December 2010, Richard Engel of NBC News traveled to Serengeti. He uncovered the culprit funding the highway: China. Engel asserted that China was after coltan, an important mineral in cell phones, and certain rare-earth minerals.
The situation has grown more complex because of oil in Uganda and South Sudan. Plans are now being discussed by the Tanzanian government for a “transportation corridor” that might include a railroad as well as a highway. Either would mark the end of the migration and the total unravelling of the Serengeti ecosystem.
Serengeti Watch has proposed an alternate southern route, one that bypasses Serengeti entirely. Parts of this road already exist and are being upgraded for major transport. The Tanzanian government has ignored funding offers for a southern route, and to date the Serengeti Highway remains a threat.
Building local support is vital. Through donations, Serengeti Watch has made educational grants locally to raise awareness about the importance of preserving Serengeti. The overall aim is to fund projects in media and education that encourage young Tanzanians to become involved in conservation. Through photography, journalism, video and social media, Serengeti Watch will give local people the ability to communicate the importance of protecting their reserves and parks.
This may be the best way to protect Serengeti for the future.
Boyd Norton is the author/photographer of 16 books. His most recent, Serengeti: The Eternal Beginning, has received accolades from primatologist and researcher Jane Goodall and Richard Engel of NBC News, among others. For more than 45 years Boyd has used his photography and writing to save and protect wilderness and wildlife worldwide, testifying at numerous congressional hearings. He has served on the Board of Trustees for the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. He is a Fellow of NANPA, a former NANPA board member, charter Fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers, and founder and Fellow of the International League of Conservation Writers. His next photo safari to Serengeti will be in February, 2015. www.boydnorton.com; www.wildernessphotography.com. See a recent legal development: http://newsle.com/article/0/162431923/
A Metallic Green Bee (Augochloropsis metallica) visits a Black-eyed Susan.
Since Niall Benvie and I first developed Meet Your Neighbours in 2009 I’ve seen my fair share of amazing, beautiful and sometimes bizarre creatures. From the beginning, I’ve worked almost exclusively in the land that surrounds my home near the Southern Appalachians in upstate South Carolina, USA. Rather naïvely, I suspected that after a short period of time I would begin to run out of subjects to photograph but nothing could be further from the truth. Seldom does a day go by that I don’t see a creature or plant that I’ve never seen before in the wild, anywhere! As Piotr Naskrecki points out in his fantastic book The Smaller Majority, “Over 99% of life on Earth is smaller than your finger.” It’s little wonder then that the careful observer will be awarded with a lifetime of discovery.
(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 →
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.
R/V Nathaniel Palmer, the largest research icebreaker of the US National Science Foundation, cruises through small ice in pre-dawn light near the Palmer Station, Antarctic Peninsula, April 1999. Braasch’s first trip to Antarctica yielded this image, which became the opening spread in Discover magazine.
It’s been sixteen years since I was sitting in a tent on the foggy Alaska tundra with fellow photographer Gerry Ellis and had the idea to photograph climate change science. It might have been just an idle idea borne of boredom. But, using my connections from previous assignments documenting nature science and after a review of what scientists were learning about global warming but which was not being well photographed, I broached the idea with some editors. Continue reading →