The 16 year old activist
While many people Ishaan's age play video games at home, unsure what they want to do in the future, Ishaan has found a passion about creating positive change. He has given multiple talks, won awards and founded his own organisation Stolen Dreams UK to educate people about slavery. We need more people like Ishaan in this world and we really believe he will go on to make a big impact so we interviewed him about what he's been doing and why he does it:
My name is Ishaan Shah and I am a sixteen-year-old student from London, UK. In 2016, at the age of thirteen, I saw a documentary about child trafficking and exploitation which changed my life. The following week at school, I discovered that none of my peers (156 children) were aware of this issue. A few months later, I founded Stolen Dreams (http://stolendreams.co.uk), a website and communications organisation to get young people to engage with and actively drive positive action around human trafficking, gender equality and climate change. Since then, I have spread my message widely across social media, on podcasts, blogs, through public speaking and teaching children at schools. Ultimately, my goal is to get children talking about these issues, letting them know that they can be a part of the solution, giving them the tools and platform to drive change.
And so, it is at these times of hate, and struggle that I remember Gandhi’s quote, that
“Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is still the truth."
What gives you hope?
I often visit schools and speak to children aged seven to eighteen on a wide range of topics, from human rights to climate change. When I speak to children, I mostly speak about supply chains and how their decisions as consumers can have an impact. I tell them nearly every product they come into contact with on a daily basis, when it was made, could have harmed humans and the environment. For example, I tell them that some of their favourite chocolate brands include an ingredient called palm oil. I will explain to them that not only is child slavery used to obtain that palm oil, but the demand for palm oil also leads to the destruction of our rainforests, threatening species and displacing them. It is the look of shock on their faces, followed by the determination to act and change their lifestyles which gives me hope. These children, they want to change. They always ask me challenging questions about why this is happening, what businesses are doing to address this, how the government is responding, and they even try to come up with their own solutions. But what gives me the most hope, is that I often get messages from parents and teachers afterwards telling me that their children have forced them to change their lifestyles. From boycotting brands that are damaging the environment and reducing meat consumption, to spreading the word to friends and family, the children of this generation give me hope, because they are willing to go one step further from awareness; they act. They drive positive social change within their community. They might just be kids, but kids can do great things too!
Why is it important that we focus on climate change issues?
It was Wendell Berry that said, “The Earth is what we all have in common.” People do not realise how valuable the planet is. The oceans themselves produce seventy per cent of the planet’s oxygen and even the smallest of creatures are vital in holding together an entire ecosystem. Climate change is threatening our very existence and our future. But it is also causing an increase in a wide range of other global issues including, war, poverty, famine, disease and human trafficking to name a few. We are in a climate crisis; the alarm bells are ringing, and we need to act. We have to make a choice. If we act now, there will be a planet, but if we neglect our natural world, there will be no planet at all. It is vital that we focus on climate change issues now.
How can we as individuals promote sustainability?
We as consumers have so much power! Whenever I speak at schools or public forums, people will always question the impact an individual consumer will actually have. I believe that our ‘green’ journey starts by changing the way we each consume. Before you buy something always check to see if that company can tell you who made their products, how much they were paid and whether any harm was done to the environment. If they cannot tell you this basic information, call them out on social media, boycott their brand and demand change. Another way we can consume sustainably is to reduce our meat consumption and buy from sustainable fishing producers. Simultaneously, it is also key to support brands that are eco-friendly. Switch to buying from these brands; lead the way and urge your friends and family to follow. Alternatively buy second hand products whenever you can. Whether it be clothes, cars or furniture, buying second hand is sustainable and helps the environment. Sustainability is the new fashion.
What are your plans for the future?
I am not entirely sure what my plans for the future are. If people keep neglecting the environment, there may not even be a future for my generation and the generations to come! We as children are anxious and scared for our future. But we are also motivated, because we will fight for climate action and reform! I am looking to go into the field of human rights law, policy writing or international relations, all of which I am sure will allow me to play a part in tackling some of the greatest human rights issues of our time, gender inequality and climate change.
It has devastating to see the impact the fires are having across Australia and the global audience has been able to witness this through photographs/videos that are viral across social media. Hopefully through increased awareness increases the support that can be given to support the habitats of millions of animals. We interviewed Brad Fleet, the photographer behind this viral photograph to understand the story better.
A kangaroo tries to escape the fire in Adelaide. (Brad Fleet)
The story behind the Kangaroo photograph
It was located on a fence that ran along a creek at the bottom of the valley that had been completely destroyed. It was not far from where the Cudlee Creek fire had started two weeks earlier.
It wasn't until I started photographing up close you fully understood the struggle. Although there wasn't strong signs that suggested it lasted a long time, there was no way of telling how long it had tried to get past the fence. Most likely the fire had followed it up the creek bed until it was overcome with smoke.
It was difficult to photograph because it blended into the landscape. Everything including the Kangaroo was coloured black and brown and covered in ash. One person on my Instagram account likened it to the Pompeii volcano eruption and I would have to agree. It just hung there like a statue. The Kangaroo didn't smell so much but you could smell other animals.
The smell of death, the heat and how dry it was certainly didn't feel like the Australian bush.
It felt lifeless and it is not over for the animals that survived. There is no food left for them to eat and all weather forecasts have limited rain in the near future. It is a dire situation for Australia's native wildlife. It is estimated 500 million animals have perished so far.
2015 Sampson Flat fire. A lost koala trying to find food in a burnt out pine plantation. (Brad Fleet)
It's fantastic to see my image being used prolifically across socials to help raise money for bushfire relief.
Equally as important it has been posted with political messaging highlighting climate change.
It has been very interesting watching the response to this image. Most of my work has been editorially based that remains very local and holds a short lifespan.
This image feels like it has a strong meaning and lasting legacy.
2012 burning off in Darwin (Brad Fleet)
Please credit @bradfleet The Advertiser
Images only to be used for this article and are not for resale
It is easy to become apathetic about the destruction of the natural world with all of the negative stories that bombard our media on a daily basis, so we decided to create a list of 5 positive stories from 2019 that offer a hope of a more positive view on conservation. A few days ago COP25 came to a close and many have criticised the lack of action and progress that governments have made. I often notice myself sharing endless negative stories about the plight of nature, but there's still so much we have to save, we need to come together more than ever to create sustainable solutions that protect humans, other animals and the natural world that we depend so greatly on. This post focuses on 5 positive stories going into 2020, showing things can change. We interviewed every photographer from these stories, you can find that post here.
1. Humpback Whale population increases from 450 to 25,000
A new study from Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences reveal that Humpback Whale population has increased to 25,000 for the first time since pre-whaling numbers in the early 1900’s. During the 1980’s the International Whaling Commission prohibited commercial whaling, but unfortunately Norway and Japan still conduct whaling. In 2019 Iceland has decided not to whale this year, for the first time in 17 years!
Find out more information here
2. Africa’s Elephant poaching rates drop by 60% since 2010
The decrease in poaching is great news for the species but unfortunately 15,000 are still killed annually and wild elephants may still be wiped out in a few decades if this does not decrease further. The continent current has approximately 350,000 elephants. The decline may correlate with the ivory ban introduced in China during 2017 and we hope that efforts continue to protect these beautiful animals.
3. European Union Bans Single-Use Plastics
The European Parliament has voted to ban single-use plastic to tackle marine litter by 2021 and encourage sustainable solutions, also aiming to achieve a 90% collection of plastic bottles by 2029. Products that will be banned include single-use plastic cutlery and plates, straws, plastic cotton buds, plastic balloon sticks and food containers. The Parliament voted had a large majority to ban the plastics, with over 560 voted in favor and just 35 were against and 28 abstained. This is an important step forward as it is estimated that over 100 million marine animals are killed annually because of plastic waste.
Find out more information here
4. Mountain gorilla population doubles since 2010
A new survey suggests that the populations of the mountain Gorillas has doubled since 2010, taking the number to over 1000 in Virunga, Democratic Republic of Congo. These apes were expected to face extinction by the end of the twentieth century but conservation efforts in the area have supported the slow increase of the Gorillas. Increased protection is still needed as they are still considered a critically endangered species.
Find out more information here
5. Scientists create embryos that could save the northern white rhino from extinction.
In 2018, the last male Northern White Rhino passed away and made internationally news globally and made the species extinct, with only two females left. In 2019 scientists has developed embryos that could be the hope needed to bring the species back from extinction.
Find out more information here
Hostile Planet Series LA Screening & Panel shots from National Geographic
Sophie Morgan is a natural history TV producer, field director and closed circuit rebreather diver that specialises in telling underwater stories. From Arctic fjords to remote coral atolls, she has filmed new marine behaviours and managed complex dive shoots in demanding oceanic environments around the globe. She is passionate about using cutting edge filming tools and new perspectives to reveal a world that is inaccessible to many. She is a keen conservationist who uses original storytelling techniques to inspire people to care about the ocean and its inhabitants. Recent credits include BAFTA and EMMY award winning series Blue Planet II and now National Geographic's new landmark series Hostile Planet. She has worked on various exciting projects alongside Plimsoll Productions.
When did you become interested in conservation?
I honestly don’t remember ever not being passionate about wildlife and conservation. From about the age of 4 I was dictator-like about making my family recycle and routinely embarrassed my Dad at the zoo for being an insufferable know it all about dolphins. At around that age I even walked up to a woman wearing a fur coat and loudly recited the anti-fur campaign of the time ‘It takes up to 40 dumb animals to make a fur coat. But only one to wear it.’ I probably have my mother to thank for it, as instead of children’s TV we watched a lot of nature documentaries together and she let me have a ton of pets. The barking tree frogs and their diet of escaping crickets nearly pushed her to breaking point though!
Richard Herrmann/National Geographic stills from the Blue Whale Shoot. I directed this remotely.
I think working in with wildlife was always on the cards, although I went the veterinary route for a long time, as I wasn’t initially aware that there were other options. Leaning towards an interest in animal behaviour I instead did a Zoology degree and was involved in various media projects at uni in Bristol. But it wasn’t until I saw an ad for a Researcher at the BBC NHU that I realised what I wanted to do. I didn’t get that role, but I quit my job (in music PR) in London for 2 weeks work experience at an indie in Bristol and have never looked back.
What documentaries have you been involved in?
I’ve worked on a real variety of shows – presenter led (Ch4’s Operation Maneater; BBC1s Talk to the Animals; BBC Natural Worlds); fast turnaround wildlife VTs (BBC’s The One Show); Live (Ch4’s Easter Eggs Live); landmark (BBC’s Blue Planet II, National Geographic’s Hostile Planet). They’ve all had their own challenges and contributed to my skills as a Producer today. I’m definitely more blue-chip focused now, but the faster turnaround items really helped me learn how to think on my feet and cope under pressure.
Landing the role on Blue Planet II was a really pivotal moment for me – it was my first landmark and (after investing a lot in dive training) my first major underwater role. Developing and filming longer behavioural sequences was quite a steep learning curve. I was incredibly lucky to be put to work under and learn from legendary BBC producer Miles Barton, who I still regard as a real mentor figure today. Known for series like ‘Life in Cold Blood’ he’s more comfortable on land than water, so we made a good team, although I’m pretty sure he thinks I’m a crazy fish lady. Together with cameramen Ted Giffords and Dan Beecham, we filmed the Giant Trevallies leaping out of the water to catch birds, which has to be one of the most dramatic things I have ever witnessed. It was such a high-risk sequence, without even a photo of the behaviour in existence, but we found a good number of eyewitnesses, and its testament to Miles that he had the guts to go for it based on that.
Diving with bottlenose dolphins in the Red Sea, Photographer: Olly Scholey
In my first job in TV in development at Aqua Vita Films I stumbled across a conservation story in the unlikely location of Iraq. A wetland area called the Mesopotamian Marshes, vaster than the Florida Everglades, had been drained down to a tiny fraction of its size as part of the conflict under Saddam’s regime. However, that tiny fraction still provided a critical habitat for endemic species and migratory birds. On paper the story had me hooked, but translating that into TV viewing, with tricky access and lack of a super charismatic beast, was going to be hard. And it transpired that we weren’t the first ones to pitch it.
However, as our research continued we found the most incredible human, who became the cornerstone of the pitch – a water engineer called Azzam Alwash. Azzam grew up on the marshes, had witnessed the devastation first hand and was passionate about reflooding them. When Azzam spoke about the marshes people cared and when it aired as a ‘BBC Natural World Special: Miracle in the Marshes of Iraq’ his expressions of joy made a lot of unlikely people weep over a flock of ducks. It’s so important that you find an emotional hook for your audience to connect with and avoid relying too heavily on stats or numbers. As a happy and not necessarily related side note, the Marshlands were declared Iraq’s first National Park in 2013, a couple of years after the film aired.
Scouting for squid eggs in California for Hostile Planet, Photographer Richard Herrmann
Hostile Planet Documentary (National Geographic)
This documentary looks at animal survival in some of the earth’s extreme environments and at how, in this age of humans, those environments are becoming even more unpredictable. The ocean is a dynamic shape shifter, which changes radically as you travel through it - this episode takes you on a journey from violent coastlines to endless watery wildernesses and crushing depths.
Although the DNA of the Bristol filmmakers involved was of similar high calibre to BBC landmarks, with Hostile Planet, National Geographic wanted to reshape your quintessential natural history series to resonate with a younger global audience. Working alongside Academy Award-winning cinematographer Guillermo Navarro, and featuring host Bear Grylls, they were pushing us for character, high drama and dynamism, so that shaped the stories we chose and they way we cut them. What is exciting is that we did manage to feature charismatic animals such as turtles, orca, penguins and great white sharks, but still find new elements to their behaviour and utilise filming techniques that mean the sequences feel really fresh and exciting.
The best thing for me about working with National Geographic was that from the beginning they pushed for a strong conservation arc. The ocean is under severe threat from carbon emissions and overfishing and it’s something people need to hear about. Part of the whole concept of Hostile Planet is that the planet is becoming more hostile, and weather more extreme, due to human induced change. As someone who often has to go in all guns blazing to argue for even an environmental mention, it was incredibly refreshing to be 100% backed up on stories featuring things like overfishing, jellyfish blooms and coral bleaching. Of course we made it dramatic and visually beautiful.
It was also important that the episode left people with a sense of hope regarding the future of the natural world. From 100s of orca returning to Norwegian fjordlands to the recovery of Blue Whales in California, the programme also highlights the remarkable ability of animals to bounce back from the brink when they, their habitat or their prey are better protected. By focusing on the animals out there beating the odds, there is a message of resilience across the series, which drives home the idea that there is something worth fighting for. But there is also an acknowledgement of the current state of our planet and the need to protect it.
Find out more about Hostile Planet Here
Diving amongst hard corals in the Red Sea, Photographer: Olly Scholey
What have you learnt from working in the field?
I’ve definitely learnt how to be patient! I’ve also learnt that you can never be too prepared. People always comment that our jobs must be difficult because you never know what an animal is going to do. But I would say that we work really hard in advance of shoots to predict that. You want to make sure that, for the behaviour you are targeting, you have the right season, conditions, equipment and talent and enough evidence that it does happen and it looks good visually. Pre-production research and phone calls in the office at home are vital. Having said that, sometimes the animals and the conditions surprise you – I’ve had a couple of shoots fail, which is hard, but I’ve also had really interesting story arcs develop in the field. You don’t want to be flippant with your editorial, but having the ability to suss a good story on location and the initiative to change tack is also something I’ve learnt.
What is the role of photo/film in educating and inspiring people about the natural world?
When wildlife filmmakers go to the pub together, this is the subject that causes the most animated debates. We all got into this career because we care passionately about the natural world and we all want to make a difference. However, historically worthy conservation films haven’t always made an impact on a wide audience. People are looking for that sense of beauty and escapism, and we need to give them it to inspire them to care about nature. The first Blue Planet contained very little conservation, however, it saw a surge in university applications to study marine biology. Having said that, I believe we have reached a time where it is our moral obligation as filmmakers to tell the truth about the state of the natural world. We see the impact humans are having on the environment first hand and I don’t think we should keep shooting around it. I also think the audience is ready for it and we shouldn’t underestimate them.
When I started in this industry I wanted to make more straight conservation films, but I’ve come to realise that using my creative skills to tell even a small environmental story in a more commercial film reaches more people. I’m known as a bit of an eco warrior amongst my colleagues and I have got extremely good at weaving green messages into the narrative under the pretext of drama. But they must actually add to the story, and there must be some element of hope – if people switch off you’ve missed an opportunity.
Photography for Conservation
These 5 incredible photographs highlight the reality of our natural world, with interviews with the photographers.
Caroline Power - Plastic
"Our planet is choking with trash and no number of beach or waterway cleanups can stop it. We are treating the symptoms, not the disease. As a country, as a species, as individuals we need to stop consuming single use plastics." (Caroline Power, Honduras)
Never give up.
"It is so easy to become disheartened by increasingly depressing news reports and grim scientific studies but we cannot stop trying. The advent of social media has given unknown photographers such as myself now have the chance to reach large audiences and have a platform on which to inspire change. The reaction to these photos has given me hope. I have been utterly blown away by the response. In the last two weeks, I have been inundated with emails and calls from publications and organisations all over the world."
People do care. There may still be hope for this planet.
John Novis - Palm Oil
The pristine forest area is under threat from multinational development to degrade and drain the land for palm oil and pulp and paper plantations. (John Novis, Greenpeace)
Clearing last remaining intact area of peat swamp forest by fire in Riau, Sumatra. The pristine forest area is under threat from multinational development to degrade and drain the land for palm oil and pulp and paper plantations. Peatland forest is critical for maintaining biodiversity and it's degradation releases vast stores of carbon thereby contributing to global climate change.
I am an optimist at heart and I believe photography is playing an important role informing and forcing people and governments to act to halt the progress of climate change and other environmental injustices.
Ben Hicks - Plastic
This image immediately brought upon a lot of emotions. I have photographed sea turtles for 10 years and have never seen that happen. Heartbreaking for sure but also quickly realising the importance of capturing and sharing the experience with the world. (Ben Hicks)
Awareness. I am usually aiming for an indirect message. Showing a harmless tiny baby sea turtle that is vital to our seas ecosystem and giving people the choice of helping protect them and the environment or watching them go away. We can all make a difference by doing something and educating those around us.
The young people of today will help drive our future to hopefully bring down our footprint and reduce our wastes that are so damaging to the environment.
Marcus Westberg - Poaching
A Maasai guide at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy mourns the death of a rhino at the hands of poachers.
I spent a month on the ground in Kenya - conducting interviews, going out on patrols and raids, tracking lions, attending community meetings, and whatever else seemed relevant or interesting. I find the traditional relationship between Maasai and lions just as interesting as the current complex situation, and innovative solutions the most interesting of all.
Sometimes I come back home pretty exhausted, but there’s always something new to document, something which inspires hope, a different story to tell.
Shane Gross - Fishing
A Cuba dogfish, actually a type of shark, is brought in on a long line. (Shane Gross)
There are a lot of things that keep me inspired, but really, it’s being out in nature, especially being underwater. The more I’m out in nature the more I want to shoot and do what I can to protect the animals and habitats I love. I’ve gotten to know individual turtles and sharks that have been killed at the hands of poachers, it really hurts, but I’ve also seen the tide begin to turn in the right direction. If I can’t be in nature then I take inspiration from fellow photographers and nature documentaries.
Whatever your situation is, if you are creative and driven you can make a difference.
Incredible humpback whale photograph wins grand prize at the Nat Geo Travel competition.
"I want to see this beautiful whale calf again, I felt the severity of nature and strength of life"(Reiko Takahashi)
I slowly approached the whale calf and pressed the shutter; It was a special scene for me and the calf was completely relaxed and surfaced the water.
I fell perfectly in love with the calf with a curious, big beautiful tail and I got a little sad because the calf was bruises all over. Did you get involved in the fight between male whales? Have you been attacked by other creature? I also seemed to be due to that curiosity of the calf. I felt the severity of nature and the strength of life, looking at the calf swimming full of bruises. I expressed the impression with a photo of a tail of the calf.
You can find more about the Nat Geo competition here
Whale Sharks swimming among humans. (Reiko Takahashi)
I live in the north of Japan (kiakami-city, iwate-pref) and Until last year I was a semiconductor engineer. I was shooting while working as an office worker. However, I quit my job last August and focused on the photography.
I shoot the scene that I was impressed. I would like to share the excitement with that photos. We live on the land of the earth and the view of the underwater has a view different from the land we live in living with organisms, plants, minerals that are all slightly different. I think the underwater is similar to the climbing of Everest; equipment such as air tank is necessary because there is no air. It is not a place where we can easily go. For me, it is a special and sacred place. The underwater which accounts for 70% of the earth is the place of adventure where we can encounter “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”
Shark bait ball in Socorro (Reiko Takahashi)
I mainly use Olympus and nikon. The shooting equipment of the winner Natgeo photo of "Mermaid" is here: Olympus Pen E-PL7 with Housing PT-EP12, InonWide conversion lenz UWL-H100 and Inon Dome lenz unit2. I have a small body, so the weight and mobility of the equipment is important. I am using Olympus (wide) when the current is fast or it has to be lightweight. Since Nikon (D 810 & D 800) has all of the lens lineup, it is the main equipment.
A school of spotted eagle ray (Reiko Takahashi)
I want to shoot the scene that impressed me and share it with everyone. When you see my photos, I hope people appreciate it.
So many beautiful ocean images to share but the reality of our impact is everywhere around the world. (Ben Hicks)
This image immediately brought upon a lot of emotions. I have photographed sea turtles for 10 years and have never seen that happen. Heartbreaking for sure but also quickly realising the importance of capturing and sharing the experience with the world. I was fortunate to reach a lot of people with the image and story via the Discovery Channel last month. (Ben Hicks)
I am a photographer based in Boca Raton, Florida and I have Been shooting for about 17 years. My work gets split into two businesses, one being fine art which I am known for around the world for my sea turtle images and the other a busy commercial studio where we shoot commercial ad campaigns for a variety of clients. We have offices, a gallery and studio warehouse in Boca Raton, Florida where we produce all the art and also create studio photoshoots. I got into underwater work by my want to always bring the camera with me below the surface. Surfing photography was my start in the water world of selling images. Then Nature came soon after. I have been fortunate enough to have been sent all over the world to cover surfing.
Having the ability to reach a lot of people at my finger tips and try to open their eyes on the worlds over use of plastic is a role that i need to do. How can I create a different image or tell a story through a uniquely different image? I am also inspired to capture images that can tell a story about the problems with our pollution and plastic usage around the world.
Photography, a purpose:
Telling stories. It's a silent communicator that can harness so much power, especially via todays online platforms where you can reach millions at the touch of a screen. In today's world I can reach a lot of peoples hearts through an image depicting our fragile environment. Being an influencer of the environment that I love to being out in is an honor.
What messages are you trying to communicate?
Awareness. The young people of today will help drive our future to hopefully bring down our footprint and reduce our wastes that are so damaging to the environment. I am usually aiming for an indirect message. Showing a harmless tiny baby sea turtle that is vital to our seas ecosystem and giving people the choice of helping protect them and the environment or watching them go away. We can all make a difference by doing something and educating those around us.
I want to continue to make a difference and influence young people in new ways on how they can make a difference. I have a 2 year old and want his kids to be able to go to the beach and sea the same sea turtles I saw.
Im an underwater photographer from New Zealand who tends to be drawn to the warmer waters of the South pacific. I'v had a fascination with Dolphins and Whales since I was a child. I was born with an intense passion for Marine Mammals. I just always knew that I wanted to work in their world and honor their critical role in our our ecosystems.
I worked on Dolphins watching in New Zealand for many years before sailing through the South Pacific and finally landing in Tonga. It was the start of the whale season so I jumped ship and rented a house for a few months trying to get out on the water as much as possible. This opened me up to the wonderful world of swimming with Whales and I was addicted. I eventually heard about a job going filming people swimming with whales. I had no camera, no experience and no idea but I was determined to spend more time in the water and observing these magnificent creatures. I bought myself some gear, taught myself how to use it and convinced my soon to be employer that I was up to the task! That was 6 years ago and today I am still working on boats taking people out to swim with the whales. Today I focus more on still photography and my work is constantly evolving. I am always inspired by other artists and conservationists and always striving to up my game and rise to the privilege that I have been given.
I spend my winters in the Pacific Islands totally immersed in their world and my focus is to create imagery of them that might propagate a little more of that awe and reverence in the people who see my work. I have no formal training in the arts, i'm self taught through and through.
My motivation with photography is to give people a sense of connection to the oceans and its inhabitants and elicit empathy in people for the plight of the natural world. I believe that the planet is a living system of which we are all a part of, that we are fundamentally interconnected with the earth and all its life forms. And if we become more integrated to the subtle forces and rhythms of the ecosystems we inhabit, and live more responsibly within them, that might be a good start towards healing ourselves, our communities, and our oceans.
What inspires me and fascinates me is the mutual curiosity and affinity between cetaceans and us. What they can teach us and and how we can co exist in harmony. Countless times I've witnessed the whales initiating contact with humans. Swimming towards us, checking us out, encouraging their babies to engage with us. Its a profound behavior from a wild animal who in theory should be afraid of us. This gives me inspiration as an artist. I am moved to find out more about why whales and dolphins seem to have such a profound effect on us when we see them.
There are so many stories of cooperative relationships between humans and cetaceans. Orcas helping fishermen, dolphins saving surfers from shark attacks, Grey whales approaching boats to be petted, solitary dolphins living in small communities, socializing with humans....the list goes on and on. People are deeply moved when in the presence of dolphins or whales, often overcome with emotion and a feeling of bliss or euphoria. Similar to what people describe when in the presence of a 'Guru' or 'enlightened” person. This is a topic which truly fascinates me and I would like to take my exploration further...watch this space for a doco!
My most memorable moments in the water usually always involve a calf.
Its an incomparable experience when a 3 ton baby whales comes to 'play' with you. Its exhilarating and intimidating at the same time. But the most profound part for me is always the mothers calm, trusting demeanour allowing this experience to happen.
When conditions are right she will rest just below the surface and allow her baby to freely come up and interact with us. She always has as one protective eye on her baby but for whatever reason she humbles us with her gift .... the most intimate and inspiriting wildlife encounter.
Melissa Schafer - Arctic
An insight into the life of an Greenpeace Ambassador and photographer working in the Arctic.
The experiences of my first two years in the Arctic are just incredible. But what is more important is what our work is about: the Arctic and what is happening with it because of our changing climate. (Melissa Schafer)
My name is Melissa Schäfer (26) years old. Since I got my first camera from my mum when I was 13/14 years old I started to take photos in Hamburg with friends or just outside in a park. Later I made most of the time portraits - self portraits. I always loved polar bears and the arctic but for me that was just a dream. Something impossible. When I met Fredrik my dream came true with him. Now I can work with the animals I love most and the men I love most side by side. Im still learning a lot and i'm so happy about all the support and help. Also working together with sea legacy last year was something I learned a lot from.
Hubba Production is our company; our goal is a little part of changing the world by making people feel. When it comes to communication about the environment and conservation a lot usually comes in the form of doomsday reports and big black headlines. We believe that you only fight for what you love. We want to make people connect, or reconnect with nature. At the moment we are working on a photography book about the arctic and polar bears.
Polar bear mother with cub in Svalbard. There is no "typical" polar bear. The Arctic is huge, and there are 19 different populations. They all behave differently, and even within those populations, all bears are different. The world’s 20-25,000 polar bears have one thing in common: they need sea ice. (Melissa Schafer)
There are many moments where I needed my camera. There are many photos who are not good as a photo but healing for me or helping. I used to take photos when im emotional. When I didn’t feel so good I started to take photos and in some way I could but all those emotions into the pictures. So in the end I turned something negative in something I want to show people, something good.
Swimming polar bear in a labyrinth of ice floes in Mohnbukta, Svalbard. The home of the polar bear is the area where ice meets water. We call it the "Arctic ring of life". (Melissa Schafer)
First Polar bear experience
She approached us from a far distance. Like most polar bears do, they never really look at you, and don't let you know how interested in you they are until they are very close. But after a while, she had arrived at the beautiful ice berg not so far from us. There she stayed for a while - rolling in the snow, climbing the ice and playing around. Completely relaxed and cool as ice, of course she was sniffing us out, trying to figure out who and what we were - most bears we meet have never seen a human before. It was magical. And the moment she looked at me I stopped breathing.
I also wrote a blog post about that after the meeting with her, its pretty long but feel free to read it !!!
This newborn ringed seal pup on Svalbard will be nursed by its mother on the ice for about twelve days, and in that time it will double its body weight. But it is a dangerous life. The ringed seal is the main prey of the polar bear. The expected future reduction of ice, and shrinking, or even disappearing habitats for ice-dependent animals will likely drive some of them to extinction. (Melissa Schaefer)
I want to make more people feel and see what we see and connect to it. Make people care about our planet and how we treat it. I want to bring a smile in peoples faces and and children's eyes when they see my photos of polar bears, making them curious about it.
Find out more about Melissa's work here:
Shawn Miller - Plastic Crabs
These unique photographs of hermit crabs shows the impact of plastic on Okinawa Island.
'Crabs with beach trash homes' with an white background. (Shawn Miller)
Wildlife photographer and naturalist Shawn Miller specialises in capturing the flora and fauna of Okinawa, Japan. Equally at home on land and underwater, Shawn has documented rare and endemic species from birds and reptiles to nudibranchs and shells. Shawn specialises in creating motion in still photographs, fluorescence photography, environmental awareness and the protection of endangered species. Along with publications in scientific papers and magazines, his images were recently on display in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History as part of “Portraits of Planet Ocean.” His work has been featured in National Geographic Magazine and Blue Planet ll. Shawn has contributed images to the IUCN Red list of threatened species. Shawn Miller is a long term resident of Okinawa. He has been diving and exploring the Ryukyu Islands for over twenty years
At a young age I was fascinated with the behaviour of wild animals. I have always appreciated photography, growing up admiring the beautiful animal photographs in nature field guidebooks. In high school and college I took a few basic photography courses. With the purchase of my first DSLR in 2008 I started taking up photography again. In 2010, I decided to get serious in wildlife photography. I wanted to make an impact with my images and bring awareness to the endangered animals of Okinawa Japan.
A hermit crab hides in the trash (Shawn Miller)
Crabs with beach trash homes
Crabs with beach trash homes is a series I am currently working on. I photograph Blueberry hermit crabs (Coenobita purpureus) that have begun to use beach trash as their home. The crabs are photographed in their nature environment and also on white for the Meet Your Neighbours global biodiversity project. The images are used for environmental awareness and educational purposes.
The first hermit crab adapting with a pet bottle cap was found and photographed in 2010. But it wasn't until 2014 when I started photographing the animals on our Coastal forest/coastline at night that I started finding a good amount of these hermit crabs found naturally adapting with our waste. So this is when I decided to start the project “Crabs with beach trash homes”
Hermit crab in the foreground with buildings in the background in Okinawa (Shawn Miller)
It’s becoming more common to find crabs with beach trash homes. While these are cute images, our trash is becoming a serious problem to the ocean and the animals that call the shoreline home. I often find hermit crabs using a variety of plastic caps from twist top pet bottles, laundry detergent containers, small propane tanks, sports water bottles and beauty supplies. With the help of family and friends, I have photographed over 60 hermit crabs found naturally adapting with our waste.
In the beginning I was absolutely fascinated with the crabs ability to adapt to their changing environment that was drastically affected by humans. The more I photographed these crabs on our beaches, the more I was concerned with the amount of trash building on our beautiful shorelines. I believe the purpose of photography in conservation is to effect some form of positive change in the environment, to shoot with a purpose and make a global difference with the your photographs.
With an increase in tourism people continue to take more seashells off the shorelines as a souvenir. The hermit crabs depend on the empty shells as they grow larger to protect their sensitive abdomen. Note - I believe this trash (marine debris) is possible allowing the population of the hermit crabs to increase, because it gives them another option in the survival chain.
What we do know - They molt, grow, get bigger and eventually need to replace their current mobile home. Crabs fight over shells constantly in search for the perfect real estate. With enough persistence and bullying eventually the weak will abandon their home in hope finding another one quickly. If they cant find a shell, they will adapt with the an available option which could be a plastic cap. They do not prefer plastic homes, they are just making due until they find a better option.
Shawn Miller with a hermit crab in Okinawa from the Crabs with beach trash homes' project.'
I hope these images will inspire people to care more about nature and make a positive difference in the environment.
Jasmine Carey - Whales Underwater
Jasmine is a passionate underwater photographer documenting encounters with ocean giants with Darren Jew.
For many years I worked comfortably in the corporate sector. I was always active and keeping busy, being active outdoors – hiking, scuba diving, trying new hobbies. I have always taken photos but it was mostly with the attitude of “i’ll take the photos and lets see how they turn out”. The opportunity arose for me to attend a water-based photography workshop so I recruited my friend for company and we went to learn and to come away with more confidence, skills and purpose in the way we shot. It was such a great workshop and we made loads of friends and I just kept developing my technique, visions but wanted to become more purposeful. I could see the shots I wanted in my mind, I just wanted to be more sure of how to transfer the image I envisioned into the photograph I wanted. I constantly offered assistance to my mentors and volunteered my time to assist on shoots and to gain experience and more skills. I have also challenged them? with the WHY NOTs and WHY CAN’T WE? The opportunity soon came along to leave the corporate sector and pursue being in this evolving industry full time and I took it, and so my new chapter began.
Today the Orcas were really spread out doing their own thing. There were couple of Humpbacks around too. The landscape was absolutely stunning as usual. The light as it hit the snowy mountain tops and reflected down on to the calm waters, sprinkling through to the whales and fish. (Jasmine Carey)
As I was swimming with the Orcas today snowflakes started to fall ❄️ ever so delicately on me, my mask and my housing. They fell into the still ocean surface making the tiniest ripples. We were surrounded by Orcas and as their dorsals sliced the water right next to me I watched the snowflakes fall onto them and I just couldn’t believe the magic that was happening right before my eyes. (Jasmine Carey)
Since my career change, I have helped developed the photo travel company Whales Underwater with its expansion into new and exciting locations around the world. The photo travel business allows me to not only shoot and share the photos I capture, but also to share unique nature photography travel experiences in a personal way and watch people deepen their love for whales, the ocean and the broader environment. This aspect of my work is so rewarding for me as I get the chance to see people grow through the experiences. Since I took my leap of faith, I have been lucky to experience new adventures that I’ve been lucky to share like the Orcas in Norway and Hammerheads in Japan. We are on the hunt to find the most amazing wildlife experiences that we can share with the world, so that people can fall back in love with the planet, it’s animals and experience the natural beauty of how they intertwine. Then we will continue to see why we need to make the right choices for conservations and protection, the reasons and emotions will be infinite.
Baby Humpbacks learn a lot through mimicking. They are such a joy to watch while they practice twists, turns, slaps and breaching. The looks in their eyes when they surprise themselves with their own efforts is just hilarious.💙(Jasmine Carey)
How would you describe swimming with a humpback whale?
To look a humpback whale in the eye and feel it look right back into your naked soul, IS like no other wildlife or human experience on the planet - and is a real privilege. Your heart flutters, your soul deepens, you feel paralysed as time stands still. There is a rush of emotions and you feel vulnerable but you cannot and will not look away. You’re transfixed... mesmerised. And once that connection is broken there is an inner calmness, a peace deep within and for the first time in decades your whole entire self feels relaxed. Clean. You feel cleansed of the many day to day issues and life’s problems you had only just a few breaths ago. Reactively and instinctively those feelings are now so utterly insignificant. So minute in detail compared to the 14 meters of humpback and the infinite mass of the universe that contains you. You’re subconscious and consciousness are reunited as one. You can truly sense this immediate positive change about you, and you want more. A Humpback Whale is both commanding and so so welcoming at the same time and from the second you meet you’ll find yourself asking for answers to the big questions of the universe. With open arms, well pectoral fins, they will kindly greet you and acknowledge not only your presence but give assurance of your existence and your place the world.
In such a short time I have found that the purpose of my work has evolved into a multifaceted realm. I hope to offer not only a greater awareness of the ocean, the animals that call it home and the huge importance of conserving and protecting them. I would like my photos to support the documentation of the planet and add value by also creating a connection. I believe the more of a connection we feel towards something the more we will strive to save and protect. I am fascinated by the multiple personalities and feelings of the creatures below the water’s surface and I aim capture the moment in time reflect that in my photos. I want the viewer to be submerged with me.
Through feedback and messages I receive via social media I’ve found that my work inspires people of all ages. Ones that have really impacted me the most are the messages from young women and men who not necessarily ‘would like to do what I do” but who now have aspirations for a career in the Environment – to speak for and stand up for the ocean and its animals. To think that my photos have influenced them and showed them how wonderful the ocean is, is so inspiring to me. For these people to reach out and take the time to message me and thank me for bringing the Ocean to them is so so humbling, I pinch myself.
Well this beautiful girl, was up for a play early this morning as she kept rolling in front of her Mum to stop or slow down but her Mum was insistent on slowly cruising along and diving down for a nap. Then suddenly💥 they were on the move and they both started giving us a show with combinations of various forms of head lunging and breaching. It was spectacular, so we dropped in front and watched them swim in past. (Jasmine Carey)
I would like my work to inspire those to act and to do. To be proactive in the need to be involved in conservation, and this starts at home. Think Globally, Act Locally. Every little bit, from every single person, helps.
The Last Male Standing - Sudan
An interview with the creators of The Last Male Standing, a film about Sudan, the last male northern white rhino.
What advice do you think Sudan was giving little Ringo?
(The Last Male Standing - olpejeta)
The journey of this film started in 2014 through a successful Kickstarter and tells the story of the Kenyan caretakers that have dedicated their lives to the last male Northern White Rhino in the world, Sudan. On the 20th of March Sudan passed away, putting the sub-species close to extinction, with just two females left. IVF treatment is being trailed. 20% of the profits for this film will go back into wildlife conservation efforts and this interview with the directors gives an insight into this inspiring film.
The Last Male Standing
with Andrew Harrison Brown (Producer) and David Hambridge (Director)
David: There is so much to say about the rhino caretakers at Ol Pejeta Conservancy. Each member of the team is authentically unique. Many of them come from different towns or villages, from different tribes, cultures and beliefs - but somehow despite their many differences, they have created a strong brotherhood. It's a bond as strong as any that I've seen in my experience, and at its core, is one cause: to protect and serve these severely endangered rhinos.
'Our hearts go out to the men who stayed with Sudan at all times during his final moments - through the days and nights. Your steadfast love and dedication to Sudan in his final chapter was remarkable.
We are truly honoured to film your story.' (Andrew Harrison Brown - olpejeta)
Film Trailer: The Last Male Standing
Find out more information about the film here: www.thelastmalestanding.com
What have you learnt making this film?
David: I've learned to trust my instincts as a filmmaker. I've always wanted this film to be told by a Kenyan voice rather than the usual Western wildlife experts and scientists, but with that, I've had to be much more patient for my story to unfold. Learning patience doesn't come cheap either. I've had to sacrifice a lot of comforts and opportunities back in the U.S. because I was trying to build a full-bodied story in Kenya. But in the end, I have no doubt that the story I've been able to capture will be worth it.
Andrew: Over the last four years as a producer, my bandwidth has really been divided by two separate feature films: When Lambs Become Lions (Tribeca 2018) and The Last Male Standing. During that time, I've learned that you cannot create interesting stories about someone without first being truly interested in them. One thing that I appreciate about working with David is that we both value building relationships with the people that we're filming and we don't prioritize footage over people. We both strive to create an environment during production where all voices matter, all ideas matter and everyone feels like they are welcome to contribute to the greater story. That isn't always the case in many productions.
'Hope can be found in the smallest moments.' (Andrew Harrison Brown - olpejeta)
JoJo, one of Sudan’s caregivers visits his tombstone nearly 3 weeks after his death to clean the tombstone. Simply put, these guys haven’t stopped caring for him, even after death. Personally, they have taught me a new level of service and sacrifice - they’ve shown me in a very tangible and raw way what it truly means to dedicate yourself to a cause larger than yourself. While they’ve grieved and focused their sights on caring for other conservation efforts, you can’t spend time around Ol Pejeta without feeling the void of Sudan and the amount of love these men had for him. (Andrew Harrison Brown - olpejeta)
On the March 19th Dr. Morne de La Rey extracts Sudan’s DNA from different parts of the body, a critical measure to save the northern white rhinos from extinction. By cryogenically banking Sudan’s DNA, scientists hope to use that genetic material to hopefully resurrect the species from their recent ‘natural’ extinction. (Andrew Harrison Brown - olpejeta)
Photography and film : A purpose
Andrew: I believe that the sole purpose of documentary filmmaking is to spark conversation throughout society. Ironically, although we live in a period of time where our lives are filled with more noise than ever, it seems as though we are having fewer conversations with each other. Everyone has an opinion that they want to share - or tweet - but there just doesn't seem to be a strong desire to listen. Everyone is just screaming statistics at each other in hopes of winning an argument, and in my experience, the only thing that consistently gets me out of that self-centric rut is when I stop long enough to listen to other people's stories. I think that's the posture that we all need to squeeze ourselves into if we are going to grow past the current climate. And that's what I love about documentary films.
We must remember the future generation and the environment they inherit.
David: At the end of the day, we hope our film carries Sudan's legacy and the sacrifice these caretakers have made out into the world. Sudan and the caretakers' story is overflowing with lessons that can benefit everyone, if we are just willing to listen.
You can find out more information about this inspiring film here:
Last Male Standing:
Andrew Harrison Brown
Fabrice Guerin - My Nature
Testify by images is a way of participating in its preservation and protection.
The grey whale is one is one of the animal kingdom’s great migrator. Traveling in groups called pods, some of these giants swim from their summer home in Alaskan waters to the warmer waters off the Mexican coast. This day a mom and her calf decided to swim very close to our boat. The mom lifted her baby as if she wanted us to present him. A woman put a hand gently on this calf for a hug. (Fabrice Guerin)
Sardine run made in south africa: the show must go on! (Fabrice Guerin)
Since my young age, I have been passionate about wildlife documentaries. This world is fascinating because Nature is prioritised over all. An animal doesn’t lie and they are authentic. That is what I like. I began photography in the forest near my home in France with a reflex and a telephoto lens. I explored new places, I tried new approaches as the macrophotography. After a few years, for the first time, I had had the opportunity to scuba dive: I discovered a new dimension, a new world.
The scientific mission named "Maubydick" continues in the indian ocean. We identified sperm whales. At this time the mission has created a catalog containing about fifty illustrated index cards. (Fabrice Guerin)
Nature provides us of beautiful surprises. To meet the giant of the oceans is an unforgettable moment. During a scientific mission, a free diver swims towards sperm whale sleeping. Sperm whale sleeps in vertically position but not fully. They have the ability to be half asleep. The scientist swam several times among them without disturbing them. He swam from an sperm whale to an other like a guest to say hello. Amazing moment!
With the wildlife photography, I learnt to be patient, to watch animals and to understand their behaviours. The most important is the ability to come across animals, because the animal decides, not you. I make researches to know the good places to find a species in particular. But sometimes, we see nothing for days and days: Nature is like that, wild and unpredictable. I photograph by instinct and I trust my lucky chance: being at the good place at the best time.
The photo should tell a story, arouse feelings and questions: that’s what I’m looking for! This is exactly what I experienced on this January day in Norway under a cloudy and rainy day. Our group had just slipped into the water over a huge school of herrings located in a sandy and shallow area. Orcas typically will push herring toward the shallows in order to hunt them more efficiently. Luck prevailed because of that sandy patch; light was bouncing up its surface and contributed much needed light to the scene. For twenty minutes, I hovered over the school of herrings, hoping to photograph an orca, when suddenly, the school parted and in its mist was a humpback whale in full hunting mode. What a surprise and what an encounter! Photographing this humpback whale in action in theses cold Norwegian water will remain one of my best souvenirs.
Unforgettable atmosphere in the heart of Maya forest! (Fabrice Guerin)
On earth or in oceans, the Nature gives us a great moments and surprises. I have the privilege to observe it since many years and each time I’m amazed by this biodiversity, essential for all life on Earth. Unfortunately, I am also a witness of the degradation of our environment: climate change, overfishing, pollution, poaching... So much damage as we impose on the Nature. Nevertheless, no species, however powerful it is, could not take place of the existence of other one. Now, there are many Emergencies. Human being is the only responsible of the health of our planet. However, it’s never too late. We have to do everything possible to improve this situation. I choose to sensitive people sharing my experience with my images in conferences, exhibitions, schools… I work in scientific expeditions too. With team, we identify specific species like sperm whale, whale shark, polar bear, gorilla…
There are a lot of solutions but never easy to establish them especially as the effects are not immediate. From now everyone participates in its own way in the conservation of this biodiversity.
My Nature - Fabrice Guerin Expedition for Conservation.
A touching moment as an infant orangutan lays his small hand (Pongo pygmaeus) in the big hand of its mother, Borneo, Indonesia (Jami Tarris)
I have been interested in wildlife and nature since I was a child. I spent most of my time outside exploring our forest with my dog. Because of my mother, I was a voracious reader and read every book that I could about nature and wildlife (Jack London, Birute Galdikas, Jane Goodall). I have worked on many projects, but the two that were the most important and interesting to me were, the Desert-Adapted elephants in the Skeleton Coast of Namibia, and a project on oil palms and orangutans in Sumatra and Borneo. I could write a lengthy article on either topic, but these projects are my favorite. They were both extremely fascinating and fun. I have published in many major magazine publications worldwide, as well as calendars, newspapers, books. I have won photography awards in the BBC WPOTY, Nature’s Best, National Wildlife Federation. I have had images on exhibit at the Smithsonian, London Natural History Museum, St. Petersburg Natural History Museum and more.
A male polar bear walking on pack ice in the landscape on the Arctic Ocean, Svalbard, Norway (Jami Tarris)
Wild Focus Expeditions
We founded 'Wild Focus Expeditions’ (no long Focus Expeditions). It is a company where we take small groups to remote and wild locations around the world. We teach natural history, conservation and of course, photography to every one that travels with us to give them an intense and deeply moving experience during our trips. Our goal is to allow nature to have such a profound affect and influence, that our clients return home very much different than they were before the trip. In short, we want our trips to change their lives. Most people (particularly Americans) are very unaware of the conservation issues worldwide. It is our job to make them aware through our expeditions and of course, through our photography.
What have you learnt?
I have photographed for over 30 years and after living many months a year in the field, I have learned that I am more comfortable being alone, and in the company of animals than in cities with people. I have learned that there are very few people who are aware of the current plight and challenges of most wildlife species today. These species need human primates to protect them and their habitats. I have learned that visual imagery is an extremely effective voice for bringing about awareness, change and support to endangered species and fragile habitats
Close-up portrait of a wild jaguar (Panthera onca) taken by a camera trap in the forest of the Pantanal, Brasil (Jami Tarris)
Purpose of photography
Photography has become even more popular today due to technology and social media. It creates a strong visual impact to the general public and promotes awareness to all age groups and demographics more than ever in history. Photographs provide awareness to a large worldwide audience about the conservation issues facing so many different animal species. Photographs are powerful. I plan to continue my work focusing on wildlife conservation until the end of my life. I will also continue to photograph the plethora of issues facing various endangered and vulnerable species as well as take nature-loving people to remote destinations so that I can share my past experiences, and give them new and eye-opening experiences of their own based on the realities of our planet.
Sometimes you have to feel small in order to put life back in perspective. Being alone in a wild place is so good for the soul. This was taken at Laguna Verde, Bolivia - very remote. (Jami Tarris)
Tanya is passionate about marine conservation and has documented her sons journey underwater.
A large aggregation of sand tiger sharks above the wreck of the Caribsea off the coast of North Carolina (Olympus OM-D E-M1, Lumix 8mm fisheye lens, 1/320, f/4.5, ISO 250)
I started scuba diving back in 2008 because it was always something I had wanted to do. At the time, I was teaching skydiving on the weekends, and many of my skydiver friends were also scuba divers. I heard them talk about the fun they were having on scuba trips, so I decided to get certified. After I was certified, I started diving in North Carolina where it’s very common to see sand tiger sharks. I became fascinated by sharks after seeing them in the water, and quickly realized they were not the monsters so often portrayed by the media. I also learned that over 70 million sharks are killed by humans every year, and that several shark species are on the verge of extinction. To put this in perspective, every year on average between 5-7 people are killed by sharks worldwide. We are much more of a threat to them than they are to us. I thought that maybe I could take some pictures of the sharks I see on my dives to hopefully inspire people to care more about them and want to save them. I knew nothing about photography when I bought my camera in 2014, so I started reading everything I could about taking good pictures, and then got into the water to start practicing. Thankfully, my skills improved quickly, and my photos of sharks and other underwater animals began to be noticed. Then in 2015 I left the corporate world to become a full time underwater photographer and conservationist. But there is also another reason I decided to take pictures underwater, and that is to document my son’s journey as a scuba diver. My son Richard is 21 years old and he has autism. He became a certified diver through the Handicapped Scuba Association when he was 17, and diving is one of his favorite things to do. I hope that when people see images of Richard diving, they will be inspired to try things they may have thought they couldn’t do. So I see my work as dispelling misconceptions – both misconceptions about sharks, and misconceptions about what those with disabilities are capable of.
A Steller sea lion swims through the chilly green waters off the coast of Vancouver Island British Columbia.
(Tanya Houppermans, Olympus OM-D E-M1, m.Zuiko 8mm fisheye lens, 1/320, f/3.5, ISO 250)
I actually still use the first camera I bought back in 2014, which is the Olympus OM-D E-M1. I recently purchased the EM-1 MkII, but I haven’t taken it underwater yet. When I started out in 2014, I was using the Panasonic Lumix 8mm f/3.5 fisheye, but I bought the Olympus m.Zuiko 8mm f/1.8 PRO fisheye as soon as it was released, and that has been my go-to lens ever since. The combination of the E-M1 and the m.Zuiko 8mm fisheye is simply fantastic. Superb image quality, super-fast focus, and easily transportable - I can’t imagine using anything else. Underwater I use the Nauticam NA-EM1 housing, Zen DP170 glass dome port, and i-Divesite Symbiosis SS-2 strobes. I don’t do as much topside photography as underwater, but for topside I also have the m.Zuiko 60mm macro lens, m.Zuiko 12-40mm PRO lens, and m.Zuiko 40-150 PRO lens.
A sand tiger shark inside a massive bait ball of tiny fish off the coast of North Carolina
(Tanya Houppermans, Olympus OM-D E-M1, m.Zuiko 8mm fisheye lens, 1/320, f/4, ISO 320)
No matter who you are or where you live, there is always something you can do to protect marine life. One of the biggest threats to all marine life is pollution, especially plastics. You wouldn’t believe how much plastic makes its way to the ocean, and the damage is catastrophic, not only to marine life but the marine environment as a whole. So use less plastic! This is easy to do – skip the straw when you order a drink, use a refillable water bottle, and buy products that don’t use plastic in their packaging. When you do use plastics, please make sure you dispose of them in a proper recycling container. To help specific marine animals, there are some wonderful conservation organisations out there working tirelessly on their behalf. Donations are always appreciated, and desperately needed. When I first became involved in shark conservation, I raised $1000 for a shark conservation group by running a marathon!
A pod of spotted dolphins off the coast of North Carolina
(Tanya Houppermans, Olympus, OM-D E-M1, m.Zuiko 8mm fisheye lens, 1/320, f/4.5, ISO 320)
Inspirations and plans
First, I am inspired by the animals I have the honor of diving with. From the tiniest shrimp to the largest whale shark, you really can’t help but care about them when you see them in the wild. Second, I am inspired by my son being a diver. The look on his face and his huge smile (even underwater!) when he sees these animals let me know that I’m doing what I was meant to do, both for the ocean’s creatures and for Richard. I believe the purpose of photography in conservation is to make a connection with the viewer. We can speak all we want about what is happening below the surface of the water, but to many people these are abstract notions. Yet a single image has the power to change minds. In some of my presentations, I have shown an image of a dying sand tiger shark. This shark had been hooked by a fisherman. But instead of just cutting the hook and letting her go, they also stabbed her through the back of the head and threw her overboard. She lay dying on the sea floor near a shipwreck, where I found her. Whenever I show that image, and tell the story of finding her, I always see at least a few people in the audience with tears running down their faces. And inevitably they will ask me, “What can I do to help?” But it’s not just the sad images that create a connection. I’ve also had people tell me, “I never knew sharks could be so beautiful!” And that also inspires them to want to act. But the common factor is that they have seen an image that has created an emotional response, and that is what I try to do with my photographs.
Right now I am involved in developing a citizen science project that will allow divers to upload their images of sand tiger sharks to a website where the software will identify the individual sharks based on their unique spot patterns. That way researchers can learn more about the health of the sand tiger populations along the east coast of the U.S. I love using my images to further conservation and research efforts, so I definitely want to continue that type of work in the future. But I do have some personal goals with my photography, such as capturing images of sharks in more extreme environments such as Greenland sharks in the Arctic, and also photographing whales such as orcas, blue whales, and humpbacks. I also recently became certified to start doing deeper decompression dives that will allow me to access some shipwrecks that until now have been out of my reach. That’s one of the great things about underwater photography – it’s nearly impossible to run out of amazing subjects!
Morgan is an acclaimed underwater photographer with a passion for ocean conservation.
Jack Johnson and a bounty of trash we cleaned up over the course of a day on the windward side of Oahu last month. (Morgan Maassen)
In between waves on the North Shore of Hawaii with Jack Johnson (Morgan Maassen)
My name is Morgan Maassen, i am a 27 year old photographer and filmmaker from Santa Barbara, California. I grew up in the ocean, spending all my free time surfing, spearfishing, skim boarding, swimming and boating. Through my parents and my passions surrounding the ocean, I couldn't help but fall in love with it, later using filmmaking and photography to explore it across the globe.
Morgan Maassen in his favourite place.
Photography and conservation
As someone who enjoys traveling to places both known and unknown, photography is an incredible way to document and share what is happening beyond the bubble of our own hometowns... And as more photographers and filmmakers collectively document what they see, whether its plastic pollution or humanitarian crises, we can provide both realtime updates and visual representation to what is sometimes lost in just words and data, or simply intangible to a viewer when not directly visible.
I think my photos naturally seek simplicity and curiosity, whether shooting plastic pollution or a cloud over the ocean... they always reflect what is captivating my attention.
The ocean has given me everything, and it's time i give back. We as surfers, beachgoers, and humans have to do our part.. While plastic is unavoidable in everyday life, i'm proud to acknowledge the issue through education, and applying that to making changes that should have been in place long ago. (Morgan Maassen)
Passion and inspiration
Caring for the oceans is huge to me; they have given me everything.
I'd really like to focus my time and energy more than ever to help take care of them, raise awareness for their plight, and get everyone onboard with streamlining our coexistence with them moving forward. Traveling inspires me! I just want to see as much of the world as possible. To be able to make photos and videos, to inspire people, and hopefully make the world a cleaner and better place is a dream come true.
'When visiting, we only took photos, and left only footprints... But in the 30 minutes it took to walk around the island, the amount of plastic pollution we saw on the beach and in the ocean was nothing short of astounding. Chris Hemsworth stands here with what he effortlessly gathered on one of the island's sandspits.' #100islandsprotected (Morgan Maassen)
I've had the good fortune to lend my abilities to major brands like Corona, artists like Jack Johnson, or organizations like the UN that are trying to make themselves and the world a better place. Its both an honour and incredibly gratifying to be able to use my passions of photography and filmmaking to not just satiate my desires, but to hand off to larger entities to use in their devices, like Corona x Parley tackling plastic pollution, or Jack Johnson launching an album and tour to raise awareness about ocean pollution, etc.
Here is a photo of me against the night sky. i'm not too hot on posting selfies, but i cannot stress how much development comes in just wandering alone with one's camera. for me, the night held many answers in my exploration into photography... (Morgan Maassen)
My name is Engin Sahin. I'm 25 years old. I'm living in Switzerland but I'm originally Kurdish. I love hiking, paragliding, eating and photographing. I travel alone. I don't like companionship while hiking because I really want to be with myself and nature. I want to see, to hear and to feel the nature, but in recent years I realised that Mother Nature is dying. I thought about my future children. "Will they still see such a beautiful earth?" So I decided to take photos of landscapes for my future children. Dead places still exist on photos. I call it "Conservation of Mother Nature". This way my future children will be able to see such beauty. One day I decided to share my photos on Instagram with the whole world. I wanted them to appreciate the importance of Mother Nature. I also love to make people laugh. In my opinion there are a lot of sad people who haven't laughed for a long time. That's why I combine my Instagram posts with some funny stories. Maybe someone will laugh.
I shot this photo in Bolzern, Switzerland. My girlfriend and I were hiking there. It was very cold, about -5.0 degrees celsius. But the setting sun was heating us. We decided to have a break. While we were drinking some tea I saw the sun rays hitting the mountain. It was a beautiful view. I decided immediately to take a photo of this natural spectacle. (Engin Sahin)
In the future I will focus on Deep-Sky photography. I bought the "Skywatcher Star Adventurer Mini" some weeks ago. I'm a big fan of stars and planets. I love the unknown in the endless expanse. Sometimes I ask myself thousands of questions about the sky. "Are we alone?", "Are there other lives?", "Is there a copy of myself?", "Does he also do an interview right now?" and a lot of other questions. I love the different colours of the celestial objects. For example the Andromeda. There are red, yellow, blue, purple and orange. It's a colourful spectacle. I've already shot the Andromeda. You will find it on Instagram. If someone gives me the choice between staying on earth with my family or the exploring alone the unknown in the endless expanse I would explore the universe. Maybe I'm an explorer like Columbus. Maybe I will escape from the problems on earth. I don't know.
There is no civilisation and the phone has no reception. Göschenen looks like a place on a different planet. My friend and I were hiking in the mountains of Göschenen. Later we realized that we were lost. The sun was disappearing and we decided to stay in an abandoned hut over 2000 meters above the sea level. Later we took some photos of the milkyway with the Skywatcher Star Adventurer Mini. (Engin Sahin)
I was using the OMD EM 10 Mark 2 for a long time. Recently I get the Olympus OMD EM 1 Mark 2. I love the image stabilizer of Olympus. I'm also a big fan of the Live Composite and I like the retro look of the cameras. That's why I chose Olympus.
I use a lot of different lenses. The 7-14mm 1:2.8 is recommendable for landscapes. I use the 25mm 1.8 for portraits and the 75-300mm 1:4.8-6.7 II for animal portraits. I have some analog lenses too. I love the TOKINA 135mm 1:2.8. It makes great bokehs. The integrated image stabilizer makes possibile to shot some sharp photos with it.
You can find out more information about Engin's work here:
Romain works as a doctor by day and has loved the ocean since he was a child.
The Stingray moves like a vacuum cleaner while Black Tip Reef Sharks move through the background. This photo was ranked in various categories of the 2018 Paris diving fair contest, and in the category up & coming of the contest underwater photographer of the year 2018. (Romain Barats)
The mako shark in mid-water / mid-air. This super predator can hunt very fast fish such as tuna or sailfish.
Photo taken off Cabo San Lucas in Mexico (Romain Barats)
I’m a French doctor in radiology born in Oloron Sainte Marie in France and I grew with Cousteau’s stories. I love to dive of course, that I did in a lot of places (Red Sea, South Africa, Polynesia, Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia, Hawaï...) and am rebreather diver (air diluent); I began underwater photography 3 years ago with a compact canon then switched to a Nikon D750. I try to immortalise beautiful events underwater, specially about whales. My dream is to write a book for education illustrated with my shots.
Media are omnipresent, everytime and everywhere, especially images and videos, as we can see on Instagram, Facebook etc. With the powerful actual cameras, a 4K video or a shot are far more popular than a written book without image, for example a picture showing the Faroé island people slaughtering pilot whales in a bloody sea, with happy kids playing with dead dolphins shock us more than a simple line in a newspaper saying that 200 pilot whales were murdered.
So in my mind media must have 2 purposes :
1. To show the beauty of our oceans.
2. To inform the public about human negative impact everywhere in the world.
Sperm Whales sleep vertically, stabilised by the spermaceti contained in their head. Here we can see them sleeping, motionless and vertical, stabilized by the spermaceti contained in their head. They usually sleep 30-45 mins in a row Females and young live in groups in tropical waters while males frequent cold waters and join females for breeding.
So far i've only got photography showing the beauty of underwater wildlife, my friends (most of them don’t know anything about oceans and marine wildlife) are really interested when I post a new photo and ask me a lot of questions, and somebody interested in something become more or less concerned. It helps me to follow my photo work. For photography equipment I’ve got a NikonD750 with a 14-24 for wide angle, a 16-85, and a 105macro. my housing is a Nauticam one, and I’ve got 2 inon strobes. For video I have a Red Epic-W caméra with a canon 11-24mm, a Nauticam housing and 2 lights Keldan 13000lux.
I have a lot of projects and will work on each one but I have to manage with my work too as a doctor. Here are a few things I want to do:
1. I want to write a book with my shots for education as children are the future and it’s essential to educate the new generation.
2. I will try to get more and more underwater action, shots and videos.
3. I’d love to photograph the negative human impact on wildlife but I need more time to do that.
Male sperm whales can measure up to 18m. They have been massively exterminated by man for several centuries, especially for their oil. They live with their families and are apnea champions, up to several hundred meters deep. They are very social and communicate with each other by series of "clicks", forming a sort of language, different depending on the groups of sperm whales. The clicks are also used to hunt because they are able to knock out prey, such as a squid, using a "mega click" then swallow at once. (Romain Barats)
The whale shark moves at 5km/hour and can live more than 100 years. (Romain Barats)
Beware of the cooups of tail during his passage! The whale shark is still being hunted to be consumed in South Asia, including Taiwan. It is regularly accompanied by fish.
Jillian Morris - Sharks4kids
Jillian is a passionate Conservationist & Marine Biologist and founder of Sharks4kids.
Jillian in her happy place.
Sharks 4 Kids
Jillian Morris Brake: I am a marine biologist, shark conservationists, photographer and author. I teamed up with Dr. Derek Burkholder and Duncan Brake, combining our science and media experience, to create a dynamic shark education program for students around the world. The goal of Sharks4Kids is to create the next generation of shark advocates through education outreach and adventure. We offer free curriculum and activities for teachers and students, outreach programs for schools and community groups and hands on tagging and snorkeling experiences. We’ve built an ambassador team, with people visiting schools and groups around the world. Through our in person visits and Skype lessons, we’ve connected with over 70,000 students in 44 countries and 47 US States and our reach is growing each year. Learning to dive changed my life and I recommend it for anyone! Getting to explore the ocean is remarkable and as divers we can share our stories with others and encourage them to find a connection to the sea. I am proud to be a PADI Ambassadiver and hopefully I can inspire people of all ages to dive in and experience the underwater world.
I have learned how creative and truly inspiring kids are. They never cease to amaze me with their genuine compassion for the ocean. They are open to learning and really want to make a difference. They give me hope every single day. Each year our goal is to reach more students and provide more opportunities for them to see sharks and gain a first hand experience.
Collage of photographs from the work done by Sharks 4 Kids impacting over 70,000 students.
Photograph and film
Photos and videos are extremely important for our organization. We are constantly using them to create new educational materials and highlight shark conservation and science. Images are extremely powerful and they can help people see these animals in a difference light. We use images to show students the weird and wonderful world of sharks, far beyond just the teeth and fins. There is a lot of negative and inaccurate media about sharks, so we use our media as a chance to tell the real story. It’s a chance to teach people about the beauty of these incredible creatures.
A beautiful bull shark swimming past (Jillian Morris Brake)
Sylvia Earle and Eugenie Clarke have been huge inspirations most of my life. I read about them in books and have been lucky enough to meet and work with Sylvia Earle. I had the chance to give her a copy of my book last year and it was an amazing experience.
Seeing a lemon shark give birth was one of the most incredible things I have ever witnessed. Seeing each little shark begin its life and seeing how vulnerable they are was extremely powerful. Life is hard enough for these sharks, so we need to do better and we need to do more. This female gave birth to 10 babies and we watched as they spiraled out and fought to break free of their umbilical cord. Groggy at first, it’s like someone hits a light switch and they immediately go into survival mode. There is no paternal care, so these little animals must find food and a place to hide out.
Shark yin yang ( nurse and hammer) - Coexist (Jillian Morris Brake)
The great thing about ocean conservation is everyone can do something. Use less single use plastic, make sustainable seafood choices if you eat seafood, start a conversation about sharks or other ocean animals, read a shark book to students; easy and simple ways we can all make an impact.
To find out more about Jillian Morris and her work at Sharks4kids, please visit:
An exclusive interview with Anuar, an passionate award winning underwater photographer.
Diving with a humpback whale and her new born calf while they cruise around Roca Partida Island, in Revillagigedo, Mexico. Winner, 2015 National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest and Runner up in World Press Photo (Anuar Patjane)
Before the photograph was taken the exiting part happened, I stayed with the whale and calf for more than 5 minutes, just a few centimeters away from them. Whales look directly into your eyes and you can feel a connection as with other mamals. You know when you are welcome or not by observing the body language of the whale. We were not the only mammals visiting the whales, dolphins were also playing around and surfacing along the whale calf, it seemed like an imitation game. After a while, the whale mother decided to move towards the rest of the divers, and thats when the photograph came to life, I knew that the whole event would be full of movement so I awaited for the right moment to click.
"Conservation and protection of the oceans has become an urgent issue, and few governments and NGOs are doing something about it. With the underwater series, I try to drive our attention towards the beauty of our oceans and a truth usually unnoticed: We are brutally overfishing in our oceans, and our attention should be concentrated on the way we fish as well as what we eat from the ocean. We see and care when a forest is gone because it is visible to everybody, but we don't see when we destroy life underwater, we don't see how nets from the tuna, the shrimp industry and the whaling vessels cause damage and death to the sea. We are not familiar with this environment because we don´t see what we destroy, and this needs to change very quickly so we can reverse this course. By sharing the beauty of our oceans we might start to care more and build or strengthen the connection between us and the sea.
Im Anuar Patjane Floriuk, born in Puebla, Mexico. Im a Cultural Anthropologist and photographer obsessed with the sea and diving. I got involved with photography since very early in my life, my parents gave me a camera when I was a kid and started photographing everything for a while. During college years I got into a photo-documentary course and discovered that photography could be a tool at least as powerful as the most persuasive anthropological argument i could come out with so I began relaying on images and photography for my works and essays.
Bottleneck dolphins playing around in Xcalak National Park, Mexico. (Anuar Patjane)
Photography should be a tool that creates awareness, yes it can be an art form but it is not enough to create pure aesthetically beautiful art-full pieces; a successful photographic work in my eyes is an image that can create a shock and alter a social practice creating a different outcome, a more sustainable outcome. You ask me about the purpose, the purpose is awareness, to create empathy towards an ecosystem that is mostly unknown or feared, rationally or irrationally. Education is primordial and you used the most precise term, but first we need to make people care about the thing, in this case the ocean and the animals that inhabit it, after that education can become efficient. I contribute with organizations and projects that I feel that they are really trying to change things for the better, transforming destructive human behavior into constructive and sustainable practices. black & white hits the soul, color hits the more superficial and excitable emotions. I like to punch the soul and shock it a little if possible. Color should be used like salt, if you add too much, you will ruin it. I just don't like salt too much and try not to use it.
The great white sharks from Guadalupe, México. (Anuar Patjane)
Many things can inspire me, a Tarkovsky movie during a tranquil day; a rainy day or a walk or hike in a mountain, a good historical novel, an act of kindness developed on the street by a person that thinks that is not being seen, many things can be inspiring you just need to learn how to observe, exactly as a photographer should. Sometimes the work of other photographers can be inspiring, specially the work of the long gone masters or the active ones like Sebastiao Salgado or Koudelka. Most of the photographic work that is coming out today from younger generations, i don't connect with it, looks like very cheap copies of the work of the masters or a repetitive copy of a copy that only differentiates itself by the different aberrations of a photoshop post process learned on youtube tutorials. People this days are trying to get the shot "like the one they saw on the other guy´s facebook or instagram”. That search for likes is killing the possibility of pure photography and is creating a massive cult of the virtual superstar. Photography is not dead as some say, it is photographers who are dying, and they are being replaced by this Homo cybermegalomanicus, it is a socioeconomic phenomenon that Im sure it will change soon eventually and I cant wait for it to happen.
I find those drone footages and images interesting and mesmerising sometimes, probably because the technology and many of the perspectives are new, although they are killing the trill of the flying man with a camera and they are removing the emotion out of the image. Can you transfer the emotion to a photograph if you are driving a drone with a remote control many meters or even kilometers away from the scene you are photographing? maybe, probably not if you ask me. In the dystopian future that we are heading to im sure they will manufacture submarine drones that will make it possible for scubaphobic and lazy people to photograph underwater. Instead of scubadiver-photographers we will have drone pilots that will credit themselves as underwater photographers! When this happens I will be pretty old and senile to kick their butts, please, someone do that for me in the future.
My plans for the future are always uncertain, I dislike long or middle term plans. We need to learn to love uncertainty and become confortable with it again.
Silver jacks forming a tornado shape in Cabo Pulmo, Mexico . Park ranger Leonardo, never gets tired of the silver jacks. Cabo Pulmo is a unique example of the power of preserving marine hot spots, or what Sylvia Earle calls Hope Spots; by selecting and protecting strategic marine areas, the biomass of the ocean can increase rapidly and improve the overall health of the oceans (Anuar Patjane)
Im really bad at measuring achievements, specially my own, and photography, activism or anthropological impact is probably impossible to measure quantitatively, if someone says it can, then it is probably a person that is trying to market his work or ideas for an specific agenda. One of the most satisfying moments happened a few months ago when the Revillagigedo island became the biggest marine national park of its kind in North America, no more fishing there, just an immense sanctuary for marine life. I didn't have anything to do with it but it was a moment of success for all of us that care about the ocean, a moment of celebration.
A humpback whale with her calf in the distance in the protected area Roca Partida, Revillagigedo Islands, Mexico.
James is an passionate film director and photographer that has worked internationally with WWF, BBC and Nat Geo.
Central Africa is in the midst of an elephant poaching crisis. In order to combat the problem, the president of Gabon has recruited a whole new section of the army devoted to fighting back against wildlife crime. Here, Mba Ndong Marius holds seized Ivory tusks in front of a pile of confiscated weapons. Menkebe, Gabon. (James Morgan)
I'm James Morgan, a photographer and film director. I got into photography really as a passport to travel when I was younger - to get access to places and people I wouldn't have come across any other way. I started working in Iceland were I was studying Icelandic on an exchange programme, but I was always drawn to stories involving the ocean, and that was the lead in to the conservation storytelling. I've been lucky to work on a wide range of projects the past few years. From tracking wildlife crime syndicates across Asia and Africa to looking at the battles over resource extraction in West Papua. I recently did an expedition to Siberia where I covered a story on state-sponsored bounty wolf hunting. The wolf numbers have risen so much that it's threatening indigenous reindeer herders. On one recent shoot I got to join the Norwegian coastguard - inspecting fishing vessels in the Arctic.
Wildlife education through photography
Honestly, I think it's very hard. We live in a time where more and more people are disconnecting from the natural world - whether that's moving to cities or spending more time engaged with technology - coupled with the fact that the power of still images has become diluted with so many millions of images being uploaded every day. That said, I still think photography can provide a gateway for bigger impact strategies to reach people. It's still the most effective way to make information campaigns palatable and to encourage people, who might not otherwise be interested, to engage with conservation campaigns.
A lot of my photography work is for WWF and for their campaigns I'm always trying to find a way to put a human face to the figures and policies.
Whilst few young Bajau are now born on boats, the ocean is still very much their playground. And whilst they are getting conflicted messages from their communities, who simultaneously refrain from spitting in the ocean and continue to dynamite its reefs, I still believe they could play a crucial role in the development of western marine conservation practices. Here Enal plays with his pet shark (James Morgan)
I'd love to rekindle people's connection with the natural world - even if just for a moment whilst they are sat at home watching Jago (https://jamesmorgan.co.uk/films/jago-a-life-underwater-teaser/ ) on Netflix - but my aim is really to look at what the change in that connection means. How does it change us as a species as we distance ourselves from the natural world? What will it mean for Homo Sapiens if there are no more elephants, rhinos? How do we react to the ecosystem as it morphs around us? I don't have the answers to these questions but I suspect they're going to become very important.
Jago: A Life Underwater was co-directed by James and tells the story of an 80 year old hunter.
You can find out more about James Morgan's inspiring work here:
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Robin Moore is a photographer, filmmaker, author, conservationist passionate about wildlife.
Robert Pattinson for Global Wildlife Conservation and Turtle Conservancy.
Ziggy Marley, Daniel Craig and Moby pictured to raise awareness about endangered species. Photographs by Robin Moore.
I am engaging celebrities to raise awareness for endangered species and their conservation. Although it may seem counterintuitive, because the whole concept of fame and fortune seems at odds with values that prioritize the conservation of nature, celebrities can actually add credibility to a cause because they typically would not support causes or organizations that could negatively affect their reputation. I am working with Global Wildlife Conservation and our good friends at the Turtle Conservancy on a series of videos with celebrities, and cautiously building a body of photographs featuring these celebrities connecting with a species, to raise awareness and support for the conservation of endangered species.
We (Global Wildlife Conservation) have partnered with our good friends at the Turtle Conservancy on a number of projects and campaigns. We have started producing short videos with celebrities to promote campaigns such as the Search for Lost Species. Their association just helps us to reach a much broader audience. Accompanying these PSA's, I am capturing a series of photographs of celebrities with different species. So far we have shot Daniel Craig, Robert Pattinson, Ziggy Marley and Moby. I am always looking to connect with influential people with a genuine interest in wildlife conservation to partner with. I am now looking to add diversity to the celebrity spokespeople.
Just a few hours old, these wild Jamaican iguana hatchlings are some of the rarest lizards in the world. Robin’s endearing photograph was part of a campaign to save these creatures, whose future had been jeopardised by government plans to build in their forest habitat.
(Robin Moore, Wildlife Photojournalist Award: Single award)
Giraffe Manor is an incredible place in Nairobi, Kenya, where Rothschild's Giraffes come and literally join you for breakfast. The Manor now operates as a breeding center for the giraffe, as part of a breeding program started in 1979 by the African Foundation for Endangered Wildlife, established by the manor's former homeowners, Kenyan citizens Jock and Betty Leslie-Melville. (Photogrpahs by Robin Moore)
I started life as a naturalist - growing up in Scotland, I became fascinated with amphibians and reptiles. I felt they had the most interesting story to tell. I pursued biology - heading to the forests of West Africa to study chameleons for my undergraduate project - before completing a PhD in biodiversity conservation. I saw research as my vehicle to exploring some of the more unexplored recesses of our planet. But during my Post Doc I became slightly disillusioned with academia. I felt like my research wasn't really helping the species I was studying. And so I made a switch to the NGO world and in 2005 I started working with the amphibian program at Conservation International. I traveled to projects to work with partners in Haiti, Madagascar and beyond, and my camera became a powerful tool for bringing back stories from these places.
I was taken aback when I won the first annual Conservation International photo contest I entered for my photo essay on the wildlife and people of Haiti. I really knew very little about the technical aspects of digital photography, but Cristina Mittermeier became something of a mentor, and introduced me to the International League of Conservation Photographers. I guess she saw something that suggested I had potential! In the iLCP I found a group of likeminded people using photography and storytelling to effect change, and it was inspiring and motivated me to up my game. I tried to absorb as much as I could from those around me.
A game changer for me was spearheading the Search for Lost Frogs whilst at CI. The campaign really snowballed, and became a powerful platform for storytelling to connect a broad audience with the amphibian extinction crisis. It opened my eyes to the importance of framing a story. More important than data, I realized, was creating new narratives as ways to understand and explore our world.
I joined Global Wildlife Conservation a few years ago, and am now Director of Communications. The unwavering focus on biodiversity conservation fits with my values system. Being a relatively young and small group, GWC is also nimble - this makes it easier to develop and launch more innovative and cross-cutting initiatives like the Search for Lost Species, which is really building momentum.
I also maintain close ties with National Geographic. I am represented by Nat Geo Creative, and I teach photography and storytelling to Nat Geo grantees during their Science-telling bootcamps. These are opportunities to connect with some of the most dynamic and talented scientists and visual storytellers that I find extremely rewarding.
The purpose of photography
Photography has become a language that we now use to connect and feel connected. When we share images of wildlife and wild places we reinforce our appreciation of these and our connection to others that share our appreciation. Reconnecting people with nature who have become disconnected from our natural world presents more of a challenge, and this is where powerful images and stories that rise above the noise play a vital role in illuminating those issues that too often remain in the shadows. Photographs and accompanying stories that resonate on a visceral level and challenge world views can have long-lasting effects when they pervade the collective conscience.
A Samburu Moran surveys a vast landscape unscarred by industrial development in northern Kenya (Robin Moore)
I think the biggest achievement was being part of the team that successfully campaigned to save the home of the Jamaican Iguana. This was an incredible victory against long odds and it felt amazing to bask in that with the rest of the team. I hope to contribute in a meaningful way to similar goal-driven campaigns like this.
When I work towards a specific goal - such as trying to get the government of Jamaica to back down from developing a Protected Area - its easy to measure success. But it's not always that straight forward. The Search for Lost Frogs was designed to raise awareness about the crisis impacting amphibians around the world. There was no easy solution being advanced or "win" that could be measured. I could measure the number of people reached with the message, but could not say what impact it had on their attitudes or behaviors. Likewise when I did the Metamorphosis series - there was a message underlying that series, but how much did it shift people's perception of amphibians? I have no clue. I wish I could measure all these things. But then I often wonder, just because something cannot be measured does it diminish its value? I think sometimes we just have to do a gut check and push forward with what we think will have a net positive to our world. If we change just one person's perspective, is this enough?
When I am shooting in nature I feel almost hypnotized. I forget about time, I forget about food, I forget about sleep. I know that to feel inspired I just need to grab my camera, head into the wilds, and shoot. When I am not in the wilds I draw inspiration from the work of others. There are so many incredible photographers and storytellers these days that I am constantly feeling the urge to get back out and up my game.
Critically Endangered black rhino and zebra in Laikipia, Kenya. Winner, Sony Art of Expression 2012 One World Category. (Robin Moore)
Harry Skeggs - Conserve
Harry explores the world with his Nikon documenting wildlife and culture aiming to educate and inspire.
Eye of the tiger (Harry Skeggs)
A mountain gorilla looks out with a curious look among the vegetation in the impenetrable forest of bwindi, in Uganda. (Harry Skeggs, National Geographic competition winner)
I am a multiple award winning wildlife and travel photographer and social media travel influencer. I am based in London but naturally travel the globe in search of wildlife and the wildernesses they call their home and have been fortunate enough to have now travelled to over 65 countries. I originally got into photography as a teenager. I had always wanted to be a painter, and had little love or even interest for photography. But I fell in love with travel and the stop and start nature of my trips didn't allow for painting and slowly I found a camera in my hand- and to begin with, I failed dismally. With no formal tuition, little by little I taught myself new skills and techniques, improving through failure, a learning process which will never stop! Having my work in national geographic was always a childhood dream. Now, with double page spreads and a number of articles, as well as contracts for several more, this dream has become a reality. Working with Nikon has also been an absolute pleasure, a brand I have nothing but praise for. Lastly, I have been lucky enough to have won a number of international prizes which has been a real honour. The purpose of my work is both to explore the beauty our world has to offer, but also to help protect traditional culture and wildlife through education and conservation.
If a man points at something with an axe, I tend to look - luckily he had fantastic eyes, and a huge help finding birds of paradise. Shooting with the 500mm f/4
My most recent trip, to Papua New Guinea, has been particularly eye opening. A country that truly remains one of the last frontiers. My aim was to show how globalisation is impacting traditional culture, but also to explore the beauty this country has to offer - birds of paradise, primary jungles and incredible people. It was a privilege meeting and learning about these people. As part of this trip I was also showcasing some gear for my sponsor, Nikon, working with their top of the range gear, the D5, 105mm portrait lens, 500mm f4 and 300m f4.
We live in a world under siege - by global warming, by poaching, by deforestation and any number of other human impacts. It is hard for any of us to empathise with words. But an image of an orphaned orangutan, victim to the slashing of the borneo forests, or a rhino shot for its ivory, is inescapable. Education is also key to conservation. How can the public be expected to care for the plight of an animal they haven't heard of or seen, for example? Photography helps to educate people as to the importance of our wildlife and ecosystems and demonstrate why these need to be protected for generations to come.
It’s a sad fact that the majority of our reefs are facing an attack on unprecedented levels due to rising sea temperatures. It was with real pleasure, therefore, that I found these reefs at @tufiresort to be in probably the best condition I have ever seen. (Harry Skeggs)
I have been inspired by David Attenborough's works since a young boy. With each series I become more and more enthralled by the combination of stunning photography and environmental message. This inspires me to keep trying to support the protection of our wildlife in any way that I can. Hard to say!
I am keen to have a solo exhibition in 2018 and am working with some galleries to explore this possibility. I am also looking to expand my work with charities to help support causes close to my heart. Oh and win Wildlife Photographer of the Year wouldn't be bad ;)
Over the past few weeks I have been exploring Papua New Guinea, one of the few remaining wildernesses of the world. Taken with the Nikon D5 (Harry Skeggs)
Marcus Westberg - Conservation
We speak to Marcus about his conservation work, photography and veganism.
Philippe Bitege is one of the caretakers at Senkwekwe Gorilla Centre, DR Congo, with young orphan Kalonge. Although a Grauers gorilla, Kalonge was taken to Senkwekwe for his initial health examination. (Marcus Westberg)
Gorilla Doctors and human-wildlife conflict mitigation are two interesting examples of my work, because the setup was pretty different. With Gorilla Doctors I worked with a single organisation for an extended period of time (around five weeks in all, back in 2014). I spent time in the field in both DR Congo and Uganda as well as at HQ in Musenze (Rwanda), and I also documented the annual health examinations of the orphan mountain gorillas housed at Senkwekwe Gorilla Centre in Virunga National Park and the transfer of a Grauers gorilla to another sanctuary, GRACE. It was intense and a lot of hard work, but a fantastic opportunity - one of the photos I took made the final of the 2015 Wildlife Photographer of the Year, which opened up a lot of doors for me.