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
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”
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
An interview with the creators of The Last Male Standing, a film about Sudan, the last male northern white rhino.
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.
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.
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!