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.
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
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.