Category Archives: Opinion

Wildphotomag – my image portfolio and interview

Recently, I was very kindly invited by Andre of wildphotomag to be interviewed and to submit a portfolio of images for his wonderful online nature and wildlife magazine. If you haven’t seen wildphotomag, check it out. There are fantastic articles and images in there, by a lot of talented photographers.

The May issue is out and my portfolio is in there. Have a look and let me know what you think.

Wildphotomag_Portfolio

Not only was it nice to be able to have a selection of my images in the magazine, but it was great to be able to share some of my thoughts about photography. I am truly passionate about conservation photography. I think it’s an amazing tool for creating awareness and understanding of conservation and environmental issues and hopefully, for fostering concern and caring for our planet and all of its species.

Wildphotomag is loaded with great articles. Check out this month’s issue. You won’t be disappointed.

wildphotomag_MayJune2013

 

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Midway – a documentary everyone should see

All of us have impacts on the earth’s environment. Simply by living our everyday lives, we leave our footprint on the earth. Some footprints are bigger than others. And even if you want your footprint to be small and take actions to reduce it, it’s still there. But  smaller is better and that’s the key.

Salvin's Mollymawk, a species of Albatross. Taken near Kaikoura, New Zealand.

Salvin’s Mollymawk, a species of Albatross. Taken near Kaikoura, New Zealand.

Each one of us should strive to reduce our environmental footprint. In our household, we do things to try to reduce it.  I’m not happy with the footprint of my commute to work 3 days a week. But it’s better than 5 days a week. And I drive the most economical car I can afford. It’s one step away from a go-cart and with my commute, I can’t really go any smaller. I wish I could afford a hybrid. One day. But I hope I help to make up for my commute, at least in part, by the other things I do to try to lessen my impact on our environment. I’m not criticizing anyone for their environmental footprint. We all have one. I just hope we can all do things to reduce ours individually because if each of us does, collectively, it had a big effect, in a good way.

I think many people, perhaps all of us, to some greater or lesser degree, don’t realize the impacts we have on our planet because we don’t see them in our daily lives. I think this is why changing our behaviour and habits to reduce our impacts on the environment is often difficult. As humans, we are visual creatures and we need to see what our impacts are, in order to believe they exist.

This is why documentaries that actually show us the impacts of the way we live and the daily choices we make, on the earth’s environment is so fundamentally important. I recently wrote about Jim Balog’s documentary, Chasing Ice, that shows how the world’s glaciers are crumbling at alarming rates due to global climate change. Balog’s extreme dedication to the project was because he wanted to show the world that climate change is real.

There’s another documentary coming out this year that shows us the consequences of our actions (and inactions) –  the consequences of our modern lifestyles in developed nations. I’ve seen the trailer for this one and I think it’s a great example of showing us environmental impacts that we didn’t even think we had. You know, the out of sight, out of mind thing we humans are so good at.  Chris Jordan’s film, Midway, brings an important issue into focus.

His documentary is about Midway Island in the Pacific. Yes, the Midway Island, where a famous WW II battle took place. But Jordan’s film has little to do with Midway’s historical significance. Instead, here’s what his film is about:

“The Journey

Midway Atoll, one of the most remote islands on earth, is a kaleidoscope of geography, culture, human history, and natural wonder. It also serves as a lens into one of the most profound and symbolic environmental tragedies of our time: the deaths by starvation of thousands of albatrosses who mistake floating plastic trash for food.

The images are iconic. The horror, absolute. Our goal, however, is to look beyond the grief and the tragedy. It is here, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, that we have the opportunity to see our world in context. On Midway, we can not deny the impact we have on the planet. Yet at the same time, we are struck by beauty of the land and the soundscape of wildlife around us, and it is here that we can see the miracle that is life on this earth. So it is with the knowledge of our impact here that we must find a way forward.” (taken from Chris Jordan’s Midway website).

Midway

There’s a trailer for the film on Chris Jordan’s website. I strongly encourage you to watch it. Warning – it’ll probably leave a lump in your throat. But that’s a good thing. A lump in your throat can provide the motivation to change your behaviour, for all of us to change our behaviour, so that this awful situation is remedied.

SLB-0010_Salvin's Mollymawk

Salvin’s Mollymawk, a species of Albatross. Photo taken near Kaikoura, New Zealand.

You don’t have to be an environmentalist, biologist, or nature-lover to understand the significance of this issue. It should affect us all, deeply enough that we change the situation. I’m not sure what the answer is. But I want to find out. I had read about the impacts of plastic and other materials on marine life. But seeing the Midway trailer really floored me. Actually, the word disgusting was what really came to mind.

Buller's Mollymawk, a species of Albatross. Taken near Kaikoura, New Zealand.

Buller’s Mollymawk, a species of Albatross. Taken near Kaikoura, New Zealand.

Click on the thumbnail below to view the trailer on the Midway website.

Midway trailer

I don’t know when the film is scheduled for release. Sometime in 2013. When I find out, I’ll post it here as well as any links to where it will be showing. I want to see it. I hope you want to see it too.

SLB-9756_Albatross

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The Value of Conservation Photography

I just read a fantastic article by photographer, Jaymi Heimbuch, about the value of conservation photography. The motivation for the article seems to be a response to a tweet the author received stating that, “… the photographers probably have a massive carbon footprint and so are destroying the planet as they try to photograph it.” The photographers referred to here collectively, in the quote above, are conservation photographers.

So the complaint by this tweeter is that, in our efforts to bring issues such as habitat destruction and species extinction to the world’s attention through our inspiring photographs and visual storytelling, we as conservation photographers are ruining the planet. In other words, the end (conservation) does not justify the means (conservation photography). Heimbuch does a great job of countering that argument, showing that the end does justify the means and that in fact, compared to a lot of other kinds of photography, the environmental foot print of conservation photographers is probably less than that of others. I love that Heimbuch points out that a certain magazine sent models, photographers and all the support crew down to the antarctic simply to shoot models in bathing suits next to penguins. And what was that the tweeter was saying about the carbon footprint of photographs and ultimately, the end not justifying the means?

Have a read of Heimbuch’s article. I think she does a good job of putting the necessary perspective on the environmental foot print of conservation photographers and more importantly, highlighting the value of conservation photography.

Treehugger_conserv photo_article

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What’s on the web for photographers? Part I

I recently received a really nice comment from a follower, who said:

Greetings! This is my first comment here so I just wanted
to give a quick shout out and tell you I truly enjoy reading through your articles.
Can you recommend any other blogs/websites/forums that cover the same subjects?
Thanks!

This follower’s comment made the think of the photography resources I follow on the internet. There’s a ton of stuff out there and for me, the key is to limit my regular ‘surfing’ to the things I get the most out of or enjoy the most. I wish I had more time because the internet is packed with fabulous resources for photographers. But reality means I only have so much time in a given week to surf for all things photographic. And so, as an answer to my wonderful followers question, I’ve decided to list the top 15 websites, blogs and other resources I follow.

There are lots of others that I follow, some not-so-regularly, but I’m going to limit this to 15 sites – a three part series with 5 sites listed in each post.  This way, you won’t have a honking big blog post to read and you’ll have a chance to visit each of the 5 sites and have a look before the next ones come out. And I’ve tried to keep the descriptions really short and just highlight some of the things I like about the site. The best thing is for you to click on the links and see them for yourselves.

So I hope this helps my kind follower and provides him/her with some great resources to check out. And for everyone else reading this post, maybe some of these will be new to you and offer some great new things to follow.

In no particular order, here are  5 photography websites that I tune in to regularly:

1. Jim Bradenburg’s website and blog

One of my all-time favourite photographers is Jim Brandenburg. He’s been around for a long time, makes incredible images, and has such a connection and passion for nature that I can’t help but like him. His images are stunning. Many of them stir the soul and communicate the deep love of nature that he feels.

Check out Jim’s website. His gallery is full of soul-stirring, inspiring images. You’ll also see Jim’s passion for conservation – he has his own charitable foundation for the preservation of native prairie habitat in southwest Minnesota.

Jim Brandenburg's website

Jim Brandenburg’s website

Jim also has a blog. He doesn’t post frequently, but what he does post is fun reading. I especially liked his posts about the new Nikon D800 camera that Nikon asked him to review prior to its release.  I did my own blog posts on his review, which you can find by clicking HERE.

Check out Jim’s blog:

Brandenburg blog

I can’t let this opportunity pass without mentioning Jim’s iPad app. Definitely check it out! I have it and love it. It’s inspired me to make my own app (it’s in the works…). Click HERE to read my review of Chased By The Light.

2. Art Wolfe’s blog

Here is another master. Like Jim Brandenburg, he’s been around for a long time, but this is why he’s a master at what he does. Art’s images are nothing short of stunning. I love tuning into his blog because it’s always packed with images – some from his adventures, some from the workshops he teaches. He also announces photography contests, print sales and a host of other things.

Check out his blog by clicking on the thumbnail below…

Art Wolfe_blog

He also has some short instructional videos in his archive that are definitely worth watching…

Art Wolfe_instruct video

 

3. Photo News

If you haven’t seen this magazine, you definitely need to take a look! It’s a Canadian photography magazine – packed with tons of great info such as gear reviews, latest news in the photo world, photo tutorials,  and a some online photo challenges where you can submit images.  I just like this as a good, all-rounds newsy photo mag. You can subscribe to the magazine for FREE. To subscribe to the online version (saves on trees), all you need to do is type in your email address. Highly recommend you bookmark this site and sign up for the free online version of the magazine. Click HERE to visit the PhotoNews website.

Shell's List_PhotoNews

 

4. National Geographic Photography website

I almost feel like I don’t even need to write anything about this – NG speaks for itself. What I will say is that their site is more than  a collection of stunning photos – candy for the brain!  I love the video tutorials they have on their site. They are free and offer some great information from the masters themselves. I could easily spend have a day perusing NG’s photo site…..Click HERE to visit the NG Photo website.

Shell's List_NG Photography

5. Outdoor Photographer blog

Outdoor Photographer magazine has a great blog that I tune into. The blog posts are written by well-known photogs who know their craft well –  folks like Jay Goodrich, Ian Plant, Jon Cornforth, and Michael Clark. Some of the posts are instructional ones describing a certain technique such as sharpening your images in Photoshop, others are about a photo shoot  at a specific location, while in other posts, they present an image and talk about what they did to make that shot. Their blog posts are short and sweet and well worth tuning into. Click HERE to visit OP’s blog.

Shell's List_OP Blog

 

 

TO BE CONTINUED……  the next 5 are coming soon!

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Earth & Light Digital Media for photographers

Earth & Light is a fabulous new website dedicated to selling digital media resources for photographers. The site has just been launched by acclaimed nature and travel photographer and writer, Richard Bernabe.

Earth & Light has only just been launched but already has 9 photography e-books for sale, with tons more coming!

Some of the e-books at Earth & Light Digital Media

Some of the e-books at Earth & Light Digital Media

 

Book topics range from lighting, composition and other instructional books…

Richard Bernabe's book on composition

Richard Bernabe’s book on composition

 

Ian Plant's book on great lighting for landscape photography

Ian Plant’s book on great lighting for landscape photography

 

 

… to those focused on specific subjects, such as my flower photography book and Justin Reznick’s book on photographing waterfalls and streams.

My fine art flower photography e-book

My fine art flower photography e-book

 

Justin Reznick's book on photography waterfalls and streams

Justin Reznick’s book on photography waterfalls and streams

 

 

There are also books focused on specific locations, such as Richard Bernabe’s books about Iceland, the Great Smokey Mountains, and South Carolina.

Richard Bernabe's book on Iceland

Richard Bernabe’s book on Iceland

 

All books are very well-priced at under $10 U.S. and are great value for the money.

Earth & Light isn’t just about photography e-books, it’s about a variety of digital media resources for photographers. The site has only just been launched, but coming soon are apps, videos, screen savers and tutorials. So check back frequently because a lot of fantastic new products will be added!

 

Earth & Light-1

 

I’ll be posting regular updates on the latest additions for sale on the website so check back here regularly. You can also keep on top of what’s new at Earth & Light by tuning in to Richard Bernabe’ blog.

 

We hope you’ll stop by Earth & Light for a look. It’s a great one-stop-shop for digital media resources for photographers.

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Photo of the Week – Year of the Snake

Tomorrow is Chinese New Year and this year, is the Year of the Snake. Let’s use this year of the snake to help promote education and conservation about these wonderful animals.

Click on the thumbnail below to read about this week’s Photo of the Week from 44th Parallel Photography.

9 February 2013

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A Must See! James Balog’s, Chasing Ice documentary

Yesterday, I went with a friend to see James Balog’s famed documentary, Chasing Ice. It had already shown in Ottawa, but unfortunately I’d missed it. But thankfully it came back for a second showing and I made sure to see it. I just wish I’d had the time to get a bunch of people together to see it. As a scientist myself, it’s the kind of documentary I wish EVERYONE would see. The message in that documentary is stark and I think any climate change doubter would be hard-pressed to refute the visual evidence presented in Chasing Ice.

Click on the image above to visit the Chasing Ice website to see when the film is playing near you.

Click on the image above to visit the Chasing Ice website to see when the film is playing near you.

I know climate change is a very controversial topic – still. The acerbic debates over the existence of climate change seem to have died down. The number of scientist speaking out against the data, saying that climate change is bunk, has dwindled from a vocal minority to nearly none. I think the debate has shifted away from whether climate change is real to a focus on the causes of climate change. Those are two distinct questions.

Franz Josef glacier in south island New Zealand

Franz Josef glacier in south island New Zealand

Is climate change real? I don’t think it’s possible to refute this anymore, at least not with a cogent and reasonable argument. Enough data have been amassed to show the patterns. The problem is that the average person doesn’t relate to data. If science doesn’t get packaged into a form that is understandable and digestible by the general public, then (in my view) some of the value of that science is lost. As scientists, it is our job to ensure that the public can understand the results of our research and the implications for their lives.

Glacier ice and rubble - the soil, rocks and material that get dragged along at the glacier moves.

Glacier ice and rubble – the soil, rocks and material that get dragged along at the glacier moves.

I think James Balog’s idea of letting glaciers tell the story of climate change, through still images and videos is absolutely brilliant. Most people can’t relate to statistics on changes in carbon dioxide concentrations over time. Parts per million by volume means virtually nothing to the average person. But watching a chunk of glacier bigger than Manhattan break off and roll into the ocean is something we can all relate to. The old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words still rings true.

Have a look at this trailer to Chasing Ice. See the largest glacier calving ever recorded….

Click on the image above to see the video of the largest glacier calving event ever recorded.

Click on the image above to see the video of the largest glacier calving event ever recorded.

I hear people say that they either believe or do not believe in climate change and global warming. Climate change is not about belief. It is about science. It is about data that show that it exists. Religion is about beliefs. Science is not. Science is about understanding what the data tell us – is our global climate changing. I just can’t see how people can answer no to that question anymore. I’m middle aged – old enough to look back on the climate in the city I grew up in – Ottawa, Ontario, Canada – and tell you that the climate here now is different then it was 40-some years ago. Yes, the changes have happened within my lifetime.

Vibrant blue of glacier ice at Franz Josef glacier in New Zealand

Vibrant blue of glacier ice at Franz Josef glacier in New Zealand

I think the bigger debate now is about the causes of climate change. Data have shown that the earth naturally goes through periods of climate change. Temperature and carbon dioxide concentration are highly positively correlated – in other words, they are tightly linked. As one goes up, so does the other. As one goes down, so does the other.

But the tools of science have allowed for the sampling of the earth’s atmosphere through the study of ice cores. An ice core is much like a tree ring. It captures changes over time. Where the width of a tree ring can tell us about the growing conditions during a given year, sampling the air bubbles trapped in an ice core can tell us about the nature of the earth’s atmosphere hundreds of thousands of years ago. But what the data show, is that since the Industrial Revolution, global carbon dioxide concentrations have spiked. Over the past 400,ooo years of the earth’s history, carbon dioxide concentrations have repeatedly been as high as 275 parts per million by volume (ppmv). But data show that the earth is currently far above that concentration and is on track to reach 400 ppmv, nearly double that of the natural cycles in the earth’s history. And when did this spike in carbon dioxide concentrations begin? It coincides with the Industrial Revolution.

Click on the thumbnail below to read about the data…

Chasing Ice data page

There are people who will argue that a correlation between the onset of the Industrial Revolution and the onset of rapid changes in carbon dioxide concentrations on earth are just that – correlations – and that one cannot attribute cause and effect through correlation. This is true. Correlation does not reveal definitive causation. This is why science relies on multiple lines of evidence – it’s like putting pieces of a puzzle together. In my view, we have enough pieces of the puzzle to tell us that global climate change is occurring and that humans have played a role in it.

Franz Josef glacier in New Zealand

Franz Josef glacier in New Zealand

Even for those who don’t accept the data – wouldn’t it be prudent to take actions to do what we can now, to curb carbon dioxide increases while we can? Does it make sense to wait until it’s too late to do something and then say, “oops, we were wrong, humans have played a significant role in changing the earth’s climate”?

If your carbon monoxide detector in your house started sounding you could hypothesize that it is sounding because of a fault in the device or that it is sounding because carbon monoxide levels in your house have reached a dangerous level. In that situation, would you not get family out of the house immediately – assume carbon dioxide is at dangerous levels that can kill quickly – get them to safety, rather than assume that the detector is malfunctioning and that it is giving you a false positive? The consequences to you and your family are too dire to assume the alarm is a false alarm. Carbon monoxide is odourless, tasteless and colourless – you can’t smell, taste or see it. So in those ways, it isn’t tangible. But it’s effects are – it can kill quickly.

How is global change any different from the analogy of your home carbon monoxide detector? Isn’t it prudent to act now and not assume that this is a false alarm? The difference between global climate change and the carbon monoxide example above is scale – temporal scale as we call it in science. In layman’s terms  – time. We can relate to the immediacy of the carbon monoxide situation. But for changes in global climate that occur over decades and the geographic scale of the entire globe, humans have difficulty relating to this scale – to changes over decades and over the entire globe. We relate far more easily to the scale of minutes and so our own surroundings; it’s just part of being human. But as humans, we also have the unique ability of foresight…

Now is the time to think of the consequences of our inaction. You may or may not experience catastrophic consequences of global climate change, depending on how old you are now and where you live.  But what kind of world do you want to leave for your kids, your grandkids, and great-grandkids? I think that is something we can all relate to – how our actions as a society will alter life for our kids and grandkids.

The consequences of being wrong about the causes of global climate change are too great not to do anything about it. I think the only ethical choice is to accept that human are having a very significant impact on global climate and to do something about it before we are past the point of doing anything except leaving our kids one hell of an environmental mess to mop up, courtesy of our current, short-sighted behaviour. I’m not saying it’s easy.  If it were easy, we’d already be well on our way to solving the problem. I think the key now is to identify ways that society can change its behaviour to reduce human impacts on the global environment. But change starts one person at a time….

06-0673-Edit

Not everyone will agree on the causes of global climate change. But  see Chasing Ice. A picture really is worth a thousand words.

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