I was debating what to write about while combining photography and the environment. Popular Photography wrote about the 13 Ways to be a Greener Photographer just last month that discusses 13 easy things that you can do to change your photography lifestyle. But topic #11 stood out the most to me:
11. Shoot the Change You Want in the World
It’s not just how you shoot, it’s what you shoot. Think about how your images can represent solutions or illuminate a new angle on an environmental problem.
With technology growing at lightning fast speed, a lot of people have made photography a new hobby, as I’m sure that most of you have. Digital cameras make photography a whole lot faster and cheaper. It also allows us to speed up the photography learning curve quite a bit as well. When we pick up a camera for the very first time, we start capturing our immediate environment: friends and family, pets, our house, the objects in our house…and the things outside of our house: flowers, plants, animals and insects, sunsets, landscapes…nature. We start to photograph the things that mean the most to us because it’s a comfort zone and easily accessible.
While I do many different types of photography, I started my career as a nature photographer long before I even thought to take photos of people. When I started to take photography seriously, I was working and living in California. My daily routine involved being outside and observing nature. It only seemed right to bring my camera! It was also during this time when I had decided that I wanted to use my photography for more than taking pretty pictures. I wanted to raise awareness and educate others on the plants and wildlife that surrounds us. After all, how can we be expected to care about something if we know nothing about it?!
But here’s the bottom line: no matter what kind of photographer you are, you can use your talent to raise awareness to the environment.
What do you love about the environment and what would you want to change to make it a better place? Think about your daily routine, the people around you, the world around you. You don’t need to make big changes to your life to capture photos that make a big impact. The most difficult part is trying to figure out the ways in which your own daily routine effects the environment and how you can use that to raise awareness to others.
Here are some of the projects that I’ve been involved with in various communities and places where I’ve worked. Perhaps this will provide you with ideas how you can raise environmental awareness and assist with natural resources conservation through photography as well!
- U.S. Army: Not many people know, but the military does a lot of natural resources conversation and environmental education with the public. While working as a contractor (natural resources biologist) for the U.S. Army in the Mojave Desert, I photographed a lot of the plants and wildlife in the area. We used a lot of these photos in brochures and posters when we gave presentations to educate the public about the plants and animals in the area.
- Fiscalini Ranch: I lived in a scenic area along the Big Sur coastline of California. A large 400+ acre ranch that was often used by the community for hiking and recreation had been put on the market for possible development. The community raised enough money to purchase the land so that it would not be sold to developers and would remain open space. I had donated one of my prints to an art auction that was a fundraiser for the cause. The Ranch is now a nature preserve along the beautiful bluffs of the Pacific Coast that is open to the public.
- Endangered leatherback sea turtles: I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Playa Grande, Costa Rica on two occasions. Playa Grande is part of the Las Baulas National Park, which supports the largest colony of nesting leatherback sea turtles in the Pacific Ocean. Approximately 800 females nest in the park every year. During my last visit in 2006, I had the opportunity to capture endangered leatherback hatchlings emerging from a nest. This photo has appeared on Scientific American’s website in a slideshow about 10 Animals That May Go Extinct in the Next 10 Years.
- Natural Lands Trust: I was approached by this organization a couple of years ago to photograph several of their preserves. Since then, I have assisting them bring awareness to preservation of open space in the Delaware Valley. Look for one of my photos in the upcoming issue of County Lines Magazine in an article about open space protection.
- The Nature Conservancy: The periodical cicada is the longest-lived insect in North America. It spends 13 or 17 years underground, dependent on location. I photographed an emergence of the 17-year cicadas in central Pennsylvania in 2004. Another brood of 17-year cicadas is expected to emerge in 2008 in various parts of Pennsylvania. The Nature Conservancy has used one of my photos of this insect in a fact sheet on their website.
While these are only a few examples of the ways that my photography has been used to educate and inform others, it may help you figure out how to help your local community and organizations through photography as well. I’d prefer to be a “doer” and take action rather than sitting around and thinking about it. It’s the only way that change will happen.